Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law

First Page



One of the most painful experiences of my government service occurred on January 18, 1985, when as Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs I was called on to sign letters informing Congress of the President's decision "not to participate further in the case brought by Nicaragua before the International Court of Justice." I felt deeply that the United States approach was mistaken--not so much on legal as on political grounds'--and in advocating my views I pushed strongly against the proper limits of legitimate dissent within the bureaucracy.

Having defended the Court against speculative criticism from lawyers and nonlawyers alike, I was particularly saddened to read its majority opinion on the merits of the case." I believe the Court has done itself a grave disservice. It has given credence to legal interpretations that are inimical to the preservation of international peace and by its handling of evidence has fueled charges of political bias, thus jeopardizing its ability to deal with future international disputes which might threaten the peace. Although one can understand the Court's displeasure at the United States decision not to participate further in the proceedings of the case, the Court in its apparent anger has gone far towards vindicating the decision to withdraw. This result is most unfortunate, because international judicial tribunals have an important role to play in the resolution of international conflicts.