restricted access Chapter 11. American Exceptionalism, Exemptionalism, and Global Governance
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Chapter 11 American Exceptionalism, Exemptionalism, and Global Governance J O H N G E R A R D R U G G I E MORE THAN ANY other country, the United States was responsible for creating the post–World War II system of global governance. But from the start, that historic mission exhibited the conflicting effects of two very different forms of American exceptionalism. For Franklin Roosevelt, the key challenge was to overcome the isolationist legacy of the 1930s and to ensure sustained U.S. engagement in achieving and maintaining a stable international order. Old-world balance-of-power reasoning in support of that mission held little allure for the American people—protected by two oceans, with friendly and weaker neighbors to the north and south, and pulled unwillingly into two costly world wars by that system’s breakdown . So Roosevelt framed his plans for winning the peace in a broader vision that tapped into America’s sense of self as a nation: the promise of an international order based on rules and institutions promoting human betterment through free trade and American-led collective security, human rights and decolonization, as well as active international involvement by the private and voluntary sectors. For Roosevelt’s successors, countering the Soviet threat reinforced the mission and in many respects made it easier to achieve. This first form of American exceptionalism— pursuing an international order that resonated with values the American people saw as their own—became the basis for a global transformational agenda whose effects are unfolding still.1 Earlier versions of this chapter were presented at the Bucerius University Program on Global Governance in Hamburg, Germany; the Kennedy School’s Carr Center for Human Rights Policy seminar on American Exceptionalism; a conference on American Unilateralism at the Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton University; the Yale Law School Globalization Seminar; and the University of Toronto Law School Workshop on Law, Globalization and Justice. I am indebted to Cary Coglianese, Michael Ignatieff, Kal Raustiala, Frederick Schauer, and Anne-Marie Slaughter for their helpful comments; to Jason Scott for bibliographical assistance; and to the Kennedy School Initiative on Corporate Social Responsibility for research support. 1 I have discussed Roosevelt’s strategy of engagement and its legacy at length in John Gerard Ruggie, Winning the Peace: America and World Order in the New Era (New York: E XE MP TI ON AL IS M, AN D G LO BA L G OV ER NA NC E 305 Yet from the outset the United States also sought to insulate itself from the domestic blowback of certain of these developments. This, too, has been justified on the grounds of American exceptionalism: a perceived need to safeguard the special features and protections of the U.S. Constitution from external interference. And it also taps into a core element of American identity: ours is a civic nationalism, defined by the institutions and practices that bind us, not by blood and soil, and none is more foundational than the Constitution itself. While the executive branch traditionally drove the international transformational agenda, the “exemptionalist ” resistance has been anchored in Congress. It has been most pronounced and consequential in the area of human rights and related social issues, where it has typically been framed in terms of protecting states’ rights against federal treaty-based incursions. In drafting the United Nations Charter, for example, the U.S. delegation introduced language “reaffirming faith” in fundamental human rights. But because the support of southern Democrats was critical to the Charter’s ratification by the Senate, keeping Jim Crow laws beyond international scrutiny obliged the United States to balance that reaffirmation by adding what became Article 2.7: that “nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state.”2 Reacting sharply against U.S.-initiated negotiations of several UN human rights instruments, beginning with the Genocide Convention, the Senate nearly adopted a constitutional amendment in 1954—the Bricker amendment—which, in effect , would have eviscerated the president’s formal treaty-making powers.3 That same political constituency historically has resisted all forms of international jurisdiction and has led congressional opposition to the UN. During the Cold War, presidents from Harry Truman to Ronald Reagan sought to minimize the international embarrassment resulting from the Columbia University Press, 1996). The vision drew on Woodrow Wilson but was tempered by a pragmatic understanding of both domestic and international politics...


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