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A Moment of Truth for Multilateralism

The Obama administration’s foreign policy of being all things to all people now faces a new roadblock: a warning from UN special investigator Philip Alston that our drone attacks on terrorists may amount to “extrajudicial executions,” and that they require, at the very least, better explanation to the UN. (H/t: Hot Air)

What the military calls a “quick-look analysis” highlights two points immediately. First, if we take this concern seriously—if we set the standard for the world in cooperation with the UN—doing so will almost certainly render the Biden strategy for standoff terrorist-hunting in Central Asia impossible to execute.

Second, we have now been elected to the UN Human Rights Council, the body that would take up a report from the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Arbitrary, or Summary Executions. From this position, and given Obama’s ostentatious and categorical commitments to multilateral cooperation and national humility, stonewalling the Alston report would only amplify an appearance of hypocrisy, cynicism, and superpower arrogance.

These are the questions Mr. Alston proposes to have answered:

“I would like to know the legal basis upon which the United States is operating, in other words… who is running the program, what accountability mechanisms are in place in relation to that,” Alston said.

“Secondly, what precautions the United States is taking to ensure that these weapons are used strictly for purposes consistent with international humanitarian law.

“Third, what sort of review mechanism is there to evaluate when these weapons have been used? Those are the issues I’d like to see addressed,” the UN official said.

The question we need to ask is what precedent it would set to allow the UN to interrogate us according to a putatively supranational agenda on these matters. It’s obvious that mere compliance with the interrogation process would cede to the UN a theoretical veto over our methods of national defense. Nations that have relied on the U.S. to affirm the principles of national sovereignty will be watching very closely how we handle this; some, like France, are likely to urge Obama to weather the charge of hypocrisy and arrogance rather than submit to a UN veto.

No stars had to align to bring this conflict of commitments to a head. Obama set himself up for it with his own policies.


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