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Why the United States Supports International Enforcement for Some Treaties but not for Others

By Jon Hovi and Tora Skodvin


Under what conditions should we expect the United States to support international enforcement of treaties? We hypothesize that U.S. support is most likely for treaties where international enforcement will cause considerable (desired) behavioral change by other countries but little (undesired) behavioral change by the United States. Similarly, U.S. support is least likely for treaties where international enforcement will generate the converse effects. In developing this hypothesis, we derive specific conditions under which we should expect U.S. benefits of international enforcement to outweigh U.S. costs (or vice versa). We also provide empirical examples. Finally, we consider three alternative explanations of U.S. views on international enforcement—concern for U.S. sovereignty, desire to prevent infringements on U.S. constitutional protection of individual rights, and the usefulness of international enforcement as a domestic commitment device. We discuss these alternative explanatory factors' relationship to our own hypothesis

Topics: international cooperation; international enforcement; political feasibility; treaties; U.S. foreign policy
Publisher: 'Cogitatio'
Year: 2017
DOI identifier: 10.17645/pag.v5i2.886
OAI identifier:

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