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!e United States justi"ably prides itself on its devotion to “the rule of law.” We take legal instruments seriously; when we assume a binding legal obligation at home, we mean it, and we expect all parties to the agreement to demonstrate comparable fealty.

!is commitment to the law also extends to international agreements. Treaties are the coin of the international realm, and the United States leads the world both in making treaties and in publicly and pointedly holding others accountable when they fall short of full compliance. What happens, then, when the United States contravenes a binding international legal obligation in a manner so obvious and unarguable that it can o#er no defense to the charge of breach?

It happens more often than one might think and to more important treaties than one would hope, including treaties for which the United States continues to depend upon fastidious performance by other countries. Here, I present three illustrative cases studies of blatant U.S. violations of binding international legal obligations: the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention, the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, and the obligation to pay annual dues under the Charter of the United Nations. I explain the causes of these breaches and examine their adverse consequences for the United States and for the international rule of law.

Publication Citation

37 Fletcher F. World Aff. 53 (2013)