When governments go to war, they justify their use of force. This justification is often premised on international law. What significance is to be attached to the fact of legal justification? What kind of politics emerges out of these legal justifications? Some have argued that this ‘politics of justification’ constrains government action and, ultimately, can reduce the incidence of military conflict.TOC after the jump.
The politics of justification, on this account, can be seen as a progressive practice, through which international law can become embedded in domestic societies. The discursive spaces opened up by the politics of justification will socialise states towards compliance with their international legal obligations. Yet, in order to determine how the politics of justification works, we first need a map to navigate the processes involved, the actors engaged in this discourse, and the institutional contexts within which legal justification is articulated, interpreted, and contested. This book seeks to provide such a map, by tracing the politics of justification in two case studies. The book provides a rich and detailed account of British discourse during the Suez Crisis of 1956 and the lead up to the Iraq War of 2003, making extensive use of archival material, media reporting, Parliamentary debates, polling data, personal memoirs, and the evidence from several Public Inquiries. This ‘thick’ description calls into question some of the assumptions that lie behind existing accounts of the politics of justifying force.
By charting the distinction between private and public discourses, and by highlighting the role of media in navigating justificatory claims, the study suggests a far more complex set of processes and outcomes. These processes and outcomes may indeed constrain government action. Yet at the same time, like any set of discursive practices, they may also facilitate government action. The mapping of this politics, and of the legal justifications which drive it, calls into question mainstream assumptions about the role of international law in domestic politics and, particularly, in the formulation of public policy. The book will be illuminating reading for scholars and students of international law, history and international relations.
Cast of Characters
1: Prohibiting Force/Justifying Force
2: Theorising the Politics of Justification
3: The Suez Crisis
4: The Iraq War
5: Reflections on the Politics of Justification
6: The Distinctive Force of International Law