National security adviser John Bolton speaks at a Federalist Society luncheon in Washington on Monday, Sept. 10. (Andrew Harnik/AP)

The Sept. 10 news article “U.S. poised to threaten retaliation for prosecutions in international court” reported on national security adviser John Bolton’s diatribe against the International Criminal Court. The ICC attempts to substitute a supposedly automatic, apolitical legal process for a diplomatic one. But sometimes diplomacy is better. We want Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and those of his ilk to step down. Does facing them with capture and prosecution no matter where they run make that more likely? Or does exposing any nation that would accept them to the risk of itself being accused by the ICC? So they cling to power.

The final U.S. position in the ICC negotiations would have made the court a partner of diplomacy: The ICC would act only when asked by the U.N. Security Council. That would have given us a new lever to get the bad guy to flee. And we might have gotten it if Boltonian paranoia hadn’t blocked it until ICC zealots already had won.

Nevertheless, the United States benefits from having a formal structure for prosecution of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The earlier ad hoc tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda were stunningly expensive and ineffective. The old U.S. position, that we would cooperate with the ICC case by case, served us in a number of instances.

William Wood, Washington

The writer ran the State Department U.N. bureau when the International Criminal Court was finalized and was a representative to an International Syria Support Group working group.

Regarding the Sept. 12 editorialHow a pet peeve became policy”:

The reach of the statute of the International Criminal Court is inappropriate because it breaches sovereign interests of countries not party to it in a manner not consistent with international norms. It subjects citizens of nonparties to its jurisdiction. Hence, the tireless efforts of national security adviser John Bolton and others to thwart this unlawful approach are justified.

The notion that a member of the U.S. military captured on foreign soil could be unilaterally transferred to the ICC and prosecuted for alleged crimes of “aggression” by the ICC cannot be legitimized. As with the attempted interference with U.S. sovereign interests by the U.N. Law of the Sea Convention, such violations of international norms need to be resisted.

Harry R. Marshall Jr., Chevy Chase

The writer was principal deputy assistant secretary of state from 1982 to 1986 and senior legal adviser
at the Justice Department from 1991 to 2000.