Will the Next Administration Show More Respect for International Law?

As a matter of rhetoric, maybe.  In substance, skepticism is called for.  One searches in vain for concrete plans advanced by the candidates for improving America’s international law compliance.  They do all say that they will respect the Geneva Conventions, but the Bush administration has


the same, and none of candidates explain how they will modify America’s counter-terror tactics in order to bring them in line with U.S. treaty obligations.  The candidates realize that the voters they seek to attract don’t care much about international law or international institutions, so they have no reason to promise to tie their hands with ambitious commitments.  It is likely that our next president will think of international law in instrumental terms, just as all our previous presidents have done.  To be sure, the next president will have different policy goals (more enthusiasm about reducing greenhouse gas emissions, less enthusiasm about free trade, for example), and these different policy goals will require different types of international cooperation (more for a climate treaty, less for trade treaties), but it’s hard to think of a reason why a (say) Democratic president will show more enthusiasm for international law per se than a Republican president or even President Bush, though one can expect that the rhetoric will be more careful and sophisticated.

I discuss this issue with Heather Hurlburt (who disagrees), of , at .