The International Criminal Court and U.S. Foreign Policy

I’ve always been intrigued with the nexus between U.S. foreign policy and the American Constitution.  My paper will explore this intersection with regard to the most important criminal court today: the International Criminal Court.  Although it is hard to look at the positives and negatives of entry into the court without serious debate in the Executive and Legislative on the topic, I posit that revaluation of the court may be necessary.


As one of the sole permanent international criminal tribunals remaining, the ICC is at the center stage of international crime and punishment.[1]  The U.S. relationship with the court relies on three important and interconnected core areas: the notion of sovereignty and jurisdiction, U.S. exceptionalism and international organizations, and U.S. soft power in the 21st century.  These areas are worth exploring more because they are at the core of why the U.S. has abstained from joining the court.   While President Obama hasn’t issued many statements in favor of the ICC, when asked if the U.S. should ratify the Rome Statute he replied with a simple “yes.”[2]  Despite his brief comments, the U.S. still remains on the outside looking in. If President Obama doesn’t get around to signing the Rome Statute, despotic leaders like Omar Al-Bashir  may be allowed to continue uninhibited.

It is clear that if the U.S. wants to keep up with the ever-changing global atmosphere growing rapidly, but it must understand its responsibilities to the world and prosecuting international crimes.  The U.S.’ obligation as a moral state, as citizens in a fundamentally pluralistic state, is to help enforce and follow global rules and regulations.  Thus, taking a part in an international institution like the ICC allows us to follow our cosmopolitan heritage and work together with other nations against a common enemy in human rights violators.

Although there are valid arguments as to why the U.S. shouldn’t join the ICC, the evidence in support of joining the ICC are becoming harder to ignore. That is why I hope to explore both sides of the debate and see if it is an organization worth the time and resource of the United States Federal Government.  I am excited to learn more about this topic and spread my findings with the rest of the Presidential fellows.

[1] “The Rome Statute,”, (accessed July 13, 2009).

[2] Barack Obama, “Responses from Barack Obama (D-IL),” 2004, Citizens for Global Solutions, (accessed July 13, 2009).

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