The Future of International Law
In Diana Ayton-Shenker (ed.), The New Global Agenda, Lahnham: Rowman & Littlefield (2018). Chapter 2 (25-42).
19 Pages Posted: 10 Aug 2017 Last revised: 7 Mar 2019
Date Written: August 8, 2017
This essay addresses three related questions about international law’s future: Will the world continue to seek multilateral solutions and promote global integration? What is the future of highly contested areas of international law, such as the promotion of human rights and the accountability of states and individuals for atrocities? And will issues that are as yet unregulated or poorly guided by international law – cyber-security, the use of drones, and global climate change – present new frontiers for international law? These questions provide different ways to investigate whether the international liberal order – the political a commitment to multilateralism, human rights and the rule of law – can survive if America turns its back on these values. Invoking John Ruggie’s argument that international regimes fuse power and social purpose, I argue that international law can survive the removal of US support, but it cannot survive if the social purpose of the international liberal order loses support. Based on an analysis of international law’s history, and drawing on numerous social science studies, I argue that the policy positions of President Trump are a neither a major break from past US politics, nor is the Trump Administration likely to meaningfully affect existing or future prospects for international law. The larger threat would be a decline in popular support for the rule of law, which is why global populism more than the policy positions of the current US Administration present the greater threat to the international liberal order.
Keywords: International Law, Mass Atrocities, Cybersecurity, Paris Climate Accord, Human Rights, US Foreign Policy, Law of the Seas, International Liberal Order, Drones
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