Academic journal article McNair Papers

6. Postwar "Peace"

Academic journal article McNair Papers

6. Postwar "Peace"

Article excerpt

   The United States intervention in Lebanon (1958),
   Santo Domingo, and South Vietnam ... as well as the
   Russian invasions of Hungary and Czechoslovakia,
   indicate the importance attributed to weak states in
   the world balance. (1)


Hans J. Morgenthau thought the international system left "the enforcement of the law to the vicissitudes of the distribution of power between the violator of the law and the victim of the violation." (2) The neutrality regime adopted at the Hague in 1907 was established for the purpose of giving smaller states the added strength of an unambiguous law to help withstand stronger belligerents. Actions that ignore the law detract from its strength if they go unanswered.

In fact, as discussed in chapter 1, enforcement measures in international law are automatic and immediate. They are imposed upon the violator not only by the victim of the violation but by the entire international community. The effect of this enforcement, however, is very often so subtle as to remain imperceptible to the determined violator, and while a definite price will be paid over the long term, it will not reverse the offense unless the victim is disposed to seek satisfaction promptly and actively. So, the automatic enforcement will, in the case of a weak neutral offended by a belligerent of relative strength, neither restore peace nor deliver justice. This seems to be the true source of Morgenthau's complaint with international law. As we have seen, even the Charter called upon the coercive use of collective power, including military force, to guarantee the peace and serve justice. During the Cold War, however, the super powers avoided confrontation while there was an increasing tendency for smaller states, acting on their own or as surrogates of their super-power patrons, to take actions that threatened or broke the international peace. The behavior of the United States during this period almost never remained impartial for any significant period of time after hostilities broke out anywhere in the world. National interests dictated policy decisions not impartial in most situations.

In most armed conflicts between smaller states the belligerents found they had to endure the interference of some great power and hope that it would abstain from the introduction of combat forces:

   The fact that the United States is sufficiently powerful to be
   able to pursue the course which it believes is correct without
   fear of being held to account by one or the other of the
   belligerents may make its position easier in practice but it does
   not dispose of the legal contradictions. (3)

In fact, good policy (which is neutral as far as being noncombatant) partial to one or another belligerent remains inconsistent with the law of neutrality. So these same partial acts, regardless of their salutary effect, give rise to the right of diplomatic protest or even the right to act against the United States with force.

Being just and right is simply not the same as being neutral. While the United States has enjoyed benefits that in practice were identical to neutral rights, these were not rights but privileges arising from fear of more direct employment of U.S. power, not respect for the law of neutrality.

James Cable documents over 40 cases of the United States using of naval forces in implied or direct threats of military force to influence the decisionmaking process of some other state since the end of World War II. He believes that the desired results were forthcoming in over 75 percent of the cases. (4) These cases have rarely resulted in attacks against U.S. forces, fostering an insidious sort of self-deception. It is easy to believe the law stands behind you when your efforts in a just cause are successful, but this is wrong thinking because the Hague neutrality regime does not deal in terms of justice. Its objective was to preserve the peace in third states. …

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