More on the ASIL Resolution

Roger Alford has a well-written and informative post describing the process by which the plenary of the American Society of International Law (ASIL) adopted the resolution I blogged about yesterday.

Prof. Alford disapproves, and he gives his reason,

My own view, which clearly is a minority one today but appears to be the traditional view if one looks at the historical sweep, is that the ASIL should avoid passing these resolutions. Such resolutions, while perhaps uncontroversial in content, are nonetheless controversial in their choice of forum and timing.

In this case, the clear implication of the resolution is that these norms are being ignored or violated by the United States. The drafting history of the resolution undeniably underscores this fact. It is in this sense a political resolution directed at the United States, admonishing it for its misconduct. It appears to be the first resolution in the Society’s history that relates to broad issues of international compliance with the laws of war and humanitarian law. In the past 100 years, a century in which “mankind experienced some of the most destructive wars of all times,” States have transgressed these international obligations on innumerable occasions. And yet the Society only now sees fit to pass such a resolution. One can only help but ask, “Why now?”

It seems to me that the multitude of replies to this question begin with “Do you read the newspapers?” and “If not now, when?”

If the US makes detention without trial or POW statuts official policy and torture its de facto national policy, something which has not frequently been the case in the past 100 years, then maybe that’s an occcasion for the American Society of anything to speak up. Especially if it’s something to do with law.

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2 Responses to More on the ASIL Resolution

  1. D Jenkins says:

    ASIL is quite right to pass a resolution and to have it hold political meaning in the timing and forum. The United States has been, presumably, the standard for setting and maintaining most of the norms of international law for the the entire post- WWII period. Libya / Syria / China / etc. can violate these norms and it has serious repercussions thoughout various regions, but the United States violating these norms can ripple effect everywhere thoughout the world at once and with far more force.

  2. Peter D. Lederer says:

    “If the US makes detention without trial or POW statuts official policy and torture its de facto national policy….”

    If you wish to be even further discouraged, listen to Richard Posner’s views in a “debate” with Geof Stone — podcast March 29th at

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