Trump’s disdain for international law

President Donald Trump through his actions shows utter contempt for international law.  This is true to such an extent that you have to wonder if he even knows what it is.

Consider the following actions or failures to act:

1.  Green light for Saudi coalition blockade of Qatar, in flagrant violation of the principle of nonintervention in international law;

2.  Imposition of tariffs in flagrant violation of basic rules of the General Agreement of Tariffs and Trade (GATT), and in basic violation of the fundamental norm of international law that “Treaties are to be obeyed”;

3.  Harsh treatment including separation of families and expulsion of asylumm seekers at the U.S.-Mexican border, in open violation of treaties on asylum to which the United States is a party;

4.  Failure to oppose energetically China’s military expansion and territorial claims in the South China Sea, in violation of international law;

5.  Flirting with the idea of recognizing Russia’s military invasion and “annexation”of the Crimea, territory of the Ukraine;

6.  Failure to respond to Russia’s ongoing attacks on the U.S. electoral system, and its intervention in the 2016 elections; and

7.  Failure to condemn Russia’s commission of war crimes in Syria, e.g., bombing hospitals and  emergency medical personnel in Aleppo.

To these examples, which are only the first to come to mind, must  be added the total failure of the United States to contribute to the development of new international legal regimes to deal with problems such as the militarization of space or safeguarding the planet from global warming and its effects.

When thinking about Trump’s meeting in Helsinki on Monday with Vladimir Putin, we have to ask where does international law figure in his thinking, if at all?

Reporters would do well to read up on what international law is, and to ask Trump some questions about international law and, e.g., U.S. treatment of asylum seekers at the Mexican border, or his flagrant violations of the GATT treaty and other WTO trade agreements.  They should certainly be able to pose sharp questions about the Russian conquest of the Crimea by military force, and whether he supports the U.N. Charter prohibition of the use of force across international frontiers (Article 2 paragraph 4).

The Trenchant Observer

About the Author

The Observer
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by The Observer, an international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. He is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States (IACHR), where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, The Observer has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. The Observer speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, The Observer has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on the best articles that have appeared in the blog.