Obama's War Law

Engage, Volume 11, Issue 2

August 31, 2010

Robert J. Delahunty

Among the critics of the Bush Administration’s legal policies in the “war on terror,” few were more unrelenting or more vituperative than Harold Koh, then the Dean of Yale Law School. With the change of Administrations, Dean Koh has become the Legal Adviser to the U.S. Department of State. In that capacity, he addressed the annual meeting of the American Society of International Law last March on the topic The Obama Administration and International Law. In some circles, Koh’s remarks caused shock and dismay. Dean Koh met Legal Adviser Koh, and  Legal Adviser Koh, it turned out, had come to accept many of the basic premises and practices of the Bush Administration. Although there are undeniable differences of emphasis and even of policy between the two Administrations, many of the innovations Koh described make little difference in practice, and some might even be described as cosmetic. Koh’s readers could reasonably conclude—as others had done before—that “[a]lmost all of the Obama changes have been at the level of packaging, argumentation, symbol, and rhetoric.” Certainly the continuities in the legal policies of the two Administrations are marked and substantial...

Obama's War Law