10 Oct Senator DeMint, Harold Koh, and Honduras
Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina weighs in today with a WSJ oped blasting the Obama Administration’s policy toward Honduras. Putting aside the merits of DeMint’s analysis for the time being, I found his oped interesting for two reasons: one having to do with DeMint’s somewhat sketchy actions, and the other with Harold Koh’s potentially sketchy legal advice.
1) “One Voice”?
DeMint is openly, brazenly challenging the correctness of U.S. foreign policy toward Honduras. He can obviously do that, but the nature of his oped, recounting his recent trip to the country meeting with leaders there, makes me wonder whether he expressed these views while he was in Honduras as well. If he did, this seems problematic, from the classic “one voice” perspective on U.S. foreign affairs. That “one voice” should be President Obama, and this seems to undermine the effectiveness of that one voice. On the other hand, suppose he was careful not to say anything while in Honduras, but then he launches this broadside only when he got home. I suppose there is not a big difference now that everyone is reading it on the Internet anyway.
2) Harold Koh’s First Big Action: A Crucial Analysis of Honduran Constitutional Law
DeMint reveals that U.S. policy, especially its view that the Honduran removal of its President was a “coup” rather than a legal constitutional process, depends on legal advice provided by State Department Legal Adviser Harold Koh. The nature of his weird dispute with Honduras does depend a lot on the correctness of Koh’s view because if the removal was legal and constitutional, U.S. policy toward Honduras is very hard to justify. Given that the Congressional Research Service has already concluded that the removal was legal (although the exile of President Zelaya was not), Koh’s advice may prove central. So here is Koh’s first big impact on policy! Honduran constitutional law! I would love to see this memo. A FOIA request, anyone?