American Exceptionalism and International Organization: Lessons from the 1990s

Edward C. Luck

in US Hegemony and International Organizations

Published in print February 2003 | ISBN: 9780199261437
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191599309 | DOI:
 American Exceptionalism and International Organization: Lessons from the 1990s

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Considers how domestic political processes affect American behaviour in and towards multilateral organizations. The author first discusses the nature of American exceptionalism and looks at the ways in which what he describes as a deeply ingrained sense of American exceptionalism coupled with pragmatism affects the country's approach to multilateral institutions. An examination is then made of the ups and downs of US policies towards UN over the course of the 1990s, the contrasting politics of the 1994 decision to join the newly created World Trade Organization (WTO), and US financial withholdings in the 1990s and the steps taken towards partial payment of the resulting arrears in 1999–2000. Far more positive attitudes are noted towards the WTO than the UN, the latter being perceived as a riskier venue for the promotion of US interests. It is concluded that, while the US is generally reluctant to defer to multilateral processes, it cannot be accused of being hostile to all forms of multilateral organization: it is pragmatic and peacekeeping case‐specific in its choice of foreign policy tools.

Keywords: arrears in payment; behaviour; exceptionalism; foreign policy; international organizations; multilateral institutions; multilateral organizations; peacekeeping; pragmatism; UN; US; US foreign policy; World Trade Organization; WTO

Chapter.  12232 words. 

Subjects: International Relations

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