Can Massachusetts have a foreign policy? Answering this question–which raises fundamental issues concerning the constitutional allocation of powers between the states and the federal government–may soon be on the U.S. Supreme Court’s agenda.

Though the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals may fairly be criticized for articulating a broad rule that would bar virtually any substantive involvement by states in foreign affairs, it is difficult to argue with its conclusion in this case: There are real dangers when, as here, a state and the federal government follow conflicting policies. Even a Supreme Court as respectful of states’ rights as the current court is likely to recognize those dangers and conclude that, in this case, Massachusetts should step aside.

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