Publication Date: 15 October 2018
The Trump Administration and International Law
- This book answers one of the most pressing questions of our time: who is winning the battle of Donald Trump versus international law? This clear and comprehensive tour d’horizon, by one of America’s leading international lawyers, explains why, in his first two years, Trump is not “winning” in his effort to resign the U.S. from global leadership, and how the Resistance is blunting his initiatives.
- The book surveys many fields of international law: immigration and refugees, human rights, climate change, denuclearization, trade diplomacy, relations with North Korea, Russia and Ukraine, and America’s “Forever War” against Al Qaeda and the Islamic State and its challenges in Syria.
- Offers a counter-strategy to preserve the rule of law against the Trump Administration’s many initiatives to change the nature of America’s relationship with international law and its institutions.
Will Donald trump international law? Since Trump’s Administration took office, this question has haunted almost every issue area of international law. One of our leading international lawyers-a former Legal Adviser of the US State Department, Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights, and Yale Law Dean-argues that President Trump has thus far enjoyed less success than many believe, because he does not own the pervasive “transnational legal process” that governs these issue areas. This book shows how those opposing Trump’s policies during his administration’s first two years have successfully triggered that process as part of a collective counter-strategy akin to Muhammad Ali’s “rope-a-dope.” The book surveys immigration and refugee law, human rights, climate change, denuclearization, trade diplomacy, relations with North Korea, Russia and Ukraine, America’s “Forever War” against Al Qaeda and the Islamic State, and the ongoing tragedy in Syria. Koh’s tour d’horizon illustrates the many techniques that players in the transnational legal process have used to blunt Trump’s early initiatives. The high stakes of this struggle, and its broader implications for the future of global governance-now challenged by the rise of populist authoritarians-make this exhausting counter-strategy both worthwhile and necessary.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Trumping International Law?
Chapter I: Trump’s “Strategy” and the Counter-Strategy of Resistance
Chapter II: The Counter-Strategy Illustrated: Transnational Legal Process in Action
Chapter III: Resigning Without Leaving
Chapter IV: Countries of Concern
Chapter V: America’s Wars
Chapter VI: What’s at Stake
Harold Hongju Koh is Sterling Professor of International Law, former Dean (2004-09) and co-founder of the Rule of Law Clinic at Yale Law School, where he has taught since 1985. He served as Legal Adviser, U.S. Department of State from 2009-13; Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor from 1998-2001; and Attorney-Adviser, Office of Legal Counsel, U.S. Department of Justice, from 1983-85. He has testified regularly before Congress and has argued at the U.S. Supreme Court, the International Court of Justice and many other domestic and international courts. He has received seventeen honorary degrees, more than thirty human rights awards, and the Wolfgang Friedmann Prize from Columbia Law School and the Louis B. Sohn Award from the American Bar Association’s International Law Section for his lifetime achievements in international law.
Reviews and Awards
“Both inside and outside the government, Harold Hongju Koh has long been one of our most powerful voices for human rights and the rule of law. In these challenging times, he has been a tireless leader of the legal resistance. This indispensable book offers a clear and compelling strategy for legal and political engagement that helps preserve what America stands for, and helps illuminate where we should be headed.” — Hillary Rodham Clinton, former United States Secretary of State and U.S. Senator
Harold Hongju Koh is one of the world’s most brilliant legal minds and one of the Trump administration’s most determined legal adversaries. In this important new book, he offers a compelling new strategy for how to defend democracy, human rights, and the rule of law in the Trump era. At a time when authoritarians around the world are on the rise, I hope this book will inspire a new generation to follow Professor Koh’s example and fight to uphold international law.” — Madeleine K. Albright, former U.S. Secretary of State
“A key question about our times is whether Donald Trump will succeed in dismantling the rules based international order that has guaranteed peace and prosperity since 1945. To this question, one of America’s finest international lawyers answers with a surprising, heartening and engaging No. The guardrails of the rule of law, both national and international, will hold. Harold Hongju Koh has written an inspiring analysis and a call to arms to defend order that international law has created for us all.” — Michael Ignatieff, President, Central European University
