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Tennessee Law Review

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The international legal system is reinventing itself in the aftermath of the Cold War. The United States is in the process of shaping a new leadership role for itself in the emerging world order. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, in limbo since it was signed by President Carter in 1977, was ratified in April1992.1 In a similar breakthrough, the United States signed the Charter of Paris for a New Europe in 1990, expressly affirming in an international instrument that "every individual has the right ... to enjoy his economic, social and cultural rights.

Are we ready to renew and expand our commitment to international human rights? Will we focus instead on the role of "world policeman," working with and through the United Nations to maintain peace, or at least to contain conflict? We might even try to pull up the drawbridge. It may be argued that our own survival or at least our own standard of living is too much at risk to take on global problems, especially the overwhelming social and economic problems of the Third World.

There are difficult choices to be made and the absence of a clear consensus begs for fresh perspectives. As the United States considers the awesome responsibilities of world leadership, we would do well to ask ourselves where it is we hope to lead-what kind of world and what kind of future do we want for ourselves and for our children? It is time to reflect, to question, and to rigorously examine the normative underpinnings of the international system.



Paper presented at the Environmental Rights and International Peace Symposium held at the University of Tennessee College of Law in Knoxville, Tenn. Professor Stark was one of the organizers of this symposium. Contributors included Al Gore.



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