In a widely-quoted address to the American Society of Inter‐ national Law in Washington in the spring of 1963, former Secretary of State of the United States Dean Acheson took as his theme the "quarantine" measures applied by the United States administration during the October 1962 Soviet-Western crisis to ensure the removal of Soviet offensive, ground-to-ground, nuclear missiles from Cuba. The quarantine measures, in Dean Acheson's view, were:
... not a legal issue or an issue of international law as these terms should be understood. Much of what is called international law is a body of ethical distillation, and one must take care not to confuse this distillation with law. We should not rationalize general legal policy restricting sovereignty from international documents composed for specific purposes....
I must conclude that the propriety of the Cuban quarantine is not a legal issue. The power, position and prestige of the United States had been challenged by another state: and law simply does not deal with such questions of ultimate power — power that comes close to the sources of sovereignty. I cannot believe that there are principles of law that say we must accept destruction of our way of life.... No law can destroy the state creating the law. The survival of states is not a matter of law.
Dean Acheson's remarks served to call attention to the fundamental dilemma of international lawyers of that particular era, and not less of our own: the relation between law and power and the fundamental, political facts-of-life of the world community at any time. Dean Acheson's era was characterized by big power confrontation and interaction, and resultant conflict or cooperation between the two bloc leaders whenever one of