- - Monday, May 4, 2015

With a new candidate seemingly entering the race for president each week, national attention is understandably focused on American politics. But while Americans spare little mind for the goings-on of international organizations, their activities not only have significant impact around the world, but could also play a role in the upcoming electoral contest.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has made waves recently with a pair of major decisions. Earlier this year the Court announced a preliminary investigation into alleged war crimes during recent conflicts between Israel and Palestine. Should the investigation lead to a criminal proceeding against Israel – hardly a forgone conclusion – it would immediately become a hot button issue for candidates looking to establish their foreign policy credentials. Palestinians could theoretically be indicted as well, but it’s an unlikely outcome from such a politicized body.

While a case against a major American ally and the Middle East’s only democracy would make waves, the Court is also making news for what it’s not doing. This month it announced no case would be pursued against ISIS, an organization quickly proving to be among the world’s most ruthless and barbaric.


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To excuse its pass on investigating ISIS, the Court cites a lack of jurisdiction given that the terror group operates primarily in non-member states. But experts suggest the question of jurisdiction is not so clear cut for a non-state organization attracting membership from all over the world.

But that’s par for the course for the ICC, where apparent politicization is among its numerous limitations. In a recent paper published by the Center for Freedom and Prosperity called, “The International Criminal Court: A Case of Politics Over Substance,” the ICC’s record is shown to be marred by major institutional flaws. Brian Garst, the paper’s author, finds that “the ICC has failed to establish legitimacy” since its creation, and that “ICC intervention may even exacerbate ongoing conflicts.”



The Court is particularly faulted for its narrow focus on Africa – from which all of its 22 cases have originated – and abysmal trial record. It has produced only 2 convictions, while a majority of its warrants remain outstanding.

Where it has acted, the ICC has been known to make matters worse. The paper cites the Court’s indictment of Sudan’s al-Bashir, which both boosted his popularity while simultaneously emboldening Darfur rebel groups to walk away from negotiations around a carefully crafted peace deal. Last year the charges were dropped, leaving the Court with egg on its face and Sudan worse for its involvement.

Could it have the same impact on Israel and Palestine?

The United States chooses not to participate in the ICC, but that doesn’t mean its actions have no bearing on U.S. interests. Given the history of the Court’s involvement in ongoing conflicts and the negative results it can produce, the next president will have to keep a close eye on the current investigation and any potential proceedings that emerge from it.

While the U.S. decision to forgo participation in the ICC was rightly done in the interests of protecting America’s soldiers from unjust and politically motivated prosecution, it has proven a double-edged sword. The organization’s membership, like that of the United Nations, is populated with many nations whose judicial and due process standards fall far short of ideal. Absent U.S. influence and guidance, the result is an organization with undeniably weak due process protections.

Though even when the United States does engage with an international organization, it can still go off the rails. That’s what happened with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Even though the United States is a member of the OECD, it has increasingly pursued an agenda opposed to the interests of most Americans. Wandering beyond its initial mandate to foster economic ties between nations after World War I, the OECD now spends considerable effort seeking to clamp down on cross-border financial flows in a foolhardy attempt to prevent capital flight from high-tax nations. If successful, its war on tax competition would partially shield greedy politicians from reaping the consequences of excessive taxation, helping usher in a global economy marred by higher taxes, bigger governments and reduced prosperity.

Similarly, the OECD uses funds provided by American taxpayers – as the organization’s single largest funder, approximately 21% of its budget comes from the U.S. – to push big government policies like Obamacare style healthcare, stimulus spending, cap-and-trade regulations, a value-added tax in the U.S., and higher marginal tax rates to ensure the rich pay “their fair share.”

No wonder 21 organizations in the Coalition for Tax Competition recently called on Congress to end American subsidies to the OECD.

Like the ICC, the OECD’s actions go largely unnoticed domestically, but nevertheless could play a major role in the upcoming presidential contest. As the world’s largest beneficiary of foreign investment, the United States stands to lose big if the organization’s effort to abolish tax competition finally succeeds.

The OECD’s evolution also demonstrates that even with U.S. involvement the ICC may not have turned out any better. Likewise, that the Court’s current politicized efforts threaten U.S. interests suggests that active opposition may prove the more productive choice than simple disengagement.

The President of the United States is often called the leader of the free world. Increasingly, however, U.S. Presidents are watching from the outside as major world events are decided by unelected global bureaucrats. Whether they want to address the undertakings of these international organizations or not, the candidates vying to be the next president may similarly find that the decision is out of their hands.

Andrew F. Quinlan is the co-founder and president of the Center for Freedom and Prosperity.

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