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Title: The League's long shadow : American constitutionalism and the international delegation dilemma
Author: Baugh, D. Matthew
ISNI:       0000 0004 2732 6588
Awarding Body: Oxford University
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2012
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The United States' record of participation in international institutions is paradoxical. No country has done more to promote the creation of new institutions. Yet the US has also failed to join some of the very institutions it has proposed, or has joined them only after making changes that leave the institutions substantially weaker. The ultimate rejection of the League of Nations, which America's own president had conceived and championed, is the classic example of this phenomenon; and nearly a century later, it remains one of the great puzzles of American foreign relations. This thesis proposes a novel explanation of the League defeat, showing the decisive influence of an idea from the country's constitutional tradition: the doctrine of checks and balances. According to this idea, power must be distributed across separate institutions in such a way as to give them overlapping jurisdictions and thus the capacity to restrain one another from going beyond their assigned limits. While President Woodrow Wilson, a proponent of British constitutionalism, considered the safeguards in the League plan sufficient, senators schooled in the American tradition of checks and balances objected to the plan's consolidation of power, arguing that it would inevitably lead to abuses of discretion. The difficulty of reconciling checks and balances with the inherent limitations of international delegation represents an enduring dilemma for American foreign policy-a dilemma made all the more poignant by the strategic value of international institutions. As the analysis of key cases reveals, the concern of US officials to avoid concentrations of power explains the country's rejection of the International Criminal Court, its scaling back of plans for the United Nations, and its second thoughts about joining the World Trade Organization. An ideational commitment has thus made it difficult for the US to convert its superpower status into lasting institutional form.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available