Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law

First Page



Given its strategic interest in the Canal, it might well be asked why the United States would sign a Treaty which does not give an unambiguous right of intervention. Under the Treaty, the United States has at best only a weak legal justification for intervention, which will be useful in domestic politics should the popular opposition to "giving the Canal away" become critical, but which will be much less convincing elsewhere. World opinion is suspicious of the reliance of any great power on intervention, regardless of the legal rationale. The justification will be least persuasive in Latin America where there is deep resentment against the United States for past intervention in the area. On the other hand, this resentment is another reason the United States did not secure an unambiguous right to intervene--after the 1964 riots and the 1967 coup, no Panamanian leader could have agreed to such a provision. A political realist would suggest that the United States will probably take whatever action it deems necessary for national security regardless of legal ramifications, hence the failure to secure the right to intervene should not prevent ratification if the Treaty serves other national interests. Indeed, there are good foreign policy reasons for ratifying it. In view of the mounting popular resentment in Panama over the United States presence in the isthmus, it may be wise for the United States to withdraw gradually. The Treaties allow the United States to do so without losing face. Therefore, good diplomacy may be reason enough for the United States to agree to terms which severely restrict its legal rights. If the United States can avoid possible military entanglement in Panama and begin to clear the way, after years of ill will, for a genuine "new relationship," the new Treaties should be ratified.