Conflict and Compromise: International Law and World Order in a Revolutionary Age

By Edward McWhinney | Go to book overview

9 A NEW, PLURALISTIC WORLD
LAW AND WORLD ORDER
SYSTEM
International Law Antinomies of an Era of Change

We live in an era of transition from an old system of world public order to a new one whose exact contours and directions are not yet clearly or firmly established. What is certain is that, as President de Gaulle predicted in the mid-1960s, the postwar era is coming to a close or has already ended. This era included both the long, drawn-out period of the cold war and the system of bipolarity resting on the Soviet and American military blocs, and the subsequent period of big power interaction and accommodation that Soviet and Western jurists identified as peaceful coexistence or friendly relations and later called détente, and that third world jurists, especially the Chinese, might more soberly and dispassionately call big power condominium or "hegemony."

In retrospect, it seems possible to say that the threat of East‐ West nuclear war may never have been quite as serious as it seemed to be during the cold war. To be sure, the period was characterized by constant testing and probing, on both sides and by both big powers, of points of weakness or indeterminacy in those border areas that had not been clearly defined as belonging in one of their "spheres of influence" in the relatively hasty preparation of the political-territorial blueprints for the postwar world during the Allied heads of state conferences of 1943-1945, and at the war's actual end in Europe in the summer of 1945. What is truly remarkable is that the basic political

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