International Law: The missing ingredient in U.S. foreign policy–PRELUDE

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Policy Incoherence

United States foreign policy is characterized by a stunning policy incoherence, as it strives to counter Russian violations of international law in Ukraine including in particular its commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity on a massive scale, while it supports Israel and its commission ofcwar crimes in Gaza on a massive scale.

To counter Russian aggression in Ukraine over the course of what is likely to beca long, drawn-out war, a war that could lst for decades, the U.S. and the West need to secure the support of the many countries misleadingly grouped together as the “Global South”.

By its support of Israel in Gaza—and tge massive war crimes evident for all to see, such as the early total blockade of the Gaza Strip cutting off food, water, electricity, and fuel, and the bombardment of civilian infrastructure leaving over 34,000 dead (the majority of which were civilians, particularly women and children, the U.S. has manifested a hypocrisy and double-standard which maybwell make it impossible to rally the countries of the Global South to join the sanctions regimes which alone might cripple the Russian economy.

Biden has lost the Global South, at least for a generation or two.

This policy incoherence is the result of the absence of a critical ingredient in U.S. foreign policy. It is more than an absent ingredient. It is more like an active disdain for international law.

This disdain is not new in U.S. foreign policy. The invasion of Iraq in 2003 in flagrant violation of Article 2 paragraph 4 of the U.N. Charter marked the most recent veering away by the United States from the course of international law.

The so-called “War on Terror” signaled increasing deviations from International Humanitarian Law as the U.S. adopted idiostncratic interpretations of IHL (the law of war) not shared by most other countries.

Recent American support for Israel and its war in Gaza has drawn the U.S. even further from support for international law and towards Israel’s utter disdain for international law.

International Law

If President Biden and the U.S. appreciated the importance and usefulness of International Law, they might have taken the position that Israel must comply with International Law in general and International Humanitarian Law in particular in proceeding against Hamas in Gaza.

They might also articulated their criticism of the Hamas attacks on Israel on October 7, 2023 in terms of International Humanitarian Law and tgecwar crimes Hamas committed on that day and continues to commit each days as it holds be hostages.

They might have supported (though indirectly, since the U.S, is not a party to the Statute of the ICC and has not accepted its jurisdiction) the issuance of internatiinal arrest warrants for the head and leaders of Hamas Such action would largely foreclose current U.S. efforts to persuade or intimidate the Chief Prosecutor of the ICC not to issue such warrants against Benjamin Netanyahu and other top Israeli leaders.

Consequently, if U.S. policy were based on compliance with International Humanitarian Law, it might have blunted criticism of the U.S, being anti-Israel or pro-Palestinian. Moreover, on student campuses such a focus might have done a lot to dampen the antisemitism that erupted basically as a reaction to Israel attacks on civilians in Gaza, It might also have had a very positive impact on thecst

Such a policy, furthermore, would be completely consistent with U.S. policy opposing Russian aggression and crimes against humanity in Ukraine. While the countries of tge Global South might well remain critical of the U.S. for its support of Israel, they would not be able to call out the hypocrisy and double-standard of the U.S. calling out Russia for its utter barbarism in committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in Ukraine, while in effect looking the other way as Israel commits war crimes in Gaza.

There are “costa” associated with a policy of appreciating international law and using international law as a sword in conducting the foreign policy of tge United States, or any country for that matter.

These will be addresses in a future article on “Tge inconvenient aspects of upholding international law.”

A recent incident symbolized Israel’s current attitudes toward the U.N., the U.N. Charter, and international law including International Humanitarian Law. The Israel Ambassador to the U.N. General Assemby ostentatiously shredded a copy of the U.N. Charter while speaking at the podium prior to the vote on a General Assembly resolution supporting the granting of further rights to Israel in the institution.

Israel’s ambassador to the U.N., Gilad Erdan, argued that those voting for the resolution were shredding the U.N. Charter. The stunt was of a puece of Israel’s unrelenting attacks on the United Nation.

See Farnaz Fassihi, “U.N. General Assembly Adopts Resolution in Support of Palestinian Statehood; The vote comes after the United States last month vetoed a Security Council measure granting full U.N. membership to a Palestinian state,“ New York Times, May 10, 2024.

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