Sunday, January 18, 2009

Return To Reality

We've all put together our own to-do lists for the new president. The Los Angeles Times has also done so in a series of editorials designed for "44". Today's effort is actually quite a good one insofar as it goes beyond the "Close Guantanamo Bay, End Torture" mantra to less 'sexy' foreign policy issues, but ones that will signal to the world that we have returned to a saner, more reliable role in the world.

Under President Bush, the United States acted unilaterally to exempt itself from international laws and treaties governing not only torture but arms control, climate change, even consular affairs. Bush insisted that the Geneva Convention that has long protected prisoners of war didn't apply to war-on-terror prisoners at Guantanamo. The administration pulled out of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with Russia so it could build a missile defense system in Europe. Having signed the U.N. convention on climate change, the United States rejected the attached Kyoto protocol to limit greenhouse gas emissions because it would hurt the U.S. economy -- then did almost nothing to address global warming. And Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice pulled the United States out of a protocol of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations after a Mexican national used it to fight a death row sentence in Texas, arguing in the International Court of Justice that he had been denied his right to see a diplomat from his home country.

Some of the Bush administration's decisions will be easier to roll back than others, and Obama may not want to return to the way things were in every case, but a key to reestablishing the country's international standing will be to engage with our allies on these and other issues. Obama should reaffirm the U.S. commitment to the Geneva Convention, as well as to the International Court of Justice, known as the World Court, which the United States successfully used to sue Iran over the 1979 hostage-taking. He should reconsider signing the statute that created the International Criminal Court in 2002 to prosecute genocide and war crimes cases, and disavow cynical U.S. exemptions to its authority.

In other words, President Obama is going to have to acknowledge that the United States is part of the world community and not above it. He must demonstrate that the days of "our way or the highway" are over. He will have to confer with our allies and with those designated as our enemies in order to ameliorate the problems that have either been caused or have been facilitated by the previous administration: the global economic meltdown and the physical degradation of the planet.

I think he can do it. Multitasking doesn't seem to a problem with him, nor does speaking in complete and coherent sentences.

January 20 is finally almost here, but just for old times' sake:

2 days.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Having signed the U.N. convention on climate change, the United States rejected the attached Kyoto protocol to limit greenhouse gas emissions because it would hurt the U.S. economy"

Kyoto was all politics and no science. Under the protocol, China gets to increase the greenhouse gasses, and the US has to decrease them. If Kyoto were about reducing the gasses instead of about damaging economies, China would have also been required to reduce greenhouse gasses.

9:29 AM  
Blogger Ruth said...

Anon, we see you have absorbed the Jr. Chamber of Commerce line, but your tenses are mixed; "China gets to..." had to have been written in 1992 when the Kyoto protocol was written, when China was a developing economy with a very small manufacturing presence in world business. Of course, developing industries were not under the same requirements that U.S. and other then advanced manufacturing interests were. Hence the discrepancy. This would be obvious if you just simply googled Kyotol protocol for yourself. Please, try doing your own study of concepts and don't keep running over here to be spoonfed. Thanks.

11:08 AM  

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