Description - On the Law of Nations by Daniel Patrick Moynihan
Foreign Policy. "In the annals of forgetfulness there is nothing quite to compare with the fading from the American mind of the idea of the law of nations."Grenada. "We might have benefited from a weekend's pause in which we could have considered our interests rather than merely giving in to our impulses."The mining of Nicaraguan harbors. "A practice of deception mutated into a policy of deceit."Iran-Contra. "The idea of international law had faded. But just as important, in the 1980s it had come to be associated with weaknesses in foreign policy. Real men did not cite Grotius."As the era of totalitarianism recedes, the time is at hand to ask by what rules we expect to conduct ourselves, Senator Moynihan writes in this pellucid, and often ironic, examination of international law. Our founding fathers had a firm grasp on the importance and centrality of such law; later presidents affirmed it and tried to establish international institutions based on such high principles; but we lost our way in the fog of the cold war.Moynihan's exploration of American attitudes toward international law--those of presidents, senators, congressmen, public officials, and the public at large--reveals the abiding reverence for a law of nations and the attempts for almost two hundred years to make international law the centerpiece of foreign and strategic policy. Only in the last decade did a shift in values at the highest levels of government change the goals and conduct of the United States.Displaying a firm grasp of history, informed by senatorial insights and investigative data, elegantly written, this book is a triumph of scholarship, interpretation, and insight.
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(235mm x 155mm x 11mm)
Harvard University Press
Publisher: Harvard University Press
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Book Reviews - On the Law of Nations by Daniel Patrick Moynihan
US Kirkus Review »
Here, New York's Senator Moynihan takes on Ronald Reagan's foreign policy - and makes an impassioned and well-reasoned plea for a return to the rule of international law. According to Moynihan, international law consists of two elements: treaty obligations and customary norms of conduct. Until the advent of the Reagan Administration, the US, he says, traditionally led the way in promoting worldwide adherence to both. But in 1980, Moynihan argues, something changed: Reagan arrived in Washington, accompanied by a coterie of bitter intellectuals, such as Jeane Kirkpatrick, that had only contempt for international law. As a consequence, America embarked on a series of military adventures, beginning with the invasion of Grenada and culminating in the mining of Nicaragua's harbors. When the latter action led to a lawsuit against the US in the World Court, Washington simply announced that it no longer recognized that tribunal's jurisdiction. For Moynihan, this defiant stance signifies the nadir in America's relations with the rest of the world. He believes that jettisoning the rule of law has cost the US precious credibility in the world at large, foreclosing our ability to play a meaningful role in solving crises such as the Palestinian intifada. In addition, he finds, the abandonment of international law has created a dangerous thrust within the US toward an imperial presidency. Finally, Moynihan says that the historical driving force toward American adventurism - a ferocious hatred of communism - has little contemporary relevance in the present era of Gorbachev and Havel. Writing in a somewhat arcane (if endearing) style, Moynihan supports his many controversial theses with solid analysis and impeccable scholarship. Sure to raise hackles - and hopes - in D.C. and beyond. (Kirkus Reviews)
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Author Biography - Daniel Patrick Moynihan
Daniel Patrick Moynihan was the author of numerous books, including On the Law of Nations, and coeditor (with Nathan Glazer) of Ethnicity, both from Harvard.