Law and Force in the Twenty-First Century

Authored by: Gerry Simpson

Routledge Handbook of International Law

Print publication date:  December  2008
Online publication date:  January  2009

Print ISBN: 9780415418768
eBook ISBN: 9780203884621
Adobe ISBN: 9781134113095


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In this chapter, the law of force (or the ius ad bellum) is represented as the performance of an argument between three competing and potent visions of international legal order. These can be characterized as an absolutist view that seeks to approach war and peace through non-negotiable, universalizable and unqualified moral truths, a sovereigntist perspective that holds the desires or fears of the sovereign to be the single source of legitimacy in assessing decisions to go to war or engage in diplomacy and (an occasionally militant) legal pacifism that wants to use law to abolish war. This may help account for the law’s thematic ambiguities, its textual evasions, its judicial agonies and its interminable crises. It may explain also why its primary organs repeatedly move from institutional paralysis to hyperactivism and back. The Iraq war, for example, rather than being viewed as an extraordinary challenge to the future of international law, can be reinterpreted, in these terms, as part of the perpetual crisis of law, war and peace.

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