Conclusion: International Society and
There is a tendency to see American foreign policy under the Bush administration as a threat to international society. In 2003, for instance, Tim Dunne questioned whether 'the dominant rules and institutions of the twentieth century international society remain intelligible today'.1 The institutions of sovereignty and non-intervention were, he suggested, being threatened by America's offensive security strategy, which involved the use of pre-emptive and preventative military force. This was illustrated clearly by the US invasion of Iraq in March 2003, which according to Dunne was illegitimate 'given the complete absence of consensus that such conduct was appropriate'.2 The fact that the United States was willing to ignore rules in this manner, and the fact that it was an explicit goal of the Bush administration to maintain the imbalance of power that enabled it to act in this way with impunity, suggested that the United States stood 'in opposition to international society as understood by classical English School writers'.3 In fact, Dunne concludes that US military power and its post-9/11 policy
signal the emergence of an imperial authority that is hostile to many of the norms and
values associated with the UN system. This does not mean that the US will oppose the
rules and institutions of international society in all respects but it will retain an option
to disregard the rights of other members. Like a suzerain power, it sets its own legal
and moral standard, and admits to no external sources of authority.4
Dunne is right to argue that the United States is in a position to pick-andchoose which international laws it respects. Set against the evidence presented in this book, however, it is apparent that the United States can guarantee certain privileges even when it acts within the boundaries of international society. The reason the United States defends the principle that states have an exclusive right to prosecute war criminals is because it is in a position of such
1 Tim Dunne, 'Society and Hierarchy in International Relations', International Relations, 17
2 Dunne, 'Society and Hierarchy', 314.
3 Dunne, 'Society and Hierarchy', 315.
4 Dunne, 'Society and Hierarchy', 315.