The Boston Globe's Joseph Williams reports on why Harold Koh is facing difficulties getting confirmed as the State Department's legal advisor. This part stood out for me:
Like many other legal academics to come before Congress - from conservative Reagan Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork to liberal Clinton Justice Department appointee Lani Guinier - Koh could find that positions advanced in academia play differently on the national stage.
Koh "has gotten cover from academia, which largely share views which most Americans would call kooky," said Edward Whelan, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center and a member of the Federalist Society, a conservative public interest group. "What he has to worry about is that any public airings will show them to be kooky."
Look, I've read some of Koh's writings, and I disagree with him on some of his arguments for how international law should apply in the United States. But.... kooky? Seriously? Is that why Kenneth Starr and Theodore Olson have endorsed his appointment?
We're enduring revelation after revelation about how much of the Bush administration's legal team gave a giant "f*** you" to treaties that had been signed and ratified by the United States, and Harold Koh is supposed to be the guy who's outside the mainstream because of arguments he made while out of power? Am I missing something?
According to Williams, the opposition is coming from, "conservative thinkers, right-wing blogs, and some Republican lawmakers." Opposition is both good and wise -- rake Koh's views over the coals, suggest why they are impracticable, debate him in the realm of ideas. You know a good way to do that? Holding his confirmation hearing.
Calling him "kooky" leeches the debate of ideas and reduces it to mere rhetoric. It tries to suggest that Koh's views are completely off the rails. They are not.
And Joe Nye wonders why IR academics rarely enter the policy realm? Whatever you think of Koh's views, one of the things academics are supposed to do is be able to play with ideas. If professors can't do that for fear that it would affect their ability to enter government service, then the chilling effect it will have on the generation of good policy ideas will be massive.
Daniel W. Drezner is professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.