International Law

Topics: United States, Law, International law Pages: 5 (1794 words) Published: April 29, 2013
International Law|
In Completion of:|
Government 202-01
Professor: Dr. Jones

Clifton R. Cooper Jr.

International Law
For many years, Greece and Turkey have found themselves glaring uneasily at each other. Under the Aegean Sea between them, oil could be found. The question came up, “who owns it?” Both countries claimed the areas as being within their territorial waters. Billions of dollars were at stake. Wars have been started for less; and, the two countries have a long history of bitter hostility towards each other. Instead of reaching for their guns, however, the two countries reached for their lawyers. War was a last resort that neither country could afford. To resolve a situation such as this, countries hire international lawyers, appoint court law professors, measure their continental shelves, and haggle until issues get resolved. Much better than fighting, countries turn economic and political disputes into legal and technical disputes. In essence, they take some of the tension out of the situation. International Law (IL) may or may not eventually settle, in this case, which country has the undersea drilling rights. More important than the drilling rights issue is the fact that the two states wish to avoid war, and they find IL a convenient mechanism to do that. Some people, who dismiss IL as weak and ineffectual because it lacks the authority and sanctions of domestic law, fail to grasp its basic purpose. International law regulates exchanges between states in predictable ways if existing law is followed or a new law is created. Bluntly put, IL allows countries to page through law books instead of marching their troops through war disputes. If both countries use IL, they avoid war; and, what is wrong with that? If you think about it for a minute, is that not what domestic law does? Instead of obtaining satisfaction through dueling, rivals obtain it in court. The same anger present in duels is present in lawsuits. But by way of court negotiations, emotions become calmed and made civilized to eliminate physical recourse or violence. Many domestic laws exist to prevent violence; and this is the case with IL also. IL, like domestic law, is a problem solver. In the post-Cold War era, IL increased in volume. Thus, we have the constraining of a state’s behavior and the interjection of more lawyers into the foreign policy process. One of the major and valid complaints about IL is that it is used to justify whatever the predominant power wishes. The major powers are especially prone to cynically cloaking their actions with IL. International lawyers, like all lawyers, are for hire. Unfortunately, states frequently direct their lawyers to apply IL to others but not to themselves. However, we find that even the cynical use of IL is helpful. Once you have asserted, even for self-serving purposes, a point of IL, you find yourself under pressure to observe it consistently. If you denounce a rival for “illegally” aiding rebels who are trying to overthrow a friendly government, then you are “caught red-handed” when you are seen aiding rebels who are trying to overthrow a government, you must either cease complaining about that government in general or stop aiding your favorite rebels. Given this example, it may be said that governments try to avoid looking hypocritical. The human mind generally appreciates consistency. One of the surest ways to make people mad is to point out their inconsistencies. If they have claimed one thing in IL, they run into challenges trying to claim something that is the opposite. Over the centuries, pressures that cause consistency to evolve, cause the development of what is called “customary international law:” law that has developed because most countries speak of it and do not want to be caught violating it. Contributing to this is the principle of reciprocity: “what you do to me, I do to you.” Nations, like people, cannot expect to receive a whole...
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