Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Be Careful What You Wish For 

Swingin' John Bolton, still awaiting confirmation as President Bush's middle finger to the world, famously remarked that "it is a big mistake for us to grant any validity to international law." (Or, we presume, to that tiresome document the Constitution, which mandates that all treaties made "shall be the supreme law of the land.") Our revered colleague Avedon Carol links to an L.A. Times column in which Rosa Brooks wonders what might happen to Mr. Bolton if, God forbid, his dreams came true:
First, Ambassador Bolton is surely going to want whip all those foreign diplomats into shape. Particularly the French, with their foie gras and snooty "Je-told-you-so" attitude about Iraq. So maybe he will start by sending a letter summoning the French ambassador back to New York from the Riviera. But, oops! Bolton would have a hard time sending his letter, because in a world where no one grants the validity of international law, why would the French abide by the Constitution of the Universal Postal Union and related protocols? That's the treaty that pledges nations to deliver mail with foreign stamps. Without it, foreign postal officials would toss U.S. letters into the trash.

So, no letter to the French ambassador. Fine! Bolton can focus instead on the Germans, who are also a real pain in the butt, what with their insistence on taking the human rights high road to make up for their Nazi past. Bolton could pay a visit to Germany, spreading the good news about U.S. dominance — I mean, uh, leadership — and reminding the Germans about the Marshall Plan.

Except that it would be hard for him to get anywhere if no one respected the Convention on International Civil Aviation of 1944. That's the treaty that permits overflights of sovereign airspace. Without it, sovereign states would be free to shoot down any foreign planes appearing overhead. So maybe Bolton's plane would be forced down over, say, Croatia. Now, it's fair to say the Croatians probably wouldn't be amused at a violation of their airspace, especially given that little misunderstanding they had with the U.S. a few years ago. Bolton might not recall it — after all, there were so many little misunderstandings, with so many little countries. But the Croatians still remember how, under Bolton's leadership, the U.S. suspended foreign aid to Croatia (and other allies) just because Croatia wouldn't promise not to turn U.S. war crimes suspects over to the International Criminal Court. So perhaps the Croatians would arrest Bolton.

Of course, as an ambassador, Bolton could try to claim diplomatic immunity. But in a world where no one accepts the validity of international law, Croatia would feel free to ignore the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. Naturally, Bolton would demand that the U.S. consul be informed of his arrest, but because the Croatians would be using their copy of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations as toilet paper, he'd be out of luck there too.
UPDATE: If you're only willing to sign one political letter this month, sign Rep. John Conyers's. If you're willing to sign two, pay a visit to StopJohnBolton.com.

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