Who Supports International Law, and Why? The United States, the European Union, and International Law
The International Journal of Constitutional Law, Vol. 13, No. 4, 2015, Forthcoming
56 Pages Posted: 2 Aug 2015
Date Written: July 7, 2015
Over the past several decades, it has become commonplace in both scholarly and political circles to contrast the positions of the United States (US) and the European Union (EU) toward the rule of international law, with the US being characterized at best by ambivalence toward legal constraints, and at worst as a “rogue nation.” The EU, by contrast, has presented itself and been seen as a strong supporter of international law. The symposium introduced by this paper interrogates this conventional wisdom, applying and testing a theoretical framework that attempts to disaggregate both the nature and the causes of state support for international law. This introduction is organized in four parts. Part I problematizes the dependent variable, “support” for international law, disaggregating that concept into four discrete dimensions of leadership, consent, compliance, and internalization. Part II moves from characterizing to explaining attitudes toward international law, identifying four sets of factors or independent variables – international and domestic, political and legal – that might account for observed differences between the US and the EU. Part III introduces the five empirical papers in the symposium, which deal respectively with international human rights law, criminal law, environmental law, trade law, and the internalization of international law by US and EU high courts. Part IV concludes with preliminary findings about the nature and the determinants of US and EU support for international law. With respect to the dependent variable, we find considerable differences between the US and the EU, as suggested by the conventional wisdom, but we also identify important nuances in the nature of those differences, which center primarily around the dimensions of consent and internalization, albeit with important variations across issue-areas. In terms of the independent variables, we find that the roots of US and EU differences are complex and multi-causal, defying any effort to reduce those differences to simple contrasts such as American exceptionalism or the EU’s normative difference.
Keywords: International law, treaties, United States, European Union, human rights, trade, international criminal law, environmental law, courts
JEL Classification: K33, N40
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation