Ramblings & ephemera

International Law in the modern world

From Tony Judt’s “The New World Order” (The New York Review of Books: 14 July 2005):

Things go wrong, and not just in Iraq. International law – like the UN itself – was conceived in a world of sovereign states, a world where wars broke out between countries, peace was duly brokered among states, and a major concern of the post–World War II settlement was to guarantee the inviolability of borders and sovereignty. Today’s wars typically happen within states. The distinctions between peace-making and peacekeeping – between intervention, assistance, and coercion – are unclear, as are the rights of the conflicting parties and the circumstances under which foreign agencies may resort to force. In this confusing new world, well-meaning Western diplomats and observers have sometimes proven unable to distinguish between warring states – operating under conventional diplomatic norms – and locally powerful criminal tyrants, such as the leaders of Sudan. Negotiation with the latter all too often amounts to collaboration and even complicity.

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