Chicago Journal of International Law


John Bolton raises two distinct sets of questions about global governance: the first involves the creation of supranational authority structures; the second, the penetration of the American domestic political process, especially by transnational non-governmental organizations ("TNGOs"). Neither of these involves international legal sovereignty, the right of the United States, or any state, to freely enter into agreements with other states. Both do involve issues associated with the nature and autonomy of domestic authority structures, the ability of political actors to determine the kinds of political institutions within which they will function, and the decisions that emerge from these institutions. The rule that one state should not interfere in the internal affairs of another, first articulated by the international jurist Emer de Vattel at the end of the 18th century, has become one of the defining norms of sovereignty. It is, however, a norm that has been frequently violated, sometimes as a result of coercion, for example the Soviet Union's invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 and the American occupation of Panama in 1989, and sometimes as a result of voluntary agreements, such as the 1957 Treaty of Rome and subsequent accords that have created the European Union. Moreover, some political structures are inherently more open to official or unofficial external influence either because there are multiple avenues of access, as is the case with the United States, or because they are weakly institutionalized, as is the case in several African countries. Although domestic autonomy is a widely recognized rule it might, or might not, serve the interests of a specific state. John Bolton worries that the permeability of the American political process may be a threat to the United States. I suggest instead that, given the inordinate international power of the United States, the ability of external actors, including TNGOs, to involve themselves in American decision-making may make it easier to accomplish American objectives by reducing the temptation to balance against, rather than cooperate with, the United States.