By Sanford Levinson
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Additional info for An Argument Open to All: Reading "The Federalist" in the 21st Century
The ﬁrst American war after the UN was established, the action in Korea, occurred without a formal declaration of war by Congress. President Truman claimed that the United Nations Charter compelled the United States to defend South Korea against North Korean aggression, which was viewed as a proxy for a more fundamentally aggressive move by the forces of international communism led by the Soviet Union. “The perpetual menacings of danger,” writes Publius, “oblige the government to be always prepared to repel it; its armies must be numerous enough for instant defense.
His immediate concern was the fragmentation of the ﬂedgling nation under the Articles of Confederation and the need, therefore, to exalt the beneﬁts of union. But the argument for union may have no logical stopping point. If greater unity is needed to resist potential aggression by Great Britain or France, then why doesn’t it follow, in another historical period, that the United States, Great Britain, and France should join together in a genuinely common political enterprise in order to provide a uniﬁed response to China or some other common rival?
Federalism, even in the realm of foreign policy, which is Publius’s main concern, has scarcely disappeared as an important concern today. Even if a particular state’s decisions cannot, by themselves, spark war with another country, it is not at all unlikely that it could so antagonize a given country that it seriously complicates American foreign policy. Consider only two issues recently presented to the United States Supreme Court— both, as it happens, involving Mexico. One case involved the clear violation by Texas of an international treaty, signed by the United States, promising that criminal defendants who are citizens of a foreign country have a right under international law to have their embassy notiﬁed of their being in legal peril.