This Report is premised on the recognition that any assessment of the Biden administration’s options for pragmatic engagement moving forward must build upon prior experience. In addition, decisions on whether and how to interact with the Court must also account for the reality that the United States' role in the world—including as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, a pillar of the global security architecture with a wide and valued network of alliances and military deployments, and an actor that is present in various ways in many ICC situation countries—means that there will be circumstances in which engagement with the Court in some form or fora or another will be inevitable. As such, it will be necessary for the new Administration to find a “sweet spot” that is both consistent with the perceived need to protect U.S. personnel from external jurisdiction while also projecting a renewed emphasis on working with friends and allies, international cooperation, acting “respectfully” even in the face of disagreements, positioning the United States to be an effective voice in multilateral diplomacy, and presenting the United States as motivated to engage, wanting to provide leadership, and having a stake in the Court’s objectives—around justice, deterrence, and norm enunciation—being achieved.
In addition, the United States' commitment to advancing justice and accountability is one of the United States' most treasured national attributes. The imperative of addressing the genocide in Darfur, notwithstanding U.S. hesitations around the Court, is a cogent reminder that the United States will want to act when crimes against humanity are underway, when civilians are targeted, and when a genocide is unfolding, and sometimes the ICC will be the only option for justice. The Report has thus endeavored to identify principles and recommend options that can guide this ongoing relationship with the Court, to allow policy makers to calibrate their engagement depending on the Court’s actions in Afghanistan and Palestine and the progress of the current efforts toward reforming and refocusing the Court, and to enable officials to manage those unavoidable engagements with the ICC in a way that support, rather than conflicts with, affirmative U.S. interests in accountability and the rule of law.