Many of President-elect Barack Obama's supporters hope he will scrap the Bush administration's skeptical attitude toward international law and take a more European approach. This is presumably to bring us in line with what these supporters regard as more enlightened practices abroad.(via Instapundit)
In fact, Europe's commitment to international law is largely rhetorical. Like the Bush administration, Europeans obey international law when it advances their interests and discard it when it does not. . .
Why, then, do so many people believe the U.S. and Europe have different attitudes toward international law? Partially this is because American politicians frequently express their skepticism about international law, while European politicians loudly proclaim its central role in their value systems, even when they are defying it. This difference, in turn, is grounded in differing historical experiences.
America sees itself as an exceptional nation, not bound by the rules that bind others. On the other hand, the enormously successful, decades-long process of treaty-based European integration has led Europeans to identify peace and prosperity with a commitment to international law. What is overlooked is that the treaties that established the European Union created institutions that jealously guard the interests of Europeans when these interests conflict with an international law that reflects global aspirations.
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
Law professors Jack Goldsmith (Harvard) and Eric Posner (Chicago) in Tuesday's Wall Street Journal: