skip to Main Content

Book Review: Re-Envisioning Sovereignty: The End of Westphalia?

In this edi­tion of our ongo­ing series of book reviews, Paul Mignano presents a crit­i­cal but ulti­mate­ly favor­able take on Re-Envi­sion­ing Sov­er­eign­ty: The End of West­phalia?a col­lec­tion of inter­dis­ci­pli­nary essays dis­cussing the con­cept of sov­er­eign­ty.


By Paul Mignano


Re-envisioning SovereigntyFor a con­cept that is so cen­tral to inter­na­tion­al rela­tions and pub­lic inter­na­tion­al law, the mean­ing of “sov­er­eign­ty” is sur­pris­ing­ly dif­fi­cult to artic­u­late. At its essence, West­phalian sov­er­eign­ty is about the abil­i­ty of a state to engage in polit­i­cal self-deter­mi­na­tion, to be con­sid­ered a legal equal of oth­er states, and to ensure non-inter­fer­ence of out­side states in its own inter­nal affairs.

Read More

Making Amends

Over at Opinio Juris this morning, my good friend and colleague Scott Paul introduced the Making Amends Campaign, which is led by the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict (CIVIC).  Scott and CIVIC are working to develop a general practice…

Read More

Book Review: Terrorism, War and International Law (Myra Williamson)

This occa­sion­al series will high­light the book anno­ta­tions that con­sti­tute the back pages of every issue of the NYU Jour­nal of Inter­na­tion­al Law and Pol­i­tics.  We are begin­ning with this review of Myra Williamson’s Ter­ror­ism, War and Inter­na­tion­al Law: The Legal­i­ty of the Use of Force Against Afghanistan in 2001, because it rais­es the cru­cial ques­tion of the right of States to use force in self-defense against non-State actors.  This issue sits in the back­ground of much of the current debates about the use of force, most recent­ly in Pro­fes­sor Alston’s Tar­get­ed Killings report.

By Gra­ham F. Dumas

Myra Williamson’s Ter­ror­ism, War and Inter­na­tion­al Law: The Legal­i­ty of the Use of Force Against Afghanistan in 2001 comes at a time when the con­flict in Afghanistan is return­ing to the fore of U.S. for­eign pol­i­cy and as the fight against ter­ror­ism con­tin­ues to expand. Yet many of the legal ques­tions sur­round­ing this con­flict were sim­ply glossed over at the time of the invasion and have not yet been sat­is­fac­to­ri­ly resolved.

Bas­ing her argu­ment main­ly on legal his­to­ry, Williamson asserts that the use of force against Afghanistan could not be legal­ly con­sid­ered self-defense accord­ing to the U.N. Char­ter because there was no armed attack for the pur­pos­es of Arti­cle 51, because the Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil did not autho­rize uni­lat­er­al force in Res­o­lu­tion 1368, and because Al Qaeda’s actions could not be attrib­uted to the Tal­iban. Sim­i­lar­ly, the author argues that the inva­sion of Afghanistan was not legal under cus­tom­ary inter­na­tion­al law because it was nei­ther nec­es­sary nor pro­por­tion­ate, and there was no imme­di­ate threat of attack in the weeks fol­low­ing Sep­tem­ber 11.

In vig­or­ous­ly assert­ing the ille­gal­i­ty of the inva­sion of Afghanistan, Williamson rais­es a num­ber of inter­est­ing points
and pro­vokes a great deal of thought, espe­cial­ly with respect to the many weak­er links in the argu­ment for the invasion’s law­ful­ness. As she notes, the Inter­na­tion­al Court of Jus­tice (ICJ) has held on numer­ous occa­sions that Arti­cle 51 applies only to armed attacks by states, and the link between Al Qae­da and the Tal­iban is indeed ten­u­ous, espe­cial­ly under a clas­si­cal inter­pre­ta­tion of the law. Par­tic­u­lar­ly insight­ful is the study of the opinio juris of var­i­ous NATO mem­bers with respect to that organization’s dec­la­ra­tion that an armed attack occurred; the author sug­gests that what appeared to be a unan­i­mous dec­la­ra­tion that Sep­tem­ber 11 was suf­fi­cient to trig­ger the inher­ent right of self-defense was in fact any­thing but. Despite these effec­tive points, Ter­ror­ism, War and Inter­na­tion­al Law is a dis­ap­point­ing and ulti­mate­ly unsuc­cess­ful effort which leaves out more than it includes, treats as fact sev­er­al high­ly con­tentious claims nec­es­sary to sup­port the main the­sis, and often fails to address the post-Afghanistan era’s most press­ing legal ques­tions.

Read More

Thoughts on the Targeted Killings Report

By Ben Heath

To con­tin­ue the dis­cus­sion of Pro­fes­sor Philip Alston’s report on tar­get­ed killings, I can imag­ine no bet­ter dis­cus­sion on the self-defense ratio­nale for drone strikes than that pre­sent­ed by Marko Milanovic at the EJIL blog.  (At Opinio Juris, Ken­neth Ander­son promis­es a response, which will most cer­tain­ly pro­vide for inter­est­ing debate.)

I also ful­ly agree with Milanovic’s cri­tique of Alston’s asser­tion that, out­side of armed con­flict, “the use of drones for tar­get­ed killing is almost nev­er like­ly to be legal.”  This state­ment is unnces­sar­i­ly con­clu­so­ry: there should be some lim­it­ed room for these strikes in the law enforce­ment par­a­digm of human rights, pro­vid­ed that the tar­get pos­es a sig­nif­i­cant dan­ger, that no oppor­tu­ni­ty for cap­ture exists, etc.  One imag­ines that this might be the case in coun­tries where the gov­ern­ment holds only loose con­trol over wide swaths of ter­ri­to­ry.  But, to be sure, drone strikes on the New Jer­sey Turn­pike are almost cer­tain­ly ille­gal.

I would not pre­sume to step fur­ther into such well-cov­ered ground.  Instead, I will use this space to high­light some oth­er aspects of the report, while rec­og­niz­ing that these are def­i­nite­ly side­notes to the major issues.

Read More
Back To Top
Search