The Peace Palace, den Haag.

Yesterday afternoon, I had the great pleasure of guest lecturing for a friend who teaches international management at the Henry W. Bloch School of Management at UMKC.  The topics we touched on ranged from general knowledge about the dispute resolution process (negotiation, mediation, arbitration, litigation…) to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.  A good chunk of my lecture described what I do during within a more broad description of how a lawsuit progresses:  The Hague Service Convention… I live in that treaty.

One student posed an incredibly pertinent question– preceded by the phrase “this is probably a stupid question, but…”

Well, first of all, there’s no such thing, I said.  If something doesn’t make sense, then the lesson is the problem– not your question.

“Okay.  Who is Hague?

I had to take a beat before answering, because the lesson and the assumptions underlying it were definitely the problem.  I very wrongly assumed that everybody knew what “The Hague” was.  After all, I visited there when I was six years old.  But then, very few people are lucky enough to spend part of their childhood abroad on Uncle Sam’s dime.  I really felt like a jerk.

My answer:  The Hague isn’t a ‘who’– it’s a ‘where’.  A gorgeous little city in the Netherlands, that just happens to be the primary seat of international law.

I went on to describe the International Court of Justice, the Hague Conference on International Law, and the International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.  Somehow the conversation turned to war crimes and international justice, and I was thrilled.  These students were not only highly interested and caring, but pretty knowledgeable to boot.

The feeling that I’d missed something so basic in the lesson was mercifully overcome by a worthwhile and unanticipated discussion.  If these students are any indication, a bit of optimism is in order.