Monday, July 08, 2002
I'm beginning to think that my own paper's James Goldsborough may provide more fodder than Krugman ever has. In today's paper, Goldsborough tags President Bush as a new-isolationist for not blindly following the advice of elite opinion-makers on the other side of the pond.
If the Bush administration had deliberately set out to drive America's friends and allies away, it could not do a better job. The dispute over the International Criminal Court, or ICC, and U.N. peacekeeping is the latest example of this attitude.
Bush doesn't care about world opinion because he doesn't think Americans give a damn about it, and I think he's wrong. Yes, there is a U.S. constituency that believes we are the chosen people and a law unto ourselves, but most Americans are not so arrogant.
The problem with Goldsborough's thinking is his unreasoning faith that the French, Germans, Belgians and the virulently anti-Semitic and anti-American United Nations is genuinely concerned about the national security of the United States. The screams from Europe when we placed about 100 al Qaeda fighters in Club Med-like conditions at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, indicates, to any reasonable observer, that Europe is more concerned about the well-being of terrorists than it is about American citizens.
World War II was transforming for America. We learned the world had shrunk. We needed partners, alliances and treaties, in peacetime as in war. We could not afford to be arrogant.
Bush turns his back on that. The list of treaties he has opposed, abrogated, not signed, unsigned or allowed to lapse is long and reflects the view that the world must accept our terms or pay the consequences. That thinking is behind the latest mess about the ICC and U.N. peacekeeping.
Goldsborough makes this all out to be Bush's fault. But take the Kyoto treaty on global warming for example. Clinton signed the treaty, but refused to submit it to the Senate for ratification. Why? Because senators on both sides of the aisle indicated that they would not vote for it. Clinton signed it for the PR value. Bush should get credit for "unsigning" a treaty that would never become binding.
As far as the latest mess regarding the International Criminal Court and U.N. peacekeeping, what is it that the U.S. asking for? Merely assurances from the world community that the U.S. would not be bound by, or under the jurisdiction, of a court that the U.S. government doesn't recognize. Our politically correct allies assure us that the International Criminal Court would not come after the U.S.
Syndicated columnist Steve Chapman offers this observation:
Given that giant gulf in perceptions, it's hard to see why the U.S. should agree to submit itself to a world court. The point is not that Americans object to using international law to protect human rights, or that they demand a lower standard for us than for other countries. The point is that if the rest of the world reads international law to criminalize what we regard as legitimate acts of self-defense, then international law is part of the problem, not part of the solution.
Between the U.S. and its many critics, there is no consensus on what should be allowed and what should not. The ICC doesn't eliminate the disagreement -- it merely pretends it doesn't exist. But it does exist, and in time, it invites the prosecution of Americans for taking on the messy, dangerous jobs that other countries are free to avoid. The United States is not reluctant to endorse the ICC because it wants to engage in war crimes but because it may have to engage in war.
In a world with plenty of murderous tyrants with aggressive ambitions, the ICC controversy makes a villain out of the world's most powerful champion of peace and human rights. Something is wrong with this picture, and it's not us.
Goldsborough also naively accepts assurances from the U.N. and the international community that he would be extremely skeptical about if it came from any Republican administration.
The court is to deal with war crimes and genocide such as the world witnessed in the Balkans and Rwanda, not to entrap peacekeepers. Article 17 of the treaty states clearly that the ICC will not have jurisdiction where "the case is being investigated or prosecuted by a state which has jurisdiction over it."
The purpose is to deal with non-democratic nations having dubious legal systems, not with constitutional nations where law is based on popular will and is fully functioning. If U.S. peacekeepers are accused of genocide, they will answer to the ICC only if America does not investigate or prosecute, which is inconceivable.
Goldsborough is correct that if American troops committed war crimes, the government would prosecute them. But the problem arises, as Chapman notes, when the U.S. government and the "international community" disagree on what is a war crime. If the ICC had predated WWII, would President Harry S Truman be safe from an overzealous prosecutor who decided that the use of nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were war crimes?
I'm reminded of a scene in Steven Spielberg's "Saving Private Ryan." After the U.S. troops got off the beach, they blew open the door of one of the shore battery emplacements. A soldier with a flame thrower then used his weapon to devastating effect -- German soldiers on fire jumped from the bunker. One sergeant ordered his men to cease fire. "Let them burn," he said.
These little "horrors" are part of war. (For an interesting take on this issue, check out Mackubin Thomas Owens piece on NRO here.)
In the end Goldsborough is attacking Bush for defending the Constitution -- something he has sworn to uphold. (One thing that Goldsborough ignored throughout his piece is that the ICC doesn't have many of the rights that U.S. citizens are afforded under the Constitution.) Goldsborough instead depends on some unelected international prosecutors' goodwill to prevent political prosecutions. I trust an elected president -- of whatever party -- more than unelected bureaucrats overseas.