America and International Agreements

The US has a notorious history of being out of touch with the rest of the world. Its people are often ridiculed as ignorant of global affairs, despite their enormous influence on the world, an ironic situation to say the least. This is no more true than in its inability to commit to international agreements. What the hell, USA?

When the League of Nations was established after WWI, former president Woodrow Wilson attempted to join the League but was rejected by the then Republican-controlled House and Senate. Unable to formally enter the League, the US remained alone among the major world powers, ironic given the fact that the League had been initiated by Wilson himself in his Fourteen Points. This was one of many policies in a long tradition of what is referred to as “American exceptionalism”, but which is, in practice, more akin to American rejectionism.

Post-WWII, the US had become the global hegemon, with no real threats from any other nation on Earth. This began an era of highly aggressive imperialism on part of the American elites, notably in Latin America and southern Asia (See America and the Cold War). While this was widely condemned around the world, the American public was notably not informed of the violence and terror it was committing abroad.

In the Middle East, while the majority of the world had supported a two-state solution, the US along with its satellite state, Israel, opposed any form of negotiation with the Palestinians, instead opting to justify an illegal occupation. In fact, as recently as 2016, the US was alone in a 14 to 0 vote (as the US abstained) on UN Resolution 2334, which stated that the Israeli settlements on the West Bank were illegal. Surprisingly enough, even the majority of the Israeli (not to mention Palestinian) population oppose the settlements.

There are numerous other agreements in the recent past that the US has opposed despite global consensus. One pattern to the policies is that most of the time the US signs but doesn’t ratify an agreement. The US signed but never ratified the Kyoto Protocol in 2001, after former president George W. Bush rejected the agreement. The US has also signed but never ratified the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ISCESR), which is ironic, because former president Franklin Roosevelt helped draft the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which the ICESCR enforces. This is not to mention the enormous pressure it took just to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the other half of the UDHR enforcement mechanism. The US has signed but not ratified the Convention on Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) nor the Convention on the Rights of a Child (CRC), disturbing, given the potential undoing of numerous Progressive Era reforms related to these agreements. There are some exceptions to the rule, however. Bush outright pulled out of the International Criminal Court (ICC), established in 2002, despite the US’s membership in the ICC and despite the large global consensus (110 countries) of the ICC.

However, what is most dangerous is the US’s opposition to numerous international weapon ban agreements. The US has only signed and ratified one of these agreements, the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). The US had signed and ratified both the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM) and the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC), but later pulled out of the ABM and BWC. The US has never signed the Mine Ban Treaty (MB), making it alone among NATO nations.

While some American politicians may argue for the protection of the sovereignty of the American constitution, this violates the precedent set by the historical involvement of American leaders in crafting these agreements. A reactionary argument is clearly flawed. Another way of viewing the agreements is that they spread the values of freedom and democratic institutions across the world without violence, an opinion that is not often heard. It should be time for the US to share the burden of Enlightenment principles with the rest of the world, and America may even find that there is a far greater appetite for democracy among humanity than it may realize.

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