Why is international law effective ?

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The premise of the question—that international law is effective—is a matter of debate with the Realist and Marxist theories of international relations viewing with skepticism the notion that international law has enduring efficacy while the Liberal theory and English Schools of international relations bulwark their normative approach on a belief...

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The premise of the question—that international law is effective—is a matter of debate with the Realist and Marxist theories of international relations viewing with skