The United States has been the main supporter of the development of international rules since the end of World War II. The US sought to rebuild an international system that would promote international cooperation in various areas to avoid conflicts: economic (through the creation of an International Trade Organization), financial (the International Monetary Fund), development (the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development), maintenance of international peace (the United Nations), and all characterizing US attachment to legalism. Although it is undeniable that the US has always been trying to influence this international legal system and to use it to achieve its national objectives (and that is understandable since the US has been a hegemonic for 60 years), US policy has recently changed.
[...] “Frustrating multilateral rulemaking” [vii] The sense of “exceptionalism” shared by Americans can be seen as an explanation of the policy conducted by President Bush.[viii] Because of this cultural feature, the US has refused to join some important multilateral negotiations, and sign/ratify treaties. The consequences have been serious because the US was sometimes in a group of states it usually criticizes (Libya, North Korea, etc.) and was seen as hegemonic, unilateralist, indifferent to commonly shared values (human rights, protection of the environment) and as an obstacle to international stability. [...]
[...] It would indeed the 1997 Byrd-Hagel Resolution, “expressing the sense of the Senate” that the US should negotiate another international agreement. That resolution was approved in the Foreign Relations Committee and might be sent to the floor in the coming weeks. UN Security Council, Resolution 1422, July [xii] Joyner, “International p.260. [xiii] Christopher Joyner, “Gulliver Unbound: US Foreign Policy and Its Implications for International New Zealand Yearbook of International Law, Vol [xiv] William H. Taft, IV (Legal Advisor - Department of State), Remarks before the National Association of Attorneys General, March [...]
[...] International law has often been since 2001 as an obstacle for the pursuit of US foreign policy. The Bush administration, especially since 9/11 terrorist attacks, put the emphasis on the defense of US national interests and national security. This was used as rationale to override, or at least try to alter international rules. The US government even tried to use sometimes international law to promote its own interests, even when these international rules were in fact opposed to its own interests. [...]
[...] But the US sought later the assistance of the UN Security Council and of the international community. Some other paradoxical uses of international law by the Bush administration took place before the courts. The government has sometimes unexpectedly used international treaties or negotiations to as means of defense of its national policy, even if the administration was in fact rejecting those international rules. In 2006, before the Supreme Court, the government argued that it had to ban a drug that was “covered by a 1971 UN Drug Control treaty. [...]
[...] First, it would be too easy to consider that there was a radical shift in foreign policy, from a Clinton administration that would promote always multilateralism and the respect of international law. Even Clinton acted unilaterally, violating international rules (the intervention in Kosovo in 1999, although legitimate, can be seen as unlawful since the Security Council did not authorize it) and not trying to ratify all treaties (Clinton knew that the Senate would never ratify the Kyoto Protocol or the ICC treaty). [...]
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