Former Bush Administration official John Bellinger has an interesting WaPo op-ed on the prospects of the United States joining the International Criminal Court. In the main, he’s probably right: the United States is not likely to join the Court in the immediate future. But the argument with which he chooses to conclude his piece is deeply misleading:
Secretary Clinton is right that U.S. non-participation in the ICC is regrettable, especially given the long-standing U.S. commitment to international justice. Yet non-participation also reflects an unfortunate but deep-seated American ambivalence toward international institutions that the Obama administration, despite its support for international law, is unlikely to be able to change.
61% of Americans — well over a majority — have voiced support for that grand-daddy of all international institutions, the United Nations. The suggestion that there is a “deep-seated American ambivalence toward international institutions” is a self-serving straw man. To the extent that popular discomfort with the ICC exists, it is largely a result of myth-making, fear-mongering, and playing politics from above, not an inherent skepticism of the institution.
It’s telling that, while Bellinger claims that President Bush’s “objections” to the Court still exist, he never addresses the validity of these objections. Contrary to his self-confident pronouncement otherwise, the Court could not “be used to prosecute U.S. soldiers during a time of war.” This is political posturing, and a sorry excuse not to join a Court responsible for prosecuting only genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. If Bellinger is right that ICC ratification is not forthcoming, it will be because a select group of U.S. Senators will consistently maneuver to oppose it, not because of an overwhelming groundswell of popular “ambivalence.”