Friday, March 17, 2017

The Trump Onslaught on International Law and Institutions--Incl State Dept

Lawfare by Jack Goldsmith

Two months in to the Trump administration, we are witnessing the beginnings of the greatest presidential onslaught on international law and international institutions in American history.  The onslaught appears to be driven by a combination of economic nationalism, anti-cosmopolitanism, anti-elitism, a belief that international law does not reflect American values but threatens American institutions, and a related belief that “American peace, prestige, and prosperity were not being served by our foreign policy.” 

I don’t think the onslaught will succeed on its own terms, but I do think it will be consequential—for international law and institutions, and for America’s role in the world.   What follows is an outline of what we know so far about the onslaught, as well as some modest predictions along the way, and at the end.

1.  Gutting State Department capacity.  The State Department runs U.S. diplomacy and oversees the operation of U.S. international agreements.  The Trump administration is trying to gut State Department capacity across the board.  This is evident in its proposal to cut sharply the State Department and USAID budgets, in its failure to nominate (much less get confirmed) anyone yet for senior Department posts other than Secretary of State Tillerson,in the general slowdown of State Department operations....

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