America and its International Commitments

One of the biggest objections to the Iran Nuclear Deal is that it violated U.S. law because it was never approved by two-thirds of the Senate, as required by the “Treaty Clause” (Art. II, Sec. 2) of the U.S. Constitution. (Contrary to the beliefs of many red-blooded Americans, the Constitution gives ratified treaties the same force as domestic law, per the Supremacy Clause.) However, this reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of the deal, the Constitution, and international law.

First, the deal was never binding: It is classified as a “nonbinding political commitment”, which, by definition, and in contrast to a treaty, requires no congressional approval nor is legally binding. Throughout U.S. history, presidents of all parties have made international agreements without the approval of a supermajority of Senators, either through “congressional-executive agreements”—which are ratified by only a simple majority of Congress—or through “executive agreements”, which are made solely by the president without any congressional involvement.

Between 1946 and 1999 alone, the U.S. completed nearly 16,000 international agreements—of which only 912 (5.7 percent) were treaties ratified by the Senate. (Most were congressional-executive agreements.)

While the Constitution does not explicitly provide for these alternatives, these alternatives have long been considered legitimate. Thomas Jefferson, a globalist sellout if we ever saw one, argued that the Treaty Clause procedure is not always necessary; short-term agreements without Senate approval may be better since “when they become too inconvenient, [they] can be dropped at the will of either party”. Most of the Founders did not objective this, because they recognized pragmatic and expedient reasons to allow the president to make international agreements without going through the long and politicized channels of the legislature.

In fact, when Jefferson sought to purchase the massive Louisiana Territory from France, there was some debate as to whether expanding U.S. territory was legal, since the Constitution was silent on the matter. He ultimately prevailed on the argument—backed by the “Father of the Constitution” James Madison—that the executive’s broad foreign policy powers allowed him to acquire the territory through treaty; he subsequently signed an agreement with France in April, announced it publicly in July, and finally got it ratified by the Senate in October.

The Supreme Court has repeatedly affirmed these powers. In Missouri v. Holland, it held that the federal government can use treaties to legislate in areas that would otherwise fall within the exclusive authority of the states. That is because the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution gives treaties the same force as federal law, which is binding on the states. In American Insurance Association v. Garamendi, the Court reaffirmed that “the President has authority to make ‘executive agreements’ with other countries, requiring no ratification by the Senate or approval by Congress, this power having been exercised since the early years of the Republic.”

America’s Most Enduring Foreign Relationship

America’s longest unbroken foreign relationship is with Morocco, which was technically the first country to recognize the U.S. as an independent nation.

Sultan Muhammad III—who had just consolidated his reign after years of instability and turmoil—wanted to establish fruitful trade relations; so, in 1777, just as the American Revolution was heating up, he declared Morocco’s ports open to American ships, promising them safe passage into the Mediterranean and protection from pirates—even from fellow Muslim nations. (Even France, which would become our biggest ally and the first country to sign a treaty with us, had not openly declared support at this stage.)

In 1786, the two countries signed the Moroccan–American Treaty of Friendship (Treaty of Marrakesh), which has lasted over 230 years–longer than any other treaty.

The provisions of the treaty are incredibly progressive and amicable, relative to our perception of Christian-Muslim relations at the time (let alone today). In addition to reaffirming protection of one another’s commercial vessels, it obligates the two nations to never to assist the other’s enemies, to allow safe travels to each other’s citizens within their territory, and even provides a procedure in the event their nationals dies in the other’s lands without a will.