International Relations


The US restructured the world trade system following WWII with GATT. GATT was an unambitious treaty. The 1940s saw the rise of a number of grand international organizations, including the UN, the World Bank, and others that were supposed to transform the world. They accomplished little while GATT created the framework for globalization.
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NATO is cited as the prime example of nation-state cooperation and collective action in international law. The treaty is less robust than supposed. It was little more than an ad-hoc alliance based on common interests, so it might not last much longer in the future. One of the problems in collective action is burden sharing.
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The world “Ally” carries a positive connotation that blinds our rational evaluation of its actual value. We presume that allies must share the same interests and goals as us and will stand by our side in times of need. Some think of allies as friends.

Now, what if I told you that your allies will abandon you in a war about 75% of the time?
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I believe the past few years demonstrated the folly of “banning” landmines.

The treaty is called Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction (pdf). The basics are simple: it calls for states to abandon the use of anti-personnel landmines.
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The Bush Administration is pushing LOST, for some godforsaken reason. It’s a bad idea. The good parts of LOST are a part of customary international law and are enforced by the US Navy. The bad parts are an unenforceable bureaucratic nightmare.
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The North Koreans shut down the Yongbyon nuclear reactor under IAEA supervision.

This is probably a result of Chinese pressure.
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The NPT is designed to prevent the proliferation of WMDs. It has some utility for many states, but it has not been a successful treaty. Defections are cheap, so rogue states have a high incentive to develop nuclear weapons while treaty-abiding states have few means of recourse except war.

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The Melian Dialogue poses a question about the relevance of international law.

Thucydides probably inserted his opinion into the dialogue. He did, however, record a true event. The Athenians attacked the neutral island of Melos during the Peloponnesian War in violation of the norms of international law. The Athenian position was determined by power alone, so what relevance does law have in international affairs?

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The International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg stated that “a war of aggression… is the supreme international crime… in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”

Justum bellum theory is separated into two branches – Jus ad Bellum and Jus in Bello. There is a paradox here. We can only enforce one or the other. As a result, the idealist Just War theory is basically ignored, while we enforce Laws in War.

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