Taking Traditional Realism Seriously – A Case Study of the Negotiations and Resolution on the Crime of Aggression
24 Pages Posted: 7 Dec 2011
Date Written: December 7, 2011
The crime of aggression, by definition, implicates a state’s use of force, which has long been considered an essential means for states to exert and maintain their sovereignty and influence. On 11 June 2010, the first Review Conference of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court adopted a resolution by consensus consisting of a package of amendments on the crime of aggression. The adoption of this resolution ended a more than decade-long negotiation process (1999–2010) on the ‘supreme international crime’. According to the traditional realist theory of international relations, however, international law does not restrain great powers, in this case, the five permanent members of the Security Council: China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States. Rather, it is irrelevant or else a rhetorical device for advancing their interests. This paper tests the traditional realist theory by undertaking a case study of the aggression negotiations and outcome, and finds that it is unable to offer a sufficiently complete or nuanced account of either. Several aspects of the negotiation process diluted the influence of great powers. And while some key outcomes might be characterized as reflecting the interests of great powers, many others evidence that international law has a normative pull and that periphery powers also prevailed on issues that were central to great powers’ interests.
Keywords: traditional realism, crime of aggression, Review Conference, negotiations, resolution, Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, theories of international law
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