Meeting the Enemy

American Exceptionalism and International Law

384 pages

March, 2010

ISBN: 9780814798362



Also available in



Part of the Critical America series


Natsu Taylor Saito is Professor of Law at Georgia State University. She is the author of From Chinese Exclusion to Guantánamo Bay: Plenary Power and the Prerogative State.

All books by Natsu Taylor Saito

Since its founding, the United States has defined itself as the supreme protector of freedom throughout the world, pointing to its Constitution as the model of law to ensure democracy at home and to protect human rights internationally. Although the United States has consistently emphasized the importance of the international legal system, it has simultaneously distanced itself from many established principles of international law and the institutions that implement them. In fact, the American government has attempted to unilaterally reshape certain doctrines of international law while disregarding others, such as provisions of the Geneva Conventions and the prohibition on torture.

America’s selective self-exemption, Natsu Taylor Saito argues, undermines not only specific legal institutions and norms, but leads to a decreased effectiveness of the global rule of law. Meeting the Enemy is a pointed look at why the United States’ frequent—if selective—disregard of international law and institutions is met with such high levels of approval, or at least complacency, by the American public.


  • ... is a pointed look at why the United States’ frequent - if selective - disregard of international law and institutions is met with such high levels of approval, or at least complacency, by the American public.”

    —Los Angeles Daily Journal

  • “Saito has produced a synthesis that is thought-provoking and challenging, and it provides a welcome attempt to place the contemporary moment in the 'war on terror' into a much longer historical frame. Most of all, like all good critical scholarship, scholars and students can look to this book as a way to interrogate one’s commitments about the American Project.”

    —Law & Politics Book Review

  • “Much has been written about the theme of American exceptionalism. Few works, however, possess the richness, range and depth of Saito’s superb and timely book, which provides new and disturbing insight into the origins and enduring character of this exceptionalism—and its consequences for America and the world.”

    —Antony Anghie, SJ Quinney School of Law, University of Utah

  • “This book will help readers understand the United State’s contradictory and often shocking role in the international legal community. A violator of international law from the day of its declaration of ‘independence,’ America, as Saito boldly points out, is indeed the enemy to colonized people within and beyond its borders.”

    —Sharon H. Venne, Chief Negotiator, Akaitcho Dene First Nation

  • “A must read for those concerned about human dignity, justice, freedom from violence, and the rule of law in an increasingly interdependent world, Meeting the Enemy challenges the reader to consider the abnegative consequences of an exceptionalism openly embraced by elites in the Bush Administration and still fostered by an Obama Administration that is partly conflicted between rhetoric and deeds.”

    —Jordan J. Paust, author of Beyond the Law: The Bush Administration’s Unlawful Responses in the “War