Anti-Imperialism/Foreign Policy

Slipping Moral Standards

Sponsored by The Writers’ Institute at CUNY Graduate Center

Today on NYR Online, Fintan O’Toole writes about how President Biden’s attempts to portray the wars in Ukraine and Israel as comparable moral struggles have, “as Israel’s retaliation becomes ever bloodier,” redounded upon him, “damaging both his own moral authority and international solidarity with Ukraine.” Biden administration officials argue that the US’s standing “rests on its opposition to certain kinds of violence, specifically the deliberate destruction of civil infrastructure and the killing of civilians with bombs and missiles.” But if the president can’t bring itself to condemn Israel’s indiscriminate bombing of Gaza, “the foundations of American moral authority now seem very shaky indeed.”

Below, alongside O’Toole’s new essay, we have collected four articles from the Review’s archives about the United States’s vexed relationship with international law.

Fintan O’Toole
Biden’s Selective Outrage

The rhetorical choice to pair Israel and Ukraine has not created a common moral cause. It has exposed a double standard.

Fintan O’Toole
Our Hypocrisy on War Crimes

The US’s history of moral evasiveness around wartime atrocities undermines the very institution that might eventually bring Putin and his subordinates to justice: the International Criminal Court.

David Luban
America the Unaccountable

The Trump administration has declared war on the International Criminal Court—the world’s only permanent court whose mandate is to pursue cases of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.

Tony Judt
Its Own Worst Enemy

“‘Failed states,’ in whose detritus terrorists flourish, need to be rebuilt—the US is culpably uninterested in this task and no longer much good at it, in depressing contrast to its performance after 1945. America does the bombing, but the complicated and dangerous work of reconstruction is left to others.”

Ronald Steel
Impossible Dreams

“The cold war against communism became its own justification, and all the acts carried out in its name explained in the noble rhetoric of American idealism. We were not doing anything so base as protecting our investments when we financed an invasion against the government of Guatemala and overthrew Mossadegh in Iran.”

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