President Bush has dammed the flow of military aid to 35 countries that won't safeguard the United States from prosecution by the newly created International Criminal Court, and before the air is filled with screeches about the administration's horrid unilateralism, a few facts should be considered.
One is that the president moved under a congressional act establishing a July 1 deadline. It applies to countries that have ratified the court treaty and says the aid can be cut off if they have not agreed to immunity for Americans inside their borders. Diplomacy by ironclad formula? Not really. The president can grant waivers if circumstances demand.
Fact two is that 50 countries have agreed to U.S. immunity before this war crimes tribunal, and it would undercut America's self-protective efforts if they were treated no better than those who turned their back on the U.S. request. Still other countries were exempted under the law, such as NATO members, and still others were exempted by the president because they had not ratified the treaty yet.
Three, the amount isn't great as such things go — about $48 million. Some countries, such as Colombia, had already received most of the year's military aid before the deadline, and what we are talking about here is the essentially passive act of limiting largesse, not an aggressive act, such as an embargo.
The fourth and most important fact is that, even if the United States became a member, this court would remain unanswerable to any of our institutions or to the self-governing American people, which is to say, it undermines our sovereignty.
And it operates under rather vague prescriptions that could lead to prosecutions of our military for reasons of leftist politics. It's pointed out, for instance, that Belgium has indicted Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Colin Powell on charges of war crimes in the 1991 Gulf War. Defenders of the international court are quoted as vowing it would be more responsible than that. Is there any reason for the United States to trust that vow? Not one.
The court is overall a horrendous idea, the sort of thing dreamed up by those who think noble intentions automatically translate into noble consequences. History tells us the opposite is very often true. The United States is undertaking a few modest initiatives to fend off the threats this court poses, as well it should.