Few Ideas are as sacred in American politics as sovereignty. From the founding of the republic through the rejection of the League of Nations to the present day, Americans have grappled with how to reconcile their desire for independence with the need for effective international cooperation. Unfortunately, contemporary debates over how to defend and exercise that sovereignty are confused and overheated. Such polemics distract us from what is really at stake in the sovereignty debate: namely, the ability to shape America’s destiny in a global age. Contrary to common assertions, the United States is in little danger of subordinating its Constitution and system of government to international law and organizations. What globalization does require is for Americans to think more clearly about sovereignty’s different dimensions—and to consider “sovereignty bargains”, whereby the nation voluntarily trades off a measure of its freedom of action to cooperate with other countries in exploiting the shared opportunities and mitigating the common risks of interdependence.
Dr. Stewart Patrick is the James H. Binger senior fellow in global governance and the director of the program on international institutions and global governance at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). His areas of expertise include multilateral cooperation, international institutions, and the challenges posed by fragile, failing, and post-conflict states.
From September 2002 to January 2005, Dr. Patrick served on the secretary of state’s policy planning staff, with lead staff responsibility for U.S. policy toward Afghanistan and a range of transnational issues. Following government service, he was Research Fellow at the Center for Global Development. Dr. Patrick is the author of The Sovereignty Wars: Reconciling America with the World (Brookings Institution Press, October 2018), as well as of Weak Links: Fragile States, Global Threats, and International Security, and The Best Laid Plans: The Origins of American Multilateralism and the Dawn of the Cold War. He also writes the CFR blog “The Internationalist.”
Dr. Patrick graduated from Stanford University (with a B.A. in human biology and honors in humanities) and received his doctorate in international relations and two masters degrees (in international relations and modern European history) from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar. He has three children.