Exploring U.S. Treaty Practice through a Military Lens
83 Pages Posted: 25 Feb 2014 Last revised: 15 Jul 2015
Date Written: February 22, 2014
Article VI of the U.S. Constitution indicates that treaties ratified by the United States shall be supreme law of the land, giving this category of international law binding effect identical to that of statutes enacted by Congress. Unlike statutes, however, treaty law involves a distinct process of formation, ratifications, implementation, and interpretation. And, because treaties involve committing the nation to international obligations, it is self-evident they have a significant impact on the authority of the nation to pursue national security objectives abroad.
One area of U.S. policy especially impacted by treaty law is military affairs. Indeed, the only treaties currently ratified by every nation in the world are devoted to limiting the harmful consequences of armed hostilities: the four Geneva Conventions of 1949. Because treaties have such a ubiquitous relationship with military affairs, this component of national power provides a useful lens through which to explore U.S. treaty practice. This article provides this exploration, using the context of military affairs to illuminate various aspects of U.S. treaty practice. Because military related treaties implicate every aspect of treaty practice, this treatment provides a comprehensive survey of this practice with the consistent context of one area of U.S. national security policy. This not only explains the treaty making and implementation process, but also illustrates how treaty law impacts even the most vital national security policies of the nation.
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