International Law as a Unitary System
Northwestern University - Pritzker School of Law
Northwestern Public Law Research Paper No. 08-02
When two states have a dispute, the other 188 states in the world are more than passive observers. They do not want the dispute to spread. They want the dispute to be resolved in a way that does not stimulate further related disputes. In brief, the uninvolved nations have an interest in peaceful conflict-resolution. That interest coincides with existing international law which is itself peace-seeking (international law shuns anarchy). International law is a coherent, complex, self-adapting, and purposive system; it makes its presence felt in all international disputes and controversies because it represents the aggregate interest of all the states not directly involved in a given dispute. There are many payoffs in conceptualizing international law as a system suggested in this paper, but by far the most important is to transfer zero-sum international wars and conflicts into n-person non-zero-sum games. These games involve maximin strategies of both conflict and cooperation. Indeed, they account for the vast amount of cooperation in the world - cooperation that accumulates over time even as disputes or wars cancel themselves out.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 23
Keywords: international law, international cooperation, zero-sum conflicts, war, customary law
JEL Classification: K33
Date posted: March 18, 2008