Document Type

Book Review

Publication Title

Stanford Journal of International Law

Publication Date



When we talk about war, we talk about the latest atrocity we saw on the news or about the underlying political situation. We might even discuss our own personal experience with war. But we do not talk about law. Even those of us who, as lawyers, habitually rely on legal frameworks when we talk about money, sex, or death, rarely do so when we talk about war.

Instead, we consider war part of "foreign policy," an esoteric branch of politics best left to the President and his experts. This reflects-and reinforces-a profound cynicism. Americans who reject "might makes right" at every level of domestic discourse, take it for granted in connection with foreign affairs. We don't need to debate the law of war or even ascertain what it is. Whatever is in the United States' best interest will be the law. It may be true that, "[i]f law does not recognize power it will be marginalized," but if power does not recognize law it will be despised.


The author reviews International Law and the Use Of Force (1993). By Thomas Ehrlich and Mary Ellen O'Connell.



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