In their article The Normalization of Foreign Relations Law, Professors Ganesh Sitaraman and Ingrid Wuerth argue that “[foreign affairs] exceptionalism . . . is now exceptional,” and that this is a good thing. I agree with much of the authors’ normative argument for “normalization” of foreign affairs doctrine (as they define the term). But the authors overstate the extent to which such normalization has already occurred. There have indeed been some recent Supreme Court decisions that seem to lack the exceptional deference to the Executive that had characterized judicial decisionmaking in the foreign affairs area in previous years. But foreign affairs doctrine remains resolutely exceptionalist in some areas beyond those identified by the authors as reflecting the “unfinished business” of normalization. When these additional manifestations of exceptionalism are added to the ones the authors have identified, the claim that exceptionalism is now exceptional seems overstated.
Part I of this response discusses the authors’ definition of exceptionalism and normalization, which the authors describe as “an independent contribution” of the article, “regardless of whether one agrees with [its] broader normalization thesis.” As noted, their definition collapses the question of normalization with the proper interpretation of the Constitution.
Part II challenges the authors’ characterization of some doctrines or decisions as exceptionalist. The authors cite Missouri v. Holland as an example of foreign relations exceptionalism. But the holding of Missouri v. Holland is supported by the constitutional text and is consistent with original intent and the case law preceding the decision.
Part III focuses on the judicial enforcement of treaties. As I have written at some length in these pages, the Supremacy Clause establishes that treaties are to be enforceable in the courts in the same circumstances as statutes. Yet the courts have engrafted onto the Supremacy Clause a distinction between self-executing treaties and non-selfexecuting treaties, with only the latter being judicially enforceable.
128 Harv. L. Rev. Forum 305-321 (2015)
Scholarly Commons Citation
Vázquez, Carlos Manuel, "The Abiding Exceptionalism of Foreign Relations Doctrine" (2015). Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works. Paper 1495.