I am delighted that the editors of EJIL: Talk! have agreed to host a discussion of my recently published monograph, which is entitled International Law and the Construction of the Liberal Peace and published by Hart. I am especially delighted that Professor Jean d’Aspremont, Professor Greg Fox and Professor Brad Roth have agreed to act as discussants. These scholars have been at the forefront of the debate on the relationship between international law and liberal democracy and, as is apparent from my book, their work has had a significant impact upon the way in which I understand international law and international relations. It is therefore an honour for me that they have taken the time to critically engage with the arguments that I pursue in the book. I intend to briefly outline the main ideas and arguments that are developed in the book and I do this with the objective of setting the scene for the discussion that follows.
The book is premised upon my doctoral thesis that was successfully defended at the University of Bristol in January 2010. Although the book that followed the thesis evolved considerably in terms of structure and content, the core objective of both projects remained unchanged. Stated succinctly, the main objective of the book is to deploy the concepts of the international society and the international community in order to construct an explanatory framework that can enable us to better understand recent changes to the political and legal structure of the contemporary world order and why violations to international peace and security occur.
As I explain at length in the book’s introduction, the objective of the book is explanatory, not normative. The importance of the nature of this objective cannot be overstated. The objective is to develop a theory that can be utilised to enable a better understanding of the structure and character of international relations, both politically and legally, rather than to express a personal opinion as to whether this structure and character is normatively attractive. For example, a key argument of the book is that since the end of the Cold War an international community of liberal states has crystallised within the broader international society of sovereign states. I further argue that the international community has increasingly sought to promote respect for liberal values to non-liberal states and that this campaign for liberal development can account for why recent violations to international peace and security occur. The book is non-normative in the sense that I do not comment upon whether this campaign represents a positive development and I do not attempt to defend it.
The concepts of the international society and international community are obviously central to the book. The book is divided into two parts. Part I comprises four chapters which are devoted to elaborating upon the identities of the international society and international community. Briefly put, I deploy the concept of the international society as a descriptive tool to capture an association of states that formed in the years following the end of the Second World War. I argue that when confronted with the massive destruction wrought by the Second World War states recognised their common interest in creating a comprehensive international legal framework that enabled them to co-exist without fear of obliteration. The product was an international society that eventually became universal in scope and that is constituted by the international legal norm that casts all states qua states (and so regardless of their political orientation) as sovereign equals which are entitled to determine their internal affairs without external intervention. Importantly, in order to formalise and ultimately strengthen its association the international society created the UN. In this sense, the UN became the institutional representation of the international society.
I submit that the end of the Cold War represented a seminal moment in the trajectory of international relations and international law. With the end of the Cold War and the perceived triumph of liberal democracy as the only acceptable form of political governance liberal states within the international society became normatively empowered. These liberal states formed a cohesive international community that exists within the international society and which considers only those states that demonstrate respect for the liberal values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law as legitimate and equal members of the international community. Perhaps more importantly, the international community has sought to reserve sovereignty for liberal states only. Non-liberal states have therefore been increasingly denied their previously held sovereign right to non-intervention. Indeed, perceiving the international society to have failed in maintaining international peace and security through its regulatory framework and motivated by the belief that international peace and security can be only achieved in a world composed of exclusively liberal states (the so-called liberal peace thesis), I argue that the international community has engaged in a sustained campaign to promote liberal democratic standards to non-liberal states.
The emergence of the international community has had a considerable impact upon the structure of international relations. This change in political structure has also had a dramatic impact upon the content of international law and in particular the objectives that international law pursues. The international society had previously formulated international legal norms that sought to protect state sovereignty, such as the non-intervention principle and the prohibition against the threat or use of force. The emergence of the international community has resulted in these rules being adapted in order to allow for the promotion of liberal values. For example, in recent years we have witnessed a refinement of the non-intervention principle so that states can no longer rely upon international law to protect them from external intervention where they are failing to protect fundamental human rights. Similarly, in the jus ad bellum context liberal states now maintain that the doctrine of humanitarian intervention has crystallised as customary international law. This doctrine has modified the non-use of force prohibition and permits states to use force against other states where severe abuses of human rights are being committed. Importantly, I argue that the emergence of the international community has not just resulted in the adaption of existing principles of international law but also the creation of new legal rules and institutions that are designed to facilitate the promulgation of liberal values. For example, it is now widely accepted that democracy is a fundamental entitlement under international law. Another example would be development of the responsibility to protect doctrine. I argue that these modifications and developments in international law can be explained on the basis of an international community of liberal states that is now utilising international law as a mechanism to promote respect for liberal values and thereby expand its zone of liberal peace.
The Security Council is at the forefront of the international community’s campaign for liberal development. As the UN is an institution of the international society I argue that during the Cold War the Security Council sought to protect state sovereignty and only engaged its Chapter VII powers where a threat to the peace was identified, which meant a threat of interstate violence. Consistent with the values of the international society, during the Cold War the Security Council certainly did not engage its powers in order to intervene in the political affairs of member states. With the end of the Cold War, however, the dominance of the international community within the world order and especially within the Security Council has resulted in the Council engaging its Chapter VII powers so as to promote liberal democracy to non-liberal states. As an example, the Security Council’s authorisation to allow NATO to use all necessary means to protect human rights in Libya (2011) is particularly illustrative.
Part II of the book seeks to illustrate the claims made in Part I in relation to the international society and the international community by focusing upon the transition from peacekeeping to peacebuilding operations since the end of the Cold War. I argue that during Cold War the international society, acting through the UN, deployed peacekeeping missions with the intention of preventing states from resolving their disputes through force. Crucially, these UN missions did not take sides in the dispute or seek to impose a political solution. The aim was to place UN personnel between warring states and thus protect state sovereignty and, more generally, international peace and security. Even where UN peacekeepers were deployed within states that were experiencing internal civil unrest I contend that the objective remained the same; to prevent violence from erupting between various groups and to create an environment where parties could resolve their disputes through reconciliation and mediation.
The end of the Cold War however signalled a fundamental shift in the nature and objectives of peacekeeping operations. I argue that the UN is now deploying peacekeeping forces with the explicit mandate to reconstruct post-conflict societies upon a liberal basis. Consider for example the UN missions in Kosovo (1999), East Timor (1999) and Afghanistan (2002) and the extent of the liberal reforms that were introduced. My argument is that under the influence of the international community the UN is now deploying peacekeeping missions not just with the intention of preventing and eliminating violence but, in addition, to establish local and national democratic institutions and to create a legislative and judicial framework that allows for the effective protection of human rights. Adopting UN terminology I call this new form of peacekeeping peacebuilding.
I hope readers enjoy the book and I very much look forward to participating in the discussion that it generates.