Rumors are flying that Yale Law School Dean Harold Hongju Koh is under consideration to be State Department Legal Advisor. That would be a welcome development.
The Office of the Legal Advisor, or “L,” as the bureau is known at State, is unique in its charge to promote the development of international law and compliance of U.S. policy with international law. John Bellinger did yeoman’s work as Legal Advisor during the latter part of the Bush Administration and managed incremental policy shifts regarding the International Criminal Court, the Law of the Sea Convention and other issues (though the Cheney wing flustered this movement on a number of occasions).
Koh’s appointment would make a powerful statement. On a symbolic level, appointing one of the country’s most highly regarded legal minds to this post would signal the Obama Administration’s seriousness regarding its recommitment to international law. And Koh, who is keenly focused on restoring America’s standing in general — and commitment to the rule of law in particular — has the intellectual firepower and — at least by reputation — the competitive fire to fight the good fight.
— Scott Paul