Does Hillary Clinton Believe in International Law?
Not according to Stephen Zunes, a Middle East expert at the University of San Francisco. He recently posted an essay on Alternet that should give progressive international lawyers and scholars pause. Here is the introduction:
For those hoping for a dramatic change in U.S. foreign policy under an Obama administration — particularly regarding human rights, international law, and respect for international institutions — the appointment of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State is a bitter disappointment. Indeed, Senator Clinton has more often than not sided with the Bush administration against fellow Democrats on key issues regarding America’s international legal obligations, particularly international humanitarian law.
This will be particularly disappointing for those in the international community who were so positive about Obama’s election as president. The selection of Hillary Clinton, at best, represents a return to the policies of her husband’s administration.
Because the Bush administration had taken things to new lows, many seem to have forgotten the fact that the Clinton administration had also greatly alienated the international community. Regarding Iraq, Iran and Israel, the Clinton administration engaged in a series of policies which put the United States sharply at odds with most of its Western allies and a broad consensus of international legal scholars. And these were not the only issues during the Clinton years over which the United States found itself isolated from the rest of the international community: there was U.S. opposition to the land mine treaty, the strengthening of the embargo against Cuba, support for Morocco’s occupation of Western Sahara, foot-dragging on the Kyoto Protocols, support for Turkey’s vicious military offensive in the Kurdish regions of that country, among others.
Even worse, Hillary Clinton allied herself with the Bush administration on many its most controversial actions, such as the 2003 invasion of Iraq, threats of war against Iran, support for Israel’s 2006 offensive against Lebanon and 2002 offensive in the West Bank, opposition to the International Criminal Court, attacks against the International Court of Justice, and support for the unrestricted export of cluster bombs and other anti-personnel munitions used against civilian targets.
I enthusiastically voted for Bill Clinton the first time — and quickly regretted it. I hope that I don’t have the same experience with Obama, but his appointment of Hillary Clinton doesn’t bode well. I don’t agree with everything in Zunes’ article, but it makes for a disturbing read nonetheless.
I also wonder whether there aren’t hidden risks to electing a president who is so adored around the world. In the short-term, Obama’s election will obviously help repair America’s international image, which Bush so assiduously destroyed. Ultimately, though, the success of Obama’s presidency will be determined by his actions, not by his skin color or his funny name. And indeed, the stakes are much higher for Obama than they ever were for Bush: although no one outside the US was surprised by Bush’s repressive policies and contempt for international law, international organizations, and world opinion, the international community expects far more from Obama. If Obama thus turns out to be more of the same — and his appointment of Hillary Clinton is a step in that direction — the long-term damage to the US’s reputation could be incalculable.