|Preamble section 4:|
|Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,|
Concepts and Ideas
International Law and International Relations
International law and, one of its modern branches, international human rights law critics say, is not really law. It only functions in practice when international legal rights and duties coincide with the desires of the most powerful states. For example, critics point to the fact that international law was invoked to liberate Kuwait and to justify sanctions against Iraq, while Tibet continues to live under illicit occupation. According to Martii Koskinniemi,1 international lawyers are either Utopians or Apologists. Utopians draw rules which they wish states would comply with, but they do not, or describe international law as laws that they wish and claim that states have created when in fact they are a fiction. Apologists have to justify in legal terms accomplished facts after they have happened for the offices of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or the State Department, for example when President Bush senior invaded Panama. To realists, therefore, when nations do behave consistently with law, it is commonly seen as fortuitous: the law happened to coincide with what the nation wished to do.
To international lawyers, however, this reductionist perception of international law confuses the question of whether international law is law with the problem of the effectiveness and enforcement of international law. For international lawyers, the more important question to ask is what role law can and should play in any form of community.
1. See Martii Koskinniemi, From Apology to Utopia.
Peter Danchin, Columbia University