chapter  1
17 Pages

The degradation of international law?

WithBill Bowring

This chapter deals with reflection on what has befallen the law, and at resolution of the question of whether law and power can once again be brought into a relationship in which there is a perspective for justice. It comprises a tragedy in three acts – Iraq (starting in 1991), Serbia (starting in 1999) and Afghanistan (starting in 2001) – author's starting point is 1986, when an act of vengeance and a chilling prophecy could encourage the delusion that history is simply a vicious circle. The chapter adopts a resolutely positivist, black-letter approach. It argues that the law of self-defence is very much more tightly circumscribed. Since 1945 it has been an unambiguous principle of international law that the United Nations has, with one strictly limited exception, a monopoly of the use of force in international relations. International law has certainly been dragged through the mire. Consummation followed by seduction and then rejection is a squalid and pitiful sequence.