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Event Summary

Interventionism under the umbrella of international law is a regularly debated topic, especially in the context of the current Ukraine crisis and other global flash points in areas such as Iran and Afghanistan. On Wednesday, in an AEI discussion of his latest book, “Point of Attack: Preventative War, International Law, and Global Welfare,” John Yoo discussed the challenges posed by the current system of international law under the UN charter.

Yoo emphasized that collective security has failed by allowing Russia and China veto power in the UN Security Council, posing long-term challenges that prevent states from legally intervening in situations such as those in Iraq and the South China Sea. Michael Lewis of Ohio Northern University Claude W. Pettit College of Law stressed the necessity of understanding cost-benefit analysis in intervention, encouraging using historical counterfactual arguments, or assessing what would have happened if intervention did not occur. Harvey Rishikof of the American Bar Association added that it is critical to take into account the broader cultural contexts of the nations that experience intervention by foreign powers.

AEI’s Gary Schmitt offered insight into the complexities of maintaining a new international order and maintaining continuity and coherence among the powers working together to achieve and enforce it. The participants ultimately concluded that studying alternative, regular, informal, and successful methods of cooperation among leaders could shed light on helpful paths that do not necessarily depend on the current system of international engagement.
–Lauren Duffy

Event Description

The world is overwhelmed by wars between and within nations — wars that have dominated American politics for decades. In his latest book, “Point of Attack: Preventive War, International Law, and Global Welfare” (Oxford University Press, 2014), John Yoo argues that the current system of international law has had little effect on competition between the great powers and has impeded intervention to prevent the internal collapse of states, terrorist groups, the spread of weapons of mass destruction, and destabilizing regional powers.

During this event, Yoo and a panel of experts will debate the current challenges posed by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the ongoing Syrian civil war, North Korea, and Iran.

If you are unable to attend, we welcome you to watch the event live on this page. Full video will be posted within 24 hours.


1:45 PM

2:00 PM
Michael W. Lewis, Ohio Northern University Claude W. Pettit College of Law
Harvey Rishikof, American Bar Association
John Yoo, AEI

Gary J. Schmitt, AEI

3:30 PM

Event Contact Information

For more information, please contact Alex Della Rocchetta at [email protected], 202.862.7152.

Media Contact Information

For media inquiries, please contact [email protected], 202.862.5829.

Speaker Biographies

Michael W. Lewis is an associate professor of law at Ohio Northern University Claude W. Pettit College of Law. He flew F-14s for the US Navy in Operation Desert Shield, conducted strike planning for Operation Desert Storm, and was deployed to the Persian Gulf to enforce the no-fly zone over Iraq. After his service, Lewis worked as a management consultant with McKinsey & Company and served as a litigation associate with McGuireWoods LLP. He has published extensively on various aspects of the law of war and the conflict between the US and al Qaeda, and his work has been cited by the 7th, 9th, and 11th US Circuit Courts of Appeals. Lewis has testified before Congress on the legality of drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen and on the civil liberties tradeoffs associated with trying certain al Qaeda members or terrorist suspects before military commissions.

Harvey Rishikof is chair of the American Bar Association Standing Committee on Law and National Security and a former professor of law and national security studies at the National War College at the National Defense University, where he also chaired the Department of National Security Strategy. Rishikof specializes in the areas of national security, civil and military courts, terrorism, international law, civil liberties, and the US Constitution and is a lifetime member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the American Law Institute. He is a former member of the law firm Hale and Dorr, a Supreme Court fellow, the former dean of Roger Williams University School of Law, and a former consultant to the World Bank and US Agency for International Development on law reform. He also served as administrative assistant to the chief justice of the Supreme Court from 1994 to 1996 and as legal counsel to the deputy director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation from 1997 to 1999. Rishikof has written multiple law articles and monographs and recently coedited the book “The National Security Enterprise: Navigating the Labyrinth” (Georgetown University Press, 2011).

Gary J. Schmitt is codirector of the Marilyn Ware Center for Security Studies at AEI and the director of AEI’s Program on American Citizenship. Schmitt is a former staff director of the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. He was executive director of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board during former president Ronald Reagan’s second term. Schmitt’s security work focuses on longer-term strategic issues that will affect America’s security at home and its ability to lead abroad, while his work in the area of citizenship focuses on challenges to maintaining and sustaining a strong civic culture in America. His books include “Safety, Liberty and Islamist Terrorism: American and European Approaches to Domestic Counterterrorism” (AEI Press, 2010), “The Rise of China: Essays on the Future Competition” (Encounter Books, 2009), “Of Men and Materiel: The Crisis in Military Resources” (AEI Press, 2007), “Silent Warfare: Understanding the World of Intelligence” (Potomac Books Inc., 2002), and “U.S. Intelligence at the Crossroads: Agendas for Reform” (Brassey’s Inc., 1995).

John Yoo has been a professor of law at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law since 1993 and a visiting scholar at AEI since 2003. He served as a deputy assistant attorney general in the Office of the Legal Counsel of the US Department of Justice from 2001 to 2003, where he worked on constitutional and national security matters. He also served as general counsel of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a law clerk to Justice Clarence Thomas and Judge Laurence Silberman. He is the author of “Point of Attack: Preventative War, International Law, and Global Warfare” (Oxford University Press, 2014), “Taming Globalization: International Law, the U.S. Constitution, and the New World Order” (Oxford University Press, 2012), “Crisis and Command: A History of Executive Power from George Washington to George W. Bush” (Kaplan Publishing, 2010), “War by Other Means: An Insider’s Account of the War on Terror” (Atlantic Monthly Press, 2006), and “The Powers of War and Peace: The Constitution and Foreign Affairs after 9/11” (University of Chicago Press, 2005).

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