The Outlook for International Law

The Outlook for International Law

The Outlook for International Law

The Outlook for International Law

Excerpt

'Success in politics, as in every other art, obviously before all else implies both knowledge of the material with which we have to deal, and also such concession as is necessary to the qualities of the material. Above all, in politics we have an art in which development depends upon small modifications. That is the true side of the conservative theory. To hurry on after logical perfection is to show oneself ignorant of the material of that social structure with which the politician has to deal. To disdain anything short of an organic change in thought or institution is infatuation.' (John Morley, On Compromise , ch. v.)

WHEN the international order is rebuilt after the present war, international law will be one of the instruments that the architects will use. They will be bound to use it, if only because the settlement will involve the making of treaties, and treaties raise questions of drafting, of interpretation, of enforcement, and other questions, the answers to which belong to international law. But the part that international law can play, or the conditions on which we can hope to make it one of the pillars of a more stable world, cannot be determined by reasoning in the void or by wishful thinking. Too many people assume, generally without having given any serious thought to its character or its history, that international law is and always has been a sham. Others seem to think that it is a force with inherent strength of its own, and that if only we had the sense to set the lawyers to work to draft a comprehensive code for the nations, we might live together in peace and all would be well with the world. Whether the cynic or the sciolist is the less helpful is hard to say, but both of them make the same mistake. They both assume that international law is a subject on which anyone can form his opinions intuitively, without taking the trouble . . .

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