Published online by Cambridge University Press: 25 October 2019
Mary Ellen O'Connell explores how America’s identify has been linked to its respect for the rule of law and how that relationship has been challenged, particulary since the end of the Cold War. She argues that law is considered sovereign in the United States. The American identity is based on a view of America where DNA is law–national and international. Accordingly, the definition of American security rests upon securing the rule of law. This fundamental principle has been challenged at various points in US history but perhaps never as much as in recent times, beginning with the end of the Cold War. Without an opponent embracing authoritarian rule to reflect against, the post–Cold War confidence in military power overwhelmed the commitment to law. Weakened for a decade, the high commitment to law essentially collapsed on 9/11. It has yet to be regained. With the presidency of Donald Trump, the rise of China, the existential threat of climate change, and other factors, now is the moment to reestablish the place of law as the purpose of US national security.