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Shaping Foreign Policy in Times of CrisisShaping Foreign Policy in Times of Crisis
The Role of International Law and the State Department Legal Advisor

by Michael P. Scharf and Paul R. Williams

Published by Cambridge University Press

Shaping Foreign Policy in Times of Crisis grew out of a series of meetings that the authors convened with all ten of the living former U.S. State Department legal advisers (from the Carter administration to that of George W. Bush). Based on their insider accounts of the role that international law actually played during the major crises on their watch, the book explores whether international law is real law or just a form of politics that policymakers are free to ignore whenever they perceive it to be in their interest to do so.

Written in a style that will appeal to the casual reader and serious scholar alike, the book includes a foreword by the Obama administration’s State Department legal adviser, Harold Koh; background on the theoretical underpinnings of the compliance debate; an in-depth case study of the treatment of detainees in the war on terror; and a comprehensive glossary of the terms, names, places, and events that are discussed in the book.

Reviews for Shaping Foreign Policy in Times of Crisis

“This book offers a valuable and timely contribution to the ongoing and by necessity, open-ended discourse on the influence of international law and Legal Advisers, on the formulation and implementation of foreign policy and diplomacy.... It offers food for thought for practitioners of international law, whether in government service or employed by civil society, and it will also be equally valuable to the academic community in obtaining an understanding of international law at the cutting-edge of inter-state relations.”
Reviewed in Global Law Books, November 2011, by Andre Stemmet, Senior State Law Adviser (International Law). South African Department of International Relations and Cooperation
 | read full review

"As Journal readers know, recent years have generated intense and sometimes angry debate, both in the academy and in the upper reaches of government, whether international law is truly law, to be observed in hazardous times or ignored at some significant cost. Shaping Foreign Policy in Times of Crisis: The Role of International Law and the State Department Legal Adviser adds a rich store of empirical evidence to the debate."
American Journal of International Law | read full review

"The book primarily consists of first-person, oral histories of ten different Legal Advisers spanning the presidencies of Jimmy Carter to George W. Bush (as well as an introduction from Barack Obama’s current Legal Adviser, Harold Koh). More broadly, the book aims to explain the nature and role of international law through the lens of the State Department and its lawyers during times of crisis. These are moments when one might naturally think that the law simply steps aside and lets politics — including “policy by other means” — take over. This book stands as a refutation of that view."
Jennifer Daskel, former Assistant Attorney General for National Security at the Department of Justice | read full review

"Shaping Foreign Policy in Times of Crisis draws attention not only to how international law shapes U.S. foreign policy but to how international law serves as a valuable framework in which to understand the important role the Office of the Legal Adviser will play in creatively developing and implementing new legal regimes for confronting evolving threats".
Berkely Journal of International Law | read full review

"The book under review is to be commended because of the excellent insight it provides into the role played in practice by international law in one of the most powerful states of the world and in the moral and professional attitude of those who are in a unique position to advise their government on international law."
Netherlands International Law Review, 2012 | read full review

“This is a pioneering book written and published at a critical time in the history of international law. Hopefully it will influence the direction that the role of international law will take in the coming years, that is, whether international law will blossom into a full flower and be recognized as a real hope for humanity in its quest for peace and security, or whether it will be consigned to the backwaters of relations between nations, rarely consulted and rarely followed. For that reason, this book is to be recommended equally to government officials, to judges, to students of international law, and to the general public for the light that it throws on a little known and vitally important agency within the United States Department of State.”
James G. Apple, Editor in Chief of International Judicial Monitor and President of the International Judicial Academy | read full review

“The State Department Legal adviser heads the most important office in the world for the practice of public international law. This book describes, in their own words, how ten Legal Advisers confronted the salient issues of their tenure. It is a remarkably revealing account of international law in action.”
Stephen M. Schwebel, former Judge and President, International Court of Justice

“The State Department legal adviser is the custodian of America’s legal relationship with the world, the self-described moral conscience of U.S. foreign policy. In this unique and fascinating book, past legal advisers make a compelling case that a great many debacles of the past 30 years — from the mining of Corinto Harbor to the torture of terror suspects — could have been averted if Presidents sought the legal adviser’s counsel before acting.”
Roy Gutman, Pulitzer Prize winner and Foreign Editor of McClatchy newspapers

"The absorbing insider accounts of the ten former State Department Legal Advisers contained in this book cover most of the critical foreign policy issues that have confronted the United States during the past three decades. It’s a fascinating page turner and an extraordinary testimonial to the importance of international law."
Richard Goldstone, former Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, and Justice of the South African Constitutional Court

"This book — partly reassuring, partly disquieting — is a highly interesting and frank recollection of the Legal Advisers’ experiences. It clearly proves the point that multilateral solutions within a rules-based international system is the only way ahead and that it is the leading powers that must set an example by working within the law and abiding by it."
Hans Corell, former Legal Adviser of the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs and former Legal Counsel of the United Nations

"This riveting volume deserves a wide readership. It is a wonderful collection of insights, shedding light into the vital and influential role of State Department Legal Adviser, a position that can make or break international perceptions of the United States."
Philippe Sands, QC, University College London, best-selling author of Torture Team

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Shaping Foreign Policy in Times of Crisis
The Role of International Law and the State Department Legal Advisor
by Michael P. Scharf and Paul R. Williams

Published by Cambridge University Press

Copyright Michael P. Scharf and Paul R. Williams

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