In defending the "rule of law" we affirm our faith in representative government and human rights. By the rule of law we mean a social, political and economic order that represents the will of those governed, safeguards the human dignity of each person, and enables the resolution of conflict without violence except as sanctioned by law to maintain the rule of law.
Prior to World War II the rule of law referred only to good government within nations, but the use of laws by nations during World War II to claim justification for crimes against humanity led to a new "rule of law." Nations created and then joined the United Nations, and through the UN the nations of our world have promulgated a new international rule of law. Today, defending the rule of law means affirming our faith in the UN Charter and international law, as well as being law-abiding citizens of our country.
This means the people of every nation have a moral and legal obligation to support the international rule of law and thus a moral and legal obligation to resist unilateral action by their government that undermines the international rule of law.
Of course, the United Nations and the enforcement mechanisms of international law, like all forms of law, are imperfect and in need of improvement. Even laws that reflect our highest aspirations, such as human rights laws, fall short in their application and realization of a rule of law assuring peace and justice for all. But the limitations of our laws do not justify undermining the rule of law. In the United States we expect Congress, the Supreme Court and the President to abide by the Constitution in enforcing and improving our nation's laws. Americans must also expect its government to abide by the UN Charter and international law in order to defend and improve the rule of law internationally.
We have a moral and legal obligation to support our present international rule of law, even as we try to make it more just and more effective in securing peace in our world. Ignoring American laws to respond to an injustice within our society is not tolerated, because no matter how noble the motivation unlawful actions undermine the rule of law. For the same reason we cannot support ignoring international law in an attempt to correct an injustice in the world.
This is as true in confronting the threat of terrorist attacks as it is in resolving the conflicts among nations, and the presence of weapons of mass destruction in our world only makes it more true. There is no security in unilateral action that undermines the rule of law. We will ensure greater security only by strengthening the "rule of law" both internationally and within our nation.
If our government ignores or violates international law, we have a moral and legal obligation to resist but must do so in ways that strengthen the rule of law. All protest must be nonviolent, any civil disobedience must be civil, and the rule of law must always be defended.