Friday, January 13, 2006

The Judgment of Other Nations

In The Federalist No. 63, James Madison wrote,

An attention to the judgment of other nations is important to every government for two reasons. The one is, that, independently of the merits of any particular plan or measure, it is desirable, on various accounts, that it should appear to other nations as the offspring of a wise and honorable policy; the second is, that in doubtful cases, particularly where the national councils may be warped by some strong passion or momentary interest, the presumed or known opinion of the impartial world may be the best guide that can be followed.

At the White House today, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany reiterated her call for the prison at Guantanamo to be closed. President Bush, still convinced that there is some benefit to the United States to having a prison available beyond the jurisdiction of American courts, demurred.

When "the judgment of other nations" calls the United States to be faithful to its own highest values, it would be good to pay attention.