Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 02/03/2012

Aslı Ü. Bâli, Ph.D., Class of 1999
Assistant Professor, UCLA School of Law

I remember well waiting for my flight to Budapest in June of 1999 to attend the International Achievement Summit. The event was to coincide with a NATO international workshop on the subject of the Kosovo intervention, which had just concluded earlier that spring. I was in the midst of studying for the New York bar examination, having just completed a joint J.D. and MPA degree at the Yale Law School and the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University. I was nervous about the bar exam and kept asking myself how I could afford to join this trip to Hungary in the midst of exam preparation, but then I would tell myself there was no way to decline this opportunity.

I was right. In the end, I passed the bar after attending one of the most fascinating conferences I had seen to date, including a presentation by General Wesley Clark, who had served as the Supreme Allied Commander of Europe for NATO during the conflict in Kosovo. General Clark made an impression I would not soon forget and was the highlight of my experience of the Summit. Happily it was not to be the last time our paths would cross.

After my participation in the Summit, and having passed the New York bar, I went on to practice law in the sovereign group of a major Wall Street law firm in both New York and Paris. While I found my practice extremely rewarding, it was the pro bono opportunities I was able to explore — including an assignment with the United Nations, representing detainees — that most inspired me. As a result of this experience, I returned to Princeton to pursue a Ph.D. in Politics.

The next six years went by in a blur of leaves of absence from the firm to complete doctoral coursework, followed by leaves of absence from the Ph.D. program to return to legal practice. Upon completion of my degree, I was awarded a post-doctoral fellowship from the Yale Law School, and from there I joined the faculty of the UCLA School of Law.

I am currently an assistant professor at UCLA Law, where I teach three courses: Public International Law, International Human Rights, and the Laws of War. My research interests are quite diverse, including the intersection of international law and international relations around peace and security issues, arms control and nuclear nonproliferation, and human rights. I also have published in the fields of comparative law of the Middle East, immigration law and critical race theory.

Since joining the faculty at UCLA Law I have had the pleasure of encountering Wesley Clark, who now sits on the board of the UCLA Burkle Center. Indeed, General Clark was generous enough to give me the opportunity join him in a public debate at UCLA in April of 2011. I had the privilege of debating the merits of humanitarian intervention in Libya — drawing on the precedent of the Kosovo conflict — with General Clark, before a large audience of UCLA undergraduate and graduate students and the law school community.

At the end of our debate, I could not resist mentioning that I had first heard General Clark speak at the International Achievement Summit. It has been a long and exciting journey since that trip to Budapest in 1999, but I remain grateful for that opportunity to attend the NATO workshop, as I was first embarking on a career very much concerned with issues of international law and intervention.

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