Friday, April 16, 2004

In the Spirit of Multilateralism

Memorable Quotes from  Miss Congeniality

{at a faux Miss America pageant}
Stan Fields: What is the one most important thing our society needs?
Gracie Hart: That would be... harsher punishment for parole violators, Stan.
[Crowd is silent.]
Gracie Hart: And world peace!
[Crowd cheers ecstatically.]
Stan Fields: Isn't she lovely! Thank you, Gracie Lou.
Gracie Hart: And thank YOU, Stan.
[Gracie walks offstage.]

Ok, maybe world peace is a little much to ask for.  And maybe hasher punishment for parole violators is more feasible, but in the long run, it would not make a big difference in world affairs.  Is there something that is feasible and would make a big difference in world affairs?

From Atlantic Monthly:

D.C. Dispatch | April 14, 2004
Legal Affairs

It's Time for Bush to Take Our Treaty Obligations Seriously

Despite what some conservatives say, it's past time for the Bush administration to show respect for the legitimate demands of international law.

by Stuart Taylor Jr.

Much of what goes by the name "international law" in academic and European circles these days deserves little respect from the United States, because it consists of rules made by foreign judges and professors that this sovereign nation has never adopted as binding. Many internationalists claim, for example, that firing missiles at terrorist leaders such as Osama bin Laden, as President Clinton once did, and aggressively interrogating captured terrorists, as the Bush administration is doing, violate international law. Bosh.

Critics in Europe and elsewhere also assail the U.S. for refusing to submit to the jurisdiction of the new International Criminal Court, ostensibly created to bring genocidal monsters like Pol Pot and notorious war criminals to justice. But the Bush administration's wariness of the ICC seems vindicated by the ICC chief prosecutor's publicly expressing an itch to go after multinational executives who do business with regimes that, in his judgment, have used the proceeds to facilitate atrocities. Meanwhile, some ICC enthusiasts dream of prosecuting U.S. commanders for civilian casualties in war zones.

The conservative backlash against such stuff is understandable. But the backlash has gone too far, with many conservatives scoffing at the idea that the U.S. should ever heed international law or honor inconvenient rulings by international tribunals. At a time when much of the world sees America as an international scofflaw, and when we need the world's help to protect ourselves from terrorism at least as much as the world needs our help, this attitude is self-defeating.

It's past time for the Bush administration to show respect for the legitimate demands of international law. [...]

Mr. Taylor goes on to discuss the legal complexities of the recent World Court involvement in the death sentences of 50 Mexican nationals on death row in several US prisons.   But the legal complexities are not really the point of the article.  Mr. Taylor concludes:

Even though the guilt of most or all of these prisoners is not in doubt, such hearings would be worth the time and effort. In some cases, Mexico and other governments might be able to show that, if given timely notice, their consular officials could have found enough mitigating evidence to persuade trial juries not to vote for death. More important, the U.S. government might be able to show that it takes its treaty obligations seriously.

See relevant news articles here: 1 2 3
See blogger commentary here: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

The World Press Review Online has a collection of articles citing the USA's refusal to adhere to the mandates of the World Court. 

Cooperation with the world court, and, more generally, a spirit of multilateralism, really are important issues.  The fact that our military force currently is overextended has been documented by Dr. Jeffrey Record, in a report  prepared for the Strategic Studies Institute.  This shows that we cannot hope to win the war on terrorism by ourselves.  Since we need the cooperation of others, it is only fair that we should be willing to cooperate ourselves.  Other nations will not be impressed, if all we do is impose harsher punishment for parole violators.