CURRENT EVENTS // PAUL JOHNSON
Upholding international law.
Under the languid and feeble Obama Administration U.S. power and infuence have continually contracted. NATO has become inefectual. Terrorist groups such as ISIS have advanced from strength to strength.
Totalitarian states have faunted their nuclear weaponry. North Korea has possessed itself of rocket delivery systems it claims can reach the American mainland. Communist China is carving out a new empire for itself in the South China Sea. And Russia has been fexing its muscles and engaging in provocative acts toward the West. Vladimir Putin has been threatening Ukraine and the Baltic states with outright invasion, daring Barack Obama to respond and knowing full well that he’s hesitant, fearful and dithering. Putin behaves like another Hitler—and is reasonably sure that he can get away with it.
What’s to stop him? German Chancellor Angela Merkel is a shrewd and capable woman but not a Cold War leader. She’ll never take a frm stand at the risk of confict with Russia. French President François Hollande is best described as a wimp presiding over a country in visible economic and military decline. Britain has a more vigorous economy, but Prime Minister David Cameron’s priority is balancing the budget and reducing the defcit, not standing up to Russia. Cameron continues to cut defense spending, with Putin taking due note of Britain’s declining military power.
The U.S. won’t make good on any shortfall in Europe’s contribution to the defense of the West. Obama’s line is that the U.S. already provides 70% of NATO’S military expenditure and won’t contribute any more. Thus, the West is falling back into a posture of 1930s-like appeasement.
There is, however, one exception to this response of retreat: U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch. She is a vigorous, persistent and single-minded woman, determined to uphold the one aspect of international order that she’s in a position to infuence—the law.
For many years the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), which supposedly supervises the conduct and legal morals of world football (soccer), has been a disgrace. Under its elderly administrator, Sepp Blatter, who has held four consecutive terms in ofce, FIFA has used its fnancial power to buy support from the 100 or so small nations that constitute the majority of its members to keep the Blatter machine in control.
After huge eforts by Attorney General Lynch, which took place over many years when she was U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, the Department of Justice has issued a series of indictments (with more to come) and has already arrested some of those named. Blatter’s initial reaction was to dismiss the clean-up attempt and set himself up for a ffth term. But because of hints that his own freedom could be in peril, he’s had second thoughts and resigned.
The corrupt machinery of FIFA now lies at the triumphant feet of Attorney General Lynch. Subsequent legal actions will doubtless take many years, as is the nature of international justice, but the ultimate result can’t be much in doubt.
No one should underestimate the signifcance of sports. Thanks to TV, it’s now the most important activity on Earth for a great majority of people, especially the young. And the most popular international sport, by far, is soccer. Nothing can demonstrate more efectively the reality of U.S. power in the world than its ability to bring soccer’s administration under the aegis of the American legal system.
Nor does the lesson end there. Of the two countries that were benefciaries of FIFA corruption, Qatar and Russia, Qatar could easily be stripped of its right to host the World Cup in 2022. This was a contentious decision, with the fraud particularly blatant and disgraceful. Under a purifed FIFA it shouldn’t be difcult to expose the bribes in explicit detail and award hosting rights to another country.
Rescinding Russia’s right to host in 2018 may be a much more difcult and explosive matter. The corruption was far less obvious though probably far more deep-rooted. Its ramifcations go right to the heart of Russia’s regime and may possibly involve Putin himself. All the more reason, then, that the U.S. attorney general persist in her eforts to get to the bottom of the scandal and reveal exactly how Russia won the right to host the World Cup. If this involves issuing indictments against ofcials high up in the Kremlin hierarchy, so much the better.
America may have a feeble and inefectual President, but its attorney general has shown that the U.S. is still capable of upholding the international rule of law.