International Law

September 10, 2003 (edited December 22, 2003)

The United States has been called hypocritical for opposing the International Criminal Court (ICC) [CNN]. It's a sad situation indeed.

I oppose the ICC myself. I hope we do not ratify it. It would be illegal to do so. The U.S. Constitution is the supreme law of the land; we cannot without a major amendment delegate any legislation or law enforcement to an international power without the ability to appeal to our own Supreme Court. Further, the ICC charter violates many of the provisions of our own Bill of Rights in terms of the defendant's rights to a fair trial.

Unfortunately, our politicians have not, at least according to articles like that, put forward such a principled stand. The criteria that U.S. nationals must not be prosecuted is actually required if we are to ratify it at all, but emphasizing that detail instead of opposing the entire idea in principle is a mistake.

The United Nations is the wrong body to be delegating any kind of legislation and law enforcement to, anyway. Dictators and democrats stand equal in the U.N. General Assembly. Any world government we ratify must be a true federal republic only admitting republics as members.

But as a friend asked, "In a case like the Iraq war, when one nation (the U.S.) initiates aggression towards another country in violation of international law and the U.N. charter, who should be the body responsible for sanctioning the U.S.?"

This is a good question. The current answer is that there simply is no body with the legitimate authority to create or enforce international laws. "International law" as it now stands is merely a collection of treaties, agreements, and conventions between individual nations. The U.N. is a neutral forum for negotiating new agreements between a large number of nations, and has been very successful at that. But it is a mistake to consider it a legitimate legal authority. All countries try to make it out as such when it suits their needs.

I think it was Hobbes who described the "state of war" that was supposed to have existed before civilization. This notion is often dismissed because it suggests that without civilization everyone would be fighting all the time. But the reality is that, without legitimate law, individuals or nations are left to handle disputes only by "taking the law into their own hands". This doesn't mean that everyone is always fighting, but as we see in the modern international arena, someone is always fighting. Without a legitimate (i.e., federal republican) world government, any other country that disagrees with us has to take matters into their own hands, just as we have to do with other countries. I'm certainly not advocating militarism—we do not have to settle disputes militarily, but we do have to settle them ourselves.

While it is certainly pragmatic to rely on multilateral agreements, we cannot participate in agreements that compromise our Constitution and its Bill of Rights. Ultimately our goal should be the establishment of legitimate, objective law through a world federal republic, for that is the only condition that will support world peace. But that cannot come about while most of the world still lives under dictators and monarchs. The fledgling United States suffered from ongoing skirmishes among themselves over trade and land rights until they established the federal republican government that we still have today—up until that point they had only a "confederation" with the same weaknesses as the modern United Nations. But each was already a republic, with ultimately very similar cultures, relative to the diversity of the international arena. Even so, the States suffered from one major civil war after the founding of the federal republic, which was directly related to cultural and economic conflicts that were recognized but left unresolved at the Constitutional Convention.

The Cato Institute published a Policy Analysis about the ICC, which I first printed and read exactly two years ago—September 10, 2001 [Cato]. Freaky. The article itself is 5 years old, so the concerns expressed may very well have been resolved. They really messed up their Web site, though—it didn't have any of the tab and headline crud around the top and sides two years ago. The printout I have looks much nicer. §

Sampson Synergetics

Copyright 2003 by Justin T. Sampson