chapter  14
12 Pages

The nature of US engagement with international law: making sense of apparent inconsistencies

ByShirley Scott

The attitude of the US towards international law often appears full of contradictions, which critics tend to characterize as hypocrisy. This chapter seeks to move beyond criticism or defense of the nature of US engagement with international law in order to make better sense of the apparent inconsistencies. Three features of the US engagement are identified and explored: the US uses international law to disseminate its policy preferences; the US seeks to protect its own policy choices and legal system from external influence via international law; and, with some provisos, the US takes legal obligations seriously. Individually and in combination, these three factors can help account for many seemingly anomalous actions or inactions of the US as well as provide a basis on which to identify elements of change and continuity in the nature of the US engagement with international law.