CUR­RENT EVENTS // PAUL JOHN­SON

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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.

pow­er­ful play

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.

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