Order in social life generally is upheld by a wide range of different kinds of rules which in turn are supported by various distinct networks of social relationships. The 'law of the land', the most important of these systems of rules, is upheld by a structure of relationships involving legislature, judiciary, police, and populace. At a more informal level, a particular society's notions of what constitutes correct personal conduct are upheld by various smaller groups of family, friends, tribes, neighbours, colleagues, etc. Complex systems of rewards, ranging from national recognition to peer group approval, and punishments, ranging from death to the incurring of personal shame or dishonour, help to socialize individuals into behaviour that is in accordance with these different sets of rules.
In international society the nature, significance, and content of rules of state behaviour are more controversial matters. Even their existence may be disputed. In the absence of an authoritative law-making body, violation of whose edicts incurs sanctions which are enforced by courts and police forces, it has been argued that international law is not really 'law proper' but merely a set of moral injunctions. 1 Similarly, former American Secretary of State, Dean Acheson, asserted in 1963 that discussion of the legality of American actions during the Cuban Missile Crisis of the previous year was not well founded because 'much of what is known as international law is a body of ethical distillation' rather than true law. 2 Moreover, while one of the functions of law inside a state