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International Law

By Robert Wright

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 Part I

     When looking at war we see that states have considered it in their sovereign right to wage war against anyone who was considered a threat.  As war was thought to be a characteristic of the international system, it was looked at as being natural because all states within the system felt that they were entitled to engage in war as a right through the principles of sovereignty.

     This is why states believe they are entitled to use force against other states.  It was a way for them to protect their sovereignty, in the sense that they are protecting their territorial grounds, their independence, while defending the state and its people.  War would be an inherent part of the international system because states make up the system and states needed to enforce the law themselves.  A role of war is the fact that it is also used to make laws as a way of establishing new systems.  Powerful states do not want to recognize any authority above them, and so the nature of the international system is characterized by anarchy where there is no central authority or international policing to enforce the laws.  This is where we are able to say that sovereignty is a basis for anarchy because in anarchy, states are responsible for themselves.

     The ideas of self-help short of war comes into play because states should be able to use self-help techniques to get other states to do what they want them to.  This is where we see powerful states using their power of self-help in order for other states to comply with them.  In such situations, states may face problems as a result of using their self-help techniques.  These problems involve the ideas of perception and interpretations.  The fact that states make their own laws and enforce them, leads to the fact that they also perceive and interpret their laws the way they see them fit. 

    This may cause conflicts with other states because states perceive and interpret laws differently.  This is why we are able to relate power with the law in the sense that the more powerful states are able to make the laws and enforce them even to the extent that weaker states must comply with these powerful states.  If weaker states do not comply with the powerful states, arms races may occur when states feel insecure and other states arm themselves.  This causes the security dilemma.  In an international system that is characterized by anarchy, no one is left secure.  Theoretically, in such a situation, a balance of power may therefore prevent wars and conflicts from occurring.


Part II  (A)

     The difference between legal and political disputes is this: legal disputes are justifiable questioning of the law and laws relevant to the dispute can be utilized to settle such disputes.  Political disputes are non-justifiable in which non-legal considerations (such as “vital national interest”) play an important role in which the application of legal rules would not settle the dispute.  We may also realize that these differences of disputes also depend on the attitudes of the parties involved. If any of the parties seek only their legal rights, we see that the dispute is classified as justifiable, as being a “legal” dispute.  The opposite would be the situation where one or both of the parties demand legal rights and also the satisfaction of some special interest that would require changes in the legal situation, then the dispute is non-justifiable, being a “political dispute”.

    These ideas show that the international system may have its weaknesses with regards to the legal system.  Because in the international system there is no central authority to enforce the laws, legal disputes may be over looked. States in this case are not bound by the international system but instead bound to them.  In trying to settle a legal dispute through the international system, this may even cause more conflict because states may not agree with laws of such a system and so it would not be enforced.   These problems relate to the very nature and characteristics of the states, which comprise the system because states make their own laws and enforce them.  They do not have to comply to any other authority but themselves being that all states consider themselves to be sovereign with a right of self-determination.  This is how we are able to relate these legal dispute problems in the international system to nature. The characteristics of different states make up the international system; while simultaneously, such states are also the enforcers of the laws within the system.  Although states sometimes view a decision based on law as a good way of settling disputes in the international system, they do not always choose to adapt such views because they are ultimately sovereign entities with self-determined obligations.


Part II (B)

    A large number of modern armed conflicts have taken place without an official declaration of a state of war.  Therefore, “armed conflict” has been used as the political term as a substitute for “war”.  The idea of “international armed conflict” includes conflicts between states and any international legal person.  The United Nations (UN) Security Council that is comprised by states decides if the UN should engage in international armed conflict.  All states must agree that the UN should use force to accomplish a common goal, both to end a conflict and maintain stability.  States that are members of the UN have the opportunity to be heard before the Security Council deploys UN troops.  Each state feel that their opinion on the specific situation is a valid opinion with considerations that they have specific rights, they are rational, and are acting under the principles of sovereignty.  This may cause many problems, however, and it goes back to the idea of perception and interpretations that states do not always agree.  The fact that they are all members of the UN does not mean that they will agree with the Security Council or the other factions of the UN.  This may cause the international issue to become more serious with regards to non-interventions, interventions or simple neutrality by the UN.  This is where we are able to see the inherent problems in the system because even as members of an organization that encourages peace, we see that these states still disagree with each other.  Major decision-making, such as with international armed conflicts, poses many separate conflicts within the organization.  This may precipitate into larger, global conflict—world war.

     We cannot forget that the world is governed by systems.  They are systems that we have created and they give guidelines to all the world powers to suggest and make laws within their territory or sovereign state.  The issues have always been the idea of enforcing a law after it has been through all the processes and is enacted. There are so many particulars that stems from the bodies and establishment surrounding theses laws.  The main idea however is to know what the percentage or possibilities are for a just and right law to pass all the stages and manifest into reality.  Usually it is easy to know what Laws should or should not be passed.  Examine the consensus of the people in the world and you will find your answer.  This is why we clearly see that America is losing the war against terrorism.  We can easily see the consensus of the world and the reality is that the issues are no longer weather Iraq has had weapons of mass destruction.   The result of this recent war, which is still happening, is that the consequences are far worse than perhaps what America had expected.  There is a huge undertone that puts great pressure on race relations and the ideas of religion, specifically, Islam and Christianity.  The war brought out many issues that are so far away from fighting terrorists and finding weapons of mass destruction.

     We must not forget that war is influenced by politics in these times.  Such a standpoint is quite important because there is no longer the ideal war that is waged as in past centuries.  Politics brings rules and regulations to war which means that whether we believe it or not, the heads of these sovereign states waging war against each other must communicate on issues or risk fighting against each other.