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The Legality Of War

The Legality Of WarInternational law appears to be losing its legitimacy, writes a Tufts Fletcher Professor in a recent New York Times Op-Ed.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [11.25.02] When 50 countries gathered to form the United Nations in 1945, they designed an organization which would prevent war and promote peaceful political solutions to international conflicts. Just 60 years later, dozens of member states have broken ranks with the U.N. Security Council and engaged in over 100 conflicts without the organizations' approval. In a recent editorial for The New York Times, Tufts professor Michael Glennon wrote that this record of infringement may indicate that international law is becoming a less potent force in preventing global conflicts.

"It is hard to avoid the conclusion that the [U.N.] Charter provisions governing use of force are simply no longer required as binding international law," wrote Glennon, a professor of International Law at Tufts' Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.

The Tufts professor - who specializes in U.S. foreign relations law - said that a long history of charter violations has led to increasing irrelevance of U.N. approval of foreign policy decisions.

"Glennon said the legal order that was established with the founding of the U.N. in 1945 is threatened by the repeated use of force - often unsanctioned by the United Nations - to resolve conflict," reported The Los Angeles Times.

Recent conflicts such as the war in Kosovo - in which the U.S. acted without Security Council approval - provide evidence of disregard for U.N. authority. The war in Yugoslavia also proceeded without the consent of the global council.

"This record of violation is legally significant," Glennon wrote in his opinion piece, which also appeared in the International Herald Tribune. "The international legal system is voluntary, and states are bound only by rules to which they consent. A treaty can lose its binding effect if a sufficient number of parties engage in conduct that is at odds with the constraints of the treaty."

It appears that the U.N.'s role may be changing.

"It remains useful politically to act with the backing of the Security Council," Glennon wrote. "But the charter was supposed to be about more than politics."



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