Bush = Obama on International Law
John Bellinger makes a solid observation in the NYT on the Obama Administration’s general approach to international law. The bottom line: Obama is basically the same as Bush (at least during the second term) on international law.
Last month marked the one-year anniversary of President Obama’s first signature foreign policy initiative: the issuance of three executive orders ordering the closure of the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, the suspension of the C.I.A. interrogation program, and the review of all U.S. government detention policies and legal positions. The orders met with wide acclaim in Europe and were heralded as the return of the U.S. commitment to international law.
But one year later, the Obama administration is having difficulty implementing all three directives and has continued many of the Bush administration’s other counter-terrorism policies, including many that are highly controversial with America’s allies. In other areas, such as engagement with the International Criminal Court and compliance with rulings of the International Court of Justice, the administration has so far been less supportive of international legal institutions than its predecessor.
These realities show that the Bush administration demonstrated a greater commitment to international law in its second term than is generally acknowledged abroad, particularly in Europe, and that there are bedrock domestic political constraints in the U.S. that may prevent the Obama administration from living up to expectations.
This is a point worth making. The shape of U.S. foreign policy, and its policy toward international law, is not entirely the creature of the occupant of the Oval Office. Obama is proving this point as each year of his administration passes.