In a Sunday Op-Ed piece for the New York Times, John Bellinger, partner at Arnold & Porter (and former Bush State Dept. lawyer) asserted that Obama’s general approach to international law has thus far been similar to Bush’s. Two of the critical things Bellinger cites are the administrative difficulties that have slowed the closing of Guantanamo, and the Obama administration’s refusal to bring the US into the ICC. Contrary to partisan political opponents on Capitol Hill, Bellinger acknowledged Obama’s statement that the United States is at war with al-Qaeda. Another one of Bellinger’s acknowledgments – that the “pragmatic” second Bush term facilitated this kind of continuity – is telling.
If anything, the centrist shift of the (late) second term for Bush and the impending 2010 midterm elections show that this continuity is the byproduct of domestic elections – and not the result of either leader’s preferred approach on international law. Professor Julian Ku makes a similar point on OpinioJuris.org.