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Essay 2

International Law and Foreign Policy

Maximum Length: 1500 words
Recommended Minimum: 1250 words
Help Deadline: 10:00 PM, Tuesday, 6 April
Deadline: 10:30 PM, Wednesday, 7 April

You are an advisor to the President of the United States (or the leader of another country, if you so choose). One of the President’s other advisors has issued the following statements, and you are tasked with writing a policy brief from a better-informed perspective in response to one of the statements. The President is busy, however, and (s)he will not read more than 1500 words. Note that each statement contains several smaller claims before it offers its prescriptive advice. In formulating your response, you may choose to focus on one particular claim (upon which others rest), to consider several claims, or to challenge the prescription drawn from the smaller claims. Be sure to respond to potential counter-arguments.

  • Statement 1: “For far too long, we have allowed international politics to be synonymous with ‘power politics.’ As Hobbes recognized, the ‘state of nature’ in which states have existed has essentially been a ‘state of war.’ Hobbes’ solution for men and women in the state of nature holds equally true for states: we must escape the state of war by entering into a society of laws. That means supporting mechanisms of international law even when doing so cuts against our short-term interests.”
  • Statement 2: “The WTO Dispute Settlement Body should not be understood as a ‘legal’ mechanism. The purpose of law is to constrain, channel, and organize violence. The DSB, however, neither limits international violence nor does it use or threaten violent means to affect its decisions. The DSB is simply a political tool weak countries use to gang up on the strong. And we have the largest economy in the world. That means we’ll be the target for much of these attacks; but it also means that other countries possess little real power to compel us. As such, we should feel no obligation to abide by its rulings when they hurt our interests.”
  • Statement 3: “The formulation ‘international law’ is an oxymoron. As Hobbes said, ‘Where there is no common Power, there is no Law.’ [Leviathan, Ch 13] Law can only exist within states and not between them. Consider, for instance, the EU. Europeans like to think of the EU as a model for a new, more robust international legal order. This perspective, however, is deeply misguided. The EU is not a heavily legalized international order. In reality, the EU is a burgeoning state.”
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