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Jed Rubenfeld offered a description of "two world orders" in last month’s Prospect that was superficially appealing but both wrong and deeply worrying. On his account, Europeans embrace international law as a form of "international constitutionalism," while Americans reject it, rightly, on the basis of "American, or democratic constitutionalism." Academics are no strangers to oversimplifications and ideal types. But the stakes in this debate, at this time, extend far beyond the academy.

Real or apparent respect for international law has become one of the axes of transatlantic tension and of tension, even enmity, between the US and countries around the…

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