Power and Interdependence: U.S. Sovereignty in the American Century
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59 THREE Power and Interdependence U.S. Sovereignty in the American ­ Century The previous chapter stressed the enduring influence of Amer­ i­ ca’s po­ liti­ cal princi­ ples, national identity, and domestic institutions on how the United States defines, expresses, and defends its sovereignty. That is, Ameri­ can conceptions about sovereignty are rooted in a conviction that the ­ will of the ­ people is the foundation for po­ liti­ cal legitimacy, in a broadly shared belief that the United States is an exceptional nation, and in the distribution of do­ mestic power and authority established by the U.S. Constitution. Given ­these ideological, identity, and institutional realities, U.S. attitudes ­ toward sover­ eignty can seem immutable.1 And yet fixity is not the entire story. Two other ­ factors, external to the United States itself, have ­ shaped how American leaders and citizens interpret and express U.S. sovereignty. The first is the geopo­ liti­ cal position that the United States occupies within an always shifting landscape of global power. Having secured its in­de­pen­dence as a weak republic in a world of expansionist empires, the United States has since become the most power­ ful nation the world has ever known—­ and this changing position has naturally affected Americans’ conception of their national sovereignty. The second external influence on U.S. understandings of sovereignty is globalization, which has linked Americans’ security, prosperity, health, and social welfare ever more tightly with developments in other parts of the world. 03-3159-7_ch3.indd 59 9/11/17 1:08 PM 60 THE SOVEREIGNTY WARS Over the past ­ century ­ these two forces—­ the rise of U.S. power and deep­ ening global integration—­ created new opportunities and dilemmas for the United States. Growing might gave the United States unpre­ce­dented scope to spread its influence and ideas abroad. Si­mul­ta­neously, the emergence of global markets brought benefits of commercial and financial integration—as well as more nefarious cross-­ border flows. The impact of power and interdependence on U.S. attitudes ­ toward sovereignty has been uneven. Although the domi­ nant U.S. mode has been internationalist, latent isolationist sentiments have lingered. And throughout, Americans have been torn over how much sover­ eign autonomy they should be prepared to trade for the promise of more effec­ tive multilateral cooperation. THE GEOPOLITICS OF SOVEREIGNTY The United States was born ­ free but vulnerable. In 1776 fewer than 3 million Americans ­ were scattered along the narrow, 2,000-­ mile strip of Atlantic sea­ board from Georgia to Maine. The new republic’s population was overwhelm­ ingly rural, with 95 ­ percent employed in agriculture. Only twenty-­ one towns exceeded 2,500 ­ people, and just five cities had more than 10,000 inhabitants.2 At sea, the United States was exposed to potential naval assaults; on land, to attacks from acquisitive Eu­ ro­ pean powers and their Native American allies. Preserving American sovereignty meant gaining a capacity for self-­ defense—­ while avoiding conflicts that did not involve the United States. National security considerations helped justify replacing the Articles of Confederation with a more federal Constitution in 1789. Only a strong cen­ tral government, Federalists insisted, could defend the United States from centrifugal tendencies at home and aggression from abroad. Without a strong core, sectional jealousies and rivalries might rip the republic apart. And as the nation disintegrated into competing blocs, a miniature version of the Eu­ro­pean balance of power might even arise, as U.S. states armed to the teeth, entered into shifting alliances, and engaged in recurrent warfare. History’s lesson was clear, Hamilton warned: “To look for a continuation of harmony between a number of in­ de­ pen­ dent, unconnected sovereignties in the same neighborhood, would be to disregard the uniform course of ­ human events, and to set at defiance the accumulated experience of ages.” Innumerable clashes, he predicted, would arise from “acts of in­ de­ pen­ dent sovereignties consulting a distinct interest.”3 Outside powers would surely exploit such disarray, playing dif­fer­ ent U.S. states against one another—­ when not seizing U.S. territory for themselves. 03-3159-7_ch3.indd 60 9/11/17 1:08 PM Power and Interdependence 61­ These dangers would increase as westward expansion lured U.S. settlers into the arms of Britain, Spain, and other colonial powers. As early as 1775, John Adams warned his fellow revolutionaries of Amer­ i­ ca’s sovereign vulnerability. Foreign governments “would find means to corrupt our ­ people, to influence...