International Law & Ukraine

A fascinating look at the claims and counter-claims by both sides over the Ukraine issue, and one that pulls no punches. Sic Semper Tyrannis is the kind of blog that most policy professionals read when they want to find out what is really going on. Part Two of an on-going series. Part One can be found here.

I don’t always agree with what I read on SST, but I can’t help but chuckle as the matter of legal precedents is raised. Of course as a realist of the E.H. Carr school I believe that international law is simply the tool of the established powers, which use it to create a predictable and stable system that defends their interests (and which they can incur the cost of breaching if they have to. See for example the end of the international convertibility of the dollar to gold by President Nixon when the Bretton Woods system had outlived its purpose). People on the inside take that system for granted but on the outside:

“…the liberal moralistic ideology in which I was brought up was not, as I had always assumed, an Absolute taken for granted by the modern world, but was sharply and convincingly attacked by very intelligent people living outside the charmed circle, who looked at the world through very different eyes…This left me in a very confused state of mind: I reacted more and more sharply against the Western ideology, but still from a point within it.”

E.H. Carr was wrong about a lot of things but very right when he pointed out that liberalism is simply an ideology, not a fact of life. Political arguments that rest upon it may claim they are appealing to a universal unchanging set of global values… but often they mean making commitments that Western electorates aren’t prepared to meet the cost of. That undermines our credibility in the real world.

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