The Obama Criminal Justice Doctrine and International Criminal Justice

By Agozino, Biko | African Journal of Criminology and Justice Studies : AJCJS, February 2019 | Go to article overview

The Obama Criminal Justice Doctrine and International Criminal Justice


Agozino, Biko, African Journal of Criminology and Justice Studies : AJCJS


Introduction:

How we treat citizens who make mistakes (even serious mistakes), pay their debt to society, and deserve a second chance reflects who we are as a people and reveals a lot about our character and commitment to our founding principles. And how we police our communities and the kinds of problems we ask our criminal justice system to solve can have a profound impact on the extent of trust in law enforcement and significant implications for public safety (Obama, 2017, Harvard Law Review).

'We can neither retreat from the world nor try to bully it into submission. We must lead the world, by deed and by example.... In Africa, we have allowed genocide to persist for over four years in Darfur and have not done nearly enough to answer the African Union's call for more support to stop the killing.People around the world have heard a great deal of late about freedom on the march. Tragically, many have come to associate this with war, torture, and forcibly imposed regime change. To build a better, freer world, we must first behave in ways that reflect the decency and aspirations of the American people. This means ending the practices of shipping away prisoners in the dead of night to be tortured in far-off countries, of detaining thousands without charge or trial, of maintaining a network of secret prisons to jail people beyond the reach of the law.' - Barack Obama, 'Renewing American Leadership' in Foreign Affairs, July/August 2007.

The above epigraphs summarize the promise of change in both domestic criminal justice administration and in foreign criminal justice policy that Barack Obama offered before and after his presidency of the USA. The statements are full of clarity, patriotism and realism with a dose of contradictory critical thinking but scholars do not appear to make a link between the two. The Foreign Affairs article of 2007, written during the Democratic Party primaries against a hawkish Hilary Clinton and before facing an even more hawkish John McCain in the presidential election, highlighted the usual American emphasis on a strong military but went beyond that to embrace the need for change in American foreign policy. The debriefing commentary in the Harvard Law Review ten years later suggests that a more democratic administration of criminal justice is possible. The question is whether American diplomats should be required to take classes in critical criminology to be able to tailor foreign policy to the civil rights struggles at home? The answer indirectly comes from a Senior Fellow of the US Council on Foreign Affairs, Mr Max Boot, an unpaid foreign policy adviser to John McCain, in a Los Angeles Times opinion editorial during the party primaries for the 2008 presidential election. He crowed about the politics of fear and intimidation that Obama promised to change for the better as US president:

To answer that question, ask yourself which presidential candidate an Ahmadinejad, Assad or Kim would fear the most. I submit it is not Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama or Mike Huckabee. In my (admittedly biased) opinion, the leading candidate to scare the snot out of our enemies is a certain former aviator who has been noted for his pugnacity and his unwavering support of the American war effort in Iraq. Ironically, John McCain's bellicose aura could allow us to achieve more of our objectives peacefully because other countries would be more afraid to mess with him than with most other potential occupants of the Oval Office - or the current one. (Max Boot, 2008, 'Go With the Tough Guy' in Los Angeles Times, February 12).

President Obama answered the type of hawkish diplomacy that Max Boot was advocating above during his speech at Cairo University on June 4, 2009 when he addressed the violence in the Middle East and prescribed the African philosophy of non-violence as the panacea for all the troubles:

The fourth issue that I will address is democracy. I know there has been controversy about the promotion of democracy in recent years, and much of this controversy is connected to the war in Iraq. …

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