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"...few countries have means of citizen enforcement of such law, which is why they can be safely ignored when convenient..."

Can you give any examples of this?

From where I'm standing, the US isn't alone in this regard as it seems citizens here get to take their case to the European Court - the court seems to enjoy (?!) ruling against national governments.

What specific examples exist where US Citizens had to go to court to enforce a treaty commitment made by their government?

Henry Mayhew - Ukipper

'free the world from the curse of meaningless platitudes'

You're going to leave me with a lot of time on my hands if you're successful with this, so I'll be able to watch Pets Win Prizes, or the Lib Dem leadership speeches.


Okay, America will continue to refuse to ratify the next set of international treaties. The issues are:

1. What are the consequences if emerging powers like China "follow America's bad example".
2. What gives. Of what use is the international system?

Whether we like it or not, we depend on the rest of the World. If the constant message the world gets is that we are too big to comply - then that is very bad diplomacy.

Peter Hatchet

Fair point. Legally speaking.

But all this says to me is how defective the US constitution is.

IMO, the US has a terribly flawed political system.

It badly needs reform.

Bob Harrison

So what about something like the UN Convention on the Child, which every country on earth bar America and Somalia have ratified - what's their excuse there? There's nothing controversial in it - it's just basic human rights. They should expect it to be enforced, so why don't they comply?

I'm afraid you're giving our transatlantic cousins too easy a ride here.


To the other posters --

Why is the onus on the U.S.? I'd prefer accountability for those who ratify, but ignore, treaties. Are we so cynical that style (ratification) trumps substance (implementation)?

And to Peter Hatchet specifically, regarding this comment: "Fair point. Legally speaking."

Isn't that the only point? If the legality is stripped from the discussion, then there is no discussion. A treaty becomes so much rhetoric -- which seems to be the sad reality these days. As Iain notes, correctly: "That is why when a leading climate skeptic said at a fringe meeting at the Conservative Party Conference this year (I paraphrase), 'If President Bush had had an ounce of sense, he would have ratified Kyoto and then done what Europe did and ignored it,' he was completely wrong."

Coke Man Dave

Shock horror - this site publishes a pro-American apology!


Bob, with regards to the UN's Convention of the Child and the Bush Administration not signing it in its current form, instead of asking the question "why don't they comply?" as if, well, they just don't like children... why don't you do some good and proper research to find? Shouldn't you owe an honest effort on your point of contention before pointing your finger down?

I'll give you a hint, language can imply certain judgments and actions not directly stated. If the UN were serious, they could make some changes addressing concerns. The Administration made that known but so far, to no avail.


Because something is "international" doesn't in any way imply, good. Whether the UN, EU or any other of the global institutions.

The United Nations has had a long record against freedom-loving nations and especially, no friend of the United States and Israel. And it does appear that most who advocate giving authority to them don't really like these 2 countries.

Now they want control of seven-tenths of the world's surface with LOST.

The UN: responsible for the largest scandal in the history of mankind involving money intended for those in need with Oil-for-Food. Huge cover-ups at the highest levels.

Child sex-slave operations and rape squads run by "peacekeepers."

Accusations, condemnations and out right hatred against Israeli over unending supposed human rights violations, by majorities and led Iran, Cuba, Syria and Libya.

And now, their International Seabed Authority wants the right to dictate what is done on, in and under the world’s oceans. By signing, we surrender immense resources to the dictates of unaccountable, nontransparent multinational organizations, tribunals and bureaucrats. That's smart and right of us OK. I'm sure many want that.

If the US is to be looked at as an example it should be one who rightly questions and disputes such corrupt, power-grabbing elitism. It would be nice if China, Russia etc., who could care less about following our example in the first place, took jaded and mistrustful view of the authority on high.


The international system may be flawed, but the World is a better place because of it.

Many people in the developing World keep asking why Europe has no problem with adhering to international agreements, while America tends to be the sole objector. They ask questions like:

1. Why does Britain adhere to the International War Crimes tribunal but not America?
2. Why has Israel ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child but not America?

The people asking these questions are not blood thirsty human rights violators, but educated people who genuinely want to understand America.

Their views about America are not helped by the brash and thoughtless statements of the Boltons of this World.

There is a strong (and often irrational) opposition to the International System amongst "Nativist" Americans. I fear it is having undue influence on American foreign policy.


Their questions have to be explained with raw answers. You don't justify refusal to give power into already proven corrupt governance.

The world is also a better place by refusing foolishness from such power on high.

American leaders have to be elected and are held accountable, waaay more than international bureaucrats with global power.

A few examples, easy to look up for anyone who in simplicity doesn't get it. These in just the past few months, I could sit here and find more and more without any problem:

"UN’s toothless nuclear watchdog elects Syria as co-chairman of the IAEA. Two weeks after Israel’s alleged bombing raid in Syria, which some foreign reports said targeted North Korean nuclear material."

"After her appearance with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at a hatefest in Tehran presided over by Cuba, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour jet-setted over to Geneva, where she condemned the unwashed masses of Europe for their bigotry and Islamophobia."

"Hamas has set up a totalitarian Islamist government in Gaza, building stocks of weaponry and ammunition and preparing for war with Israel. Poisonous propaganda floods the airwaves of their Al Aqsa TV channel. Their goal of destroying the state of Israel has not changed. The UN to Israel... 'open up your borders.'"

"Rotten to its core, the United Nations Human Rights Council is about to adopt a 'reform package' that drops Cuba and Belarus from a blacklist and places Israel under permanent indictment. Contrary to all the promises of reform issued last year."

"Famine, corruption, runaway inflation, property confiscation, political repression—none of these are sufficient to disqualify Zimbabwe from being elected chair of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development."


"You don't justify refusal to give power into already proven corrupt governance."

I meant justify as somehow wrong.


Thanks for all that, Steevo.

I'm so grateful for our Constitution. It was designed to protect us Americans from losing our sovereignty to the rule of other nations. And since merging countries into to one big bureaucracy is the popular thing these days, national soveriegnty is something the world is frowning on. Our founding fathers had some awesome insight. Thank God for that.


Amen Denise. Fortunately they haven't gotten their way to tax us and confiscate our guns.

People who 'wonder' why we don't easily go along either don't know about human nature and corruption of largely unaccountable power... or don't care.

This was kinda interesting, dated early August:

"Let no one fault the UN for lack of enterprise and ingenuity. A series of federal investigations over the past few years have been delving into the activities of a growing list of UN officials engaged in all sorts of lively and creative endeavors, from setting up secret offshore front companies, to laundering money meant to buy UN peacekeeping supplies, to allegedly keeping counterfeit U.S. $100 bills in a UN Development Program (UNDP) office safe in North Korea.

"Today brings the arrest of a UN employee, Vyacheslav Manokhin, alleged by the U.S. Attorney’s office in Manhattan to have taken part in a scheme using the UN letterhead to help “numerous non-United States citizens” enter the U.S. on fraudulent grounds. The federal complaint names two other defendants (all must be presumed innocent) and describes a scheme that involves, among other things, the office of the UNDP in Uzbekistan. That’s the same UNDP, flagship agency of the UN, also embroiled in the Cash-for-Kim scandal, involving alleged payments of cash to the government of North Korea."


Very interesting indeed.

Frogg, USA

Thank you Lain Murray for a most excellent article explaining treaties in the US.

For all of you who think the UN, ICC, etc are so great.....let me explain the basis of the objections of most Americans.

The US system of government is wholly set up with checks and balances. The UN, ICC, etc are institutions run amuck with corruption, no transparency, no accountability to anyone, and unchecked power beyond belief. Fine for you. Not for me. Once you take the power from the people......then we are all slaves.

It should also be said that the US works hard to work within international agreements. In fact, we struggled for two years to get Kyoto into a form we could have complied with. When push came to shove.....it was simply a 'flawed policy'. But, that didn't mean the US didn't try to make improvements. We entered into the Asian Pacific Partnership and made several internal changes. We may not have signed on to Kyoto; but, we reduced greenhouse gas percentages (more than many EU countries, in fact).


The White House said Snow was referring to figures from the International Energy Agency that from 2000 to 2004, U.S. carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel combustion grew by 1.7 percent, while in the European Union such emissions grew by 5 percent.


U.S. Carbon Emissions Fell 1.3% in 2006

U.S. carbon dioxide emissions dropped slightly last year even as the economy grew, according to an initial estimate released yesterday by the Energy Information Administration.

The 1.3 percent drop in CO{-2} emissions marks the first time that U.S. pollution linked to global warming has declined in absolute terms since 2001 and the first time it has gone down since 1990 while the economy was thriving.

In 2006 the U.S. economy grew 3.3 percent, a fact President Bush touted yesterday as he hailed the government's "flash estimate" that the country's carbon dioxide emissions dropped by 78 million metric tons last year.
"We are effectively confronting the important challenge of global climate change through regulations, public-private partnerships, incentives, and strong economic investment," Bush said in a statement. "New policies at the federal, state, and local levels -- such as my initiative to reduce by 20 percent our projected use of gasoline within 10 years -- promise even more progress."



Frogg I'd done similar reading a few months ago about these differences in the US and EU. I'm glad I didn't look it up to post, and you came through. I've been too mean-spirited.

Frogg, USA

Steevo, you are never mean spirited.

I'm not trying to be mean spirited either.

I'm glad we didnt' sign Kyoto. However, those who complain that we didn't, should atleast recognize that we aren't vacant of action.

And, I would have to say......Britain has an excellent record on meeting or coming close to their environmental goals.


I was kidding of course. Dry humor ;) Yes Britain's record is good. If but on their side of the ocean things were better understood with their cousins concerning one misinformed matter or another. We seem to always come out on the short end?


"Secondly, and more importantly, treaties trump national law"

And that brings us to another, crucial (and I would say the most fundamental) reason, which was mentioned in a comment, by an American:

"I'm so grateful for our Constitution. It was designed to protect us Americans from losing our sovereignty to the rule of other nations."

Exactly. National sovereignty. I realize this mystifies Europeans (and bizarrely, many Britons these days), but this is an essential, core property of the American character, and it spans across the political spectrum (if you think liberals are different here, ask yourself how much Bill Clinton and the Democrats cared that the UN didn't want the US in Kosovo). Understand, I am merely making a statement, and it is in no way meant to be anti-UK: We got over that a long time ago. However. We fought two wars to govern ourselves. Independence from Britain may have been the cause, but the result was independence from all foreign powers. We do not like being told what to do. We do not want foreigners telling us what we can and cannot do. We do not want foreigners imposing laws on us. We are a free and independent nation. We'd rather remain so, thank you.

Note that the same may be said of unelected judges forcing legislation on us. Had the SCOTUS not decided Roe v Wade and states left to pass their own abortion laws, it would not be nearly the explosive issue it is today. But here, foreign dominion over US sovereignty is the issue.

"IMO, the US has a terribly flawed political system."

Really? We're not the ones having laws forced on us by unelected, foreign officials, are we? Eh?

Kevin Sampson


"There is a strong (and often irrational) opposition to the International System amongst "Nativist" Americans. I fear it is having undue influence on American foreign policy."

Since we are Americans, 'nativist' or otherwise, how do you figure our influence is 'undue'?


Kevin Sampson:

Excelent question. I guess Maduka doesn't understand representational government.

His idea would embrace tyranny.


While it seems to me you are correct in principle, the reality appears to be very different. The geneva convention seems to be the latest in a line of treaties the US government seems to ignore at will. It was the ICBM treaty before that. While the principle of checks and balances is a very good one it can, and sometimes is, made redundant through the use of executive privilage. As one of the above posters said, I'm afraid you're giving our transatlantic cousins too easy a ride here


Well you know Anthony, read this discussion. Look who gives factual accounts with direct logic and moral reasoning. And look who gives inference, implications and 'questions'. Look who's basing on evidence and look who's with feelings. Now look at yourself.

Giving a beurocratic branch of the UN such contoll over seven-tenths of this world should give pause to anyone who knows of both the gross dangers of a unelected elitist body on the one hand, and the immense corruption this very body has been infected with on the other. Look at the examples I gave which are all documented and I think the oldest only goes back to this June. Just some examples for a few months. My goodness doesn't the gravity of the consequences register?

This does get kinda tiring with so many from Europe. The US gov "seems" to ignore at will. None of this is worth discussion if you simply make inferences as if, well its just fact, this world bureaucracy thing is good and American power is bad. Its like another one bought and sold, parroting the same left-wing media nonsense.


"The geneva convention seems to be the latest in a line of treaties the US government seems to ignore at will."

You apparently know little about the Geneva Convention, which applies only to signatories. Terrorists did not sign it; it is therefore not applicable.

Try to do your homework. Egg doesn't look good on your face.

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