In the post-cold war era, the foreign policy of the Bush and Clinton administrations has focused attention on the expansion of free trade and the deregulation of world capital markets, the enlargement and globalization of NATO, and the containment of “rogue” states. In contrast to these clear priorities, both administrations have shown little interest in utilizing international law and international organization to construct a cooperative framework of international relations. The record is embarrassing:
- By refusing to ratify the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the
United States is now barred from membership in the UNCLOS Tribunal and the
Continental Shelf Commission. The U.S. is thus removed from participating in the
application of a body of international law that covers 70 percent of the earth’s
- The U.S. Senate refused to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT)
in October 1999 — a huge defeat for those concerned with slowing nuclear
proliferation. It is illogical, therefore, to expect that the U.S. will be able
to make credible its pleas to non-nuclear states to not build weapons of mass
destruction, when we don’t practice what we preach.
- The U.S. refused to sign the treaty establishing a permanent International
Criminal Court adopted by 120 governments in Rome in 1998. Thus the United
States eschewed the opportunity to affirm the principle that those responsible
for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes should be punished for
- The U.S. refused to sign the treaty banning the use of landmines, backed by
the overwhelming majority of nations of the world, including almost all of its
NATO allies, in Ottawa in 1997. The US has become a major obstacle to arms
limitation agreements and demilitarization efforts.
- The U.S. is resisting efforts to set a deadline for ratifying the 1997 Kyoto
accord on reducing greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. American
scientists have recently confirmed the warming of our planet, and predict that
the average global temperature will rise 2 degrees to 6 degrees in the next 100
years if such gas emissions are not curtailed.
- The U.S. opposes a World Bank proposal that would increase exports from the
world’s poorest and most indebted nations.
The list goes on and on. These acts not only hinder the development of a cooperative legal framework to safeguard our fragile planet and protect the rights of future generations, but they run counter to U.S. national interest. Perhaps in this election year these moral issues of global accountability and responsibility can enter the public debate.
Defines international law terms and acronyms, with links to sites from law organizations
UN International Law Commission
UN Division for Ocean Affairs and Law of the Sea
Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty site