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From Here to Extraterritoriality: The United States Within and Beyond Borders

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Gayton, Jeffrey T.
International Studies Association Conference
Mar 18, 1997
Extraterritoriality; Sovereignty; Foreign Policy; United States
Beginning in the late eighteenth century and running well into the twentieth, the United States claimed at least partial extraterritorial jurisdiction over American citizens in countries in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and the Pacific. While the United States no longer claims such jurisdiction over its citizens abroad, it has not abandoned extraterritoriality. Today, the United States claims at least partial jurisdiction over a wide range of activities abroad that have effects within the United States. In this paper, I will attempt to trace and explain the historical development of American extraterritorial claims, focusing on claims made against China, Turkey, and the Barbary states of Morocco and Libya; and claims made in the area of antitrust law. I will argue that realist conceptions of power and interest and liberal conceptions of interdependence and international regimes are important, but incomplete explanations of American extraterritorial claims. Early American claims were in part driven by competition with the European states that made similar claims and may be viewed as constituting an international regime. Contemporary American extraterritorial claims are in part a reflection of American power and are driven by the blurring of sovereign jurisdiction caused by growing interdependence. However, in order to fully understand these two sets of claims, and in particular, to understand the shift from one to the other, I argue that (changing) conceptions of sovereignty are just as, if not more important. Exploring the development of American extraterritorial claims is important for several reasons. It will help develop and expand upon realist and neoliberal theory. It will provide an empirical contribution to the often abstract literature on sovereignty. It will contribute to our understanding of the role of domestic politics in foreign policy, particularly the role of the American judiciary. Finally, American extraterritoriality is not an arcane legal issue, but a major source of conflict between the United States and its friends and neighbors.
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