“For people despairing about Trump’s cruelty and chaos and anxious about the future of US leadership in the world, The Trump Administration and International Law is a well-timed reminder of the importance of the rule of law in constraining the President. Harold Hongju Koh is completely unique in his ability to draw on his vast knowledge of legal history and interpretation, his high-stakes experience as one of the Obama administration’s leading lawyers, and his ongoing courageous and savvy litigation against the President in an effort to prevent Trump’s most brazen, indecent, and counter-productive actions. The book is a surprising pick-me-up, and, even for non-lawyers, a reminder of the resilience of the checks and balances – and the importance of active citizenship – in our democracy.” — Samantha Power, former US Ambassador to the UN and Anna Lindh Professor of Practice, Harvard University
Harold Hongju Koh’s timely and relevant contributions remind us that America is a nation with a working constitution and laws and institutions that provide us the tools for accountable self-governance. These tools are bigger and more powerful than any leader or president. He reminds us that we constantly self-correct. Koh’s book is most importantly a recognition of what anchors all of this: a common decency and respect for others that we haven’t always achieved but continue to strive for.” — Chuck Hagel, former Secretary of Defense and U.S. Senator
“As one of the most preeminent and learned legal scholars of our time, Harold Hongju Koh leverages his prior government experience to provide a penetrating analysis of the threat posed by the Trump Administration to a law-governed international society. His insights are invaluable, as are his comments about the harmful effects of the Trump “strategy” and the counterstrategy opportunities that lie ahead. A must read for all who are concerned about U.S. national security and future world order.” — John O. Brennan, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism (2009 to 2013) and Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (2013 to 2017)
“Harold Hongju Koh, a brilliant and influential scholar of international law, has delivered here a timely, deeply reasoned warning of how much is at stake in the struggle between the Trump Administration and “Kantian” global order, that is, an international society governed by reason, science, and law. Neither despairing nor encouraging, Koh’s analysis of Trump’s initial disruptions – and the counterstrategies so far mounted against him – clarifies how, among other things, the future of human rights protections in the United States and beyond lies in the balance. This sobering but practical-minded book will be of great help to policymakers, activists and scholars as they struggle against diverser attacks on postwar international liberalism.” — Steve Coll, Dean, Graduate School of Journalism, Columbia University, Pulitzer Prize-winning writer, The New Yorker
“Harold Hongju Koh always has been a courageous, prescient voice on the big issues facing the community of humankind. This important book provides strategies to blunt Donald Trump’s attempt to dismantle the system of international rules and norms that developed over decades and for buttressing these fundamental elements of our interconnected world. This book is required reading for all who think seriously about the rule of law and a source of hope for those who care.” — John Sexton, President Emeritus, New York University
“As the Trump presidency comes ever closer to gutting the internal foundations of our democracy, we should celebrate Harold Hongju Koh’s deeply informed and wisely reasoned demonstration that the transnational legal process offers undimmed hope for progress.” — Laurence H. Tribe, Carl M. Loeb University Professor, Harvard Law School
“At a moment when the US government is straying wildly from its historic commitments to human rights and the rule of law, Harold Hongju Koh provides a welcome response. In this timely and important book, Koh describes how advocates are using the courts and other fora to challenge many of the most egregious assaults on our constitutional system and our democracy. Ultimately this is a hopeful book, showcasing the many innovative ways that patriotic Americans are fighting back and preserving core principles that will be key to our future.” — Michael Posner, former Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Obama Administration
In this searingly clear analysis of the Trump Administration’s challenge to international law, Yale Professor and former State Department Legal Adviser Harold Hongju Koh makes the compelling, reassuring claim that the vast density and depth and inherent drag of existing international order can act as an effective countervailing force against even the most irresponsible of international actors – that ‘the law’ as an organic totality is more powerful than particular rules.” — Philip Allott, Professor Emeritus of International Public Law, Cambridge University and Fellow, Trinity College Cambridge
“President Trump partakes of a tradition of American exceptionalism and isolationism, but does so in a strikingly undisciplined manner. Prof. Koh argues convincingly that, so far, the President’s sputtering attempts to undermine the institutions, regimes and alliances of the post-World War II order have been largely ineffective. International and US domestic law, and their institutions, have proven ‘sticky.’ They have not been easily displaced or overturned. Here is cause for a modicum of hope. However, Koh recognizes that President Trump may be less cause than effect, with a widespread anti-globalist nativism spreading in autocracies and illiberal democracies. Globally, law and institutions urgently require strategic reinforcement.” — Stephen J. Toope, Professor of Law and Vice-Chancellor, University of Cambridge