Obama, Change and International Law Part II: A Historical View

Sometime ago, we asked about how the new US President and his “Change” campaign affects international law.

 

Mary O’Connell from Notre Dame Law School offered a historical perspective in a Jurist Op-Ed. She traces US treatment of international law from Morgenthau to Obama and argues that scholastic developments in “political science and law have resulted in a decline in respect for and even knowledge of general international law in this country.”

 

Yet, she concludes on an optimistic note:-

 

“President Obama studied international relations at Columbia University and law at Harvard when the intellectual emphases were on civil and human rights but not general international law. Many of his new advisers in foreign policy are well known for their concern for human rights but are also associated with pressing for the use of military force even in violation of international law. Indeed, it is understandable that any student of political science in the United States in recent decades would conclude that the best way to show American commitment to human rights is to be willing to use military force in response to human rights violations…Complying with international law across the board in areas of human rights, the environment, the economy and the use of force may sound like a radical change for America. But it is change we should believe in.”

 

Complying with international law across the board is already proving extremely challenging. On one hand, President Obama, has taken immediate action on the Gitmo/human rights front. On the other hand, we wonder whether the US will succumb to protectionism and test the limits of WTO law in the face of the current economic crisis. (At least one commentator thinks so. See http://opiniojuris.org/2009/01/29/the-obama-stimulus-violates-international-law/)

 

For the full text of O’Connell’s Op-Ed, see http://jurist.law.pitt.edu/forumy/2009/01/president-obama-new-hope-for.php. Cyber hat tip to Opinio Juris for pointing it out.

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