Election Day Open Thread: Advice for the Next President

by Chris Borgen

Those of us in the U.S. are off to the polls, so I thought we could try doing an open thread today for comments and suggestions to the new President, whoever that is, concerning America’s foreign policy, with a particular emphasis on international law.  Obviously there has been alot of talk about getting out of Iraq, putting a definitive end to torture and/or closing Guantanamo.  What else should the new Adminsitration be thinking about in regards to international law? What advice do our readers/ bloggers have?

I’ll start things off with the first comment…


9 Responses

  1. My comment is admitedly long, but other comments can be of any length, from a few words on up.

    My suggestion would be that the next President take a fresh look at our relationship with Russia.  I believe that for too long our Russia policy has been really an adjunct of our Middle East policy: seeking support (or at least no vetoes) concerning our actions towards Iraq and Iran.

    However, during this time Russia has been a resurgeant economic force. It some ways, this has led to bad acts, such as the invasion of Georgia or the continued support of separatists in Moldova, or the muscular use of “pipeline politics” against other European states.

    But, at the same time, there has been a growing interest (at least according to some) in the rule of law in Russian domestic politics.
    A couple of months ago, in the wake of the georgia debacle, Pres. Mevedev set out a series of principles concerning Russian foreign policy. Pundits began calling it the “Medvedev Doctrine” and his first point was that Russia is a nation respectful of international law. I suggest that the new President take Medvedev at his word and, without rancor or recrimination, begin a serious discussion.

    Russia should neither be reviled nor coddled but engaged. A new administration in the U.S. is an opportunity to address issues of concern. Perhaps this may be done via a pan-european summit, possibly under the auspices of the OSCE, concerning European security, ranging from separatism to use of force to energy security. The goal would not be a new treaty but rather to open a dialogue. The underlying norms of international law can provide a structure, or at least default rules. It is a chance to restart a conversation on a whole series of issues of mutual interest and to make international law a framework for that conversation.

  2. Rethink Cuba.  The end of the Castro era is upon us and I do not sense that Cuba poses a threat to the United States.  Just as we reconsidered our relationship with Vietnam and Libya we should be able to do so with Cuba as well.  

  3. Professor,

    I hope that the next administration will cut down on discussing foreign relations in terms of indefensible “-isms” and black-and-white opposites such as bad guys, good guys, or evil.  Describing other people as evil or as bad guys is not an accepted form of domestic political discourse.  I believe it is similarly absurd to think that it is valid or helpful for international purposes.

    In considering some type of Machiavellian logic, uniting a populace against an outside force does make some sense, but the implied (and sometimes express) xenophobic statements that were used to stoke fears during this election have been, frankly, embarrassing.

  4. Well after reading Dana Milbank’s new book Homo Politicus, I have a new understanding of political culture. Honestly, being in DC has been a challenge on every front for me. I’ve survived it; still retain my humor and optimism. It’s been great to tap into Opinio Juris for its rational center. It kept me on course. Thanks again. 

  5. How about an even-handed approach to the Middle East actors? Ok, not likely to happen.

  6. Well I’m not really in the mood for detailed policy prescriptions at the moment , but I have literally spent the last seven years working towards today with the understanding that as hard as what I was trying to do was, the hardest part would come after today.

    And here’s my greatest hope for Barack Obama:

    He might just be an honest and reasonable man who will approach the job with an open mind and a sincere commitment to the welfare of the nation and humanity.

    I can ask for nothing more.

  7. OK, reading through the other comments, I’d like to second Roger on Cuba.

    Guantanamo Bay should not only be closed, the phony “lease” should be repudiated, the base returned to Cuban sovereignty, and relations normalized.

    Enough with the stick: subvert them with carrots.

    Then there’s Pakistan and Israel, but I don’t even want to talk about that right now.

  8. Eschew ideology.  Embrace pragmatism.  As one commentator recently noted, the first year or so will be spent unwinding a lot of messes.  Not the best time to be building grand strategies.

  9. I’d really like to see our country show more deference to international treaties.  If a treaty is signed and ratified, Congress should be compelled to enact legislation supporting the treaty.  Doesn’t it make sense that if the Legislature ratifies a treaty, states should not be able to disregard that treaty.  Although Medellin may have been a murderer, foreign policy warrants respect, so the country is not embarrased by Texas v. Medellin type cases.

    Just a thought.

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