John B. Bellinger Delivers 2022 Brand-Manatt Lecture

The Honorable John B. Bellinger speaking at GW.
November 18, 2022

GW Law's International and Comparative Law Program hosted the Honorable John B. Bellinger III, who delivered this year's Brand-Manatt Lecture on "International and National Security Law Challenges for the Biden Administration."

Mr. Bellinger's wide-ranging lecture highlighted critical areas where international and national security laws are playing an important role in U.S. foreign policy, notably in marshaling the global response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Mr. Bellinger, however, urged that the Biden Administration more forcefully call Russia to account for its violations of international law, seeing this as an under-exploited aspect of the Administration's policy. Further, he urged greater U.S. engagement with the International Criminal Court on its investigation into the commission of war crimes in Ukraine but indicated that he did not support the creation of a special international criminal tribunal to address whether Russian officials have committed the crime of aggression.

Mr. Bellinger also expressed concern that there was not yet a legal analysis from the Biden Administration explaining that China is committing genocide in its treatment of its Uighur population. He addressed the challenges arising from China's conduct in the South China Sea; the return to power of the Taliban in Afghanistan; efforts to resume a nuclear deal with Iran; the use of force against (and detention of) terrorists; the provision of immunity to foreign officials; and the loss of bipartisan consensus on the value of Senate consent to ratification of treaties. He welcomed the Administration's active defense in two cases Iran has brought against the United States at the International Court of Justice.

Regarding such challenges, Mr. Bellinger underscored the leading role of the U.S. Department of State's Office of the Legal Adviser in counseling government agencies about U.S. obligations under international law and its ability to use such law to achieve the Administration's policy objectives. He lamented, however, that there was still no confirmed State Department Legal Adviser for the Biden Administration due to resistance in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Mr. Bellinger is currently a partner at Arnold & Porter, leading the firm's Global Law and Public Policy practice. Before joining Arnold & Porter in 2009, Mr. Bellinger held several senior presidential appointments in the U.S. government, including as the Senate-confirmed Legal Adviser to the Department of State, and Senior Associate Counsel to the President and Legal Adviser to the National Security Council at the White House, in the George W. Bush administration.

Dean Dayna Bowen Matthew and the Manatt/Ahn Professor of International Law Sean D. Murphy, offered welcoming remarks saying, "we [are] exteremly fortunate to have John Bellinger deliver this lecture at this point in the Biden Administration. When one can now assess the challenges to date and those looming on the horizon, and how law is-or is not-being used to respond to those challenges."

The Brand-Manatt Lecture was established by Joseph L. Brand, JD '63, and Ambassador Charles T. Manatt, JD '62. Mr. Brand is a partner in the law firm of Squire Patton Boggs and a former Trustee of the George Washington University. The late Mr. Manatt, the founder of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips LLP, was the former U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic and Chair of the Democratic National Committee. Prior Brand-Manatt lectures include, Alberto J. Mora (2016), Miguel de Serpa Soares (2017), Harold H. Koh (2018), and Judge Elizabeth Odio Benito (2019).

The lecture was co-sponsored by the American Society of International Law, the American Bar Association International Law Section, and GW Law's International Law Society.