Will Obama Be Any Different?

When it comes to respecting international law, Eric Posner says no:

During his presidential campaign, Obama expressed support for the International Criminal Court and humanitarian intervention. In office, he has done nothing for the ICC and has stood by while the killing continues in Sudan. He has promised to close the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay; the problem, however, was not that the facility itself violated international law but that the detention methods practiced there (arguably) did so. These very same detention practices have continued in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, Obama has sought to give immunity to Bush-era interrogators -- another possible violation of international law, and certainly in tension with it. Bush's unlawful tariffs on steel are matched by the "buy American" provision in the stimulus bill signed by Obama and the tariffs that he has slapped on Chinese tires. Obama has provided some symbolic support for international law in a few ways, but where it counts -- obtaining Senate ratification of the Law of the Sea treaty (which Bush also supported) and numerous international human rights treaties -- he has expended no political capital. Don't expect this to change.

The NYT admits that those tire tariffs are legal, but nevertheless slams the decision as "bad economics and bad foreign policy." The difference is that the US is no longer actively in breach of its treaty obligations and domestic law in torturing and abusing prisoners in the war on terror; and the notion that a president has absolute authority to do anything he wants under his war-powers has been abandoned. That's a big deal to me. But apart from that, Posner is not wrong.