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In the early years of the last century, the United States was among the leading states promoting the development of legal regimes and institutions to bring about the peaceful resolution of disputes between nations. Our later failure to join the League of Nations reflected the reluctance of many of our citizens, then as now, to allow decisions about our vital national interests to be made by any but our own elected leaders. Later still, however, in the years following World War II, the United States exerted its influence to negotiate treaties to create international obligations and set up institutions to manage international relations on an unprecedented scale. These efforts reflected confidence that international agreements and dispute resolution mechanisms could promote our interests in many fields and that the risk that they would be politicized to our disadvantage was low. Certainly, our policy of promoting the rule of law in international affairs was often portrayed as a willingness to relinquish the capacity to decide matters for ourselves as they came up and to abide by the results of systems in which we had a voice but not control, in return for other states doing the same.

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