The Obama administration has decided that the U.S. will participate in a conference with members of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Stephen Rapp, the U.S. Ambassador at large for war crimes, says that we will now “engage” with the ICC — something President Bush had refused to do — though we do not intend to join it in the foreseeable future.
I guess we can be grateful that President Obama hasn’t tried to enroll us in the ICC. In the waning days of his presidency, Bill Clinton signed the treaty establishing the court (however, he said that the treaty should not be submitted to the Senate for ratification until the U.S. government had a chance to assess its functioning). In those days, though, we didn’t have a six and a half year body of work fighting overseas for which to be assailed by our enemies before an international tribunal. The prospect of having our troops tried by a foreign body is quite a bit more real now.
Even so, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Obama fully embrace the ICC if he serves two terms. First, it is inconsistent with Obama’s position on America’s proper relationship with the world for us to resist joining the ICC. Second, it is far from clear that, once free from the burden of facing the electorate, Obama would see anything very problematic about American soldiers being tried by international prosecutors.
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