Legal Interventions

  • K. M. Fierke


One fundamental criticism of international law, frequently heard from realists, is that states can ignore it with more or less impunity. In this line of argument, international law is made by states for their own purposes and advantage. If states wish to break the law there is no proper authority or judge to prevent them from doing so or to punish them afterwards. However, major breaches of international law are relatively rare. States observe the law most of the time and most of it all of the time because it is convenient, profitable, and helpful to do so.1 States can break the rules with impunity but their reputation will suffer in the long term. In fact, those who do break or bend the law, make great effort to provide a legal justification for their questionable acts. The desire to justify acts on the basis of existing laws is a reaffirmation of their importance, even when these acts represent a violation. In this respect, much international law is normative in so far as it sets standards, building on what is already established practice to develop expectations of future behavior.


Security Council Humanitarian Intervention International Criminal Court International Criminal International Peace 
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Copyright information

© K. M. Fierke 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • K. M. Fierke
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Politics and International StudiesQueen’s UniversityBelfastIreland

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