Mischief Or Justice?

by Conor Friedersdorf

After noticing stories about President Bush being threatened with arrest if he travels in Europe, and cancelling a trip as a result, David Frum writes this:

It’s hard to know how much of this story is true, and how much is fundraising bluster. But if even a small portion of the news is true, President Obama has a duty to speak up and to warn foreign governments that further indulgence of this kind of nonsense by their court systems will be viewed as an unfriendly act by the United States. It is one more reminder of why the concept of an International Criminal Court is such an invitation to mischief.

And for those inclined to enjoy the mischief: Just wait until somebody serves an arrest warrant in Luxembourg on ex-President Obama for ordering all those drone strikes on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

I am inclined to enjoy the mischief, and I don't much care if someone serves an arrest warrant on ex-President Obama either. Perhaps I'm being shortsighted. I'd like to hear a longer argument from Frum that isn't aimed at people who want the other side's partisans in jail, but not their own side's partisans.

International prohibitions on torture are a good thing. President Bush acknowledges that he ordered torture, though he doesn't use that word. But I don't want to have an argument over whether he's guilty or not. What interests me is the idea that even if he broke a longstanding law it's outrageous "mischief" to arrest him. Is that Frum's position? I'd prefer my presidents to be constrained by the law, and I don't see how that happens if arresting confessed lawbreakers is verbotten. Maybe a past president sitting in a jail cell would encourage future occupants of that office to show more respect for the law. Why is that attitude wrongheaded? What does Frum want to happen when a president breaks a law as serious as ordering torture? Does he want US presidents to be above the law? Isn't that an invitation to mischief?