In his late December decision to support the establishment of a permanent International Criminal Court, President Clinton did the right thing—though it was also a relatively easy thing. Most of the heavy lifting on behalf of the ICC treaty remains to be done. That’s because the ICC won’t come into existence until 60 nations ratify the founding documents, and ratification by the U.S. requires a two-thirds approval from the U.S. Senate, which is far from assured. Jesse Helms, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, immediately stated, “This decision will not stand.”
Still, Clinton gave the ICC an important boost, and he also made it more difficult diplomatically for the Bush administration—which will include some sharp critics of the ICC—simply to renounce it. At the least, Clinton’s action should ensure that the ICC proposal receives some focused debate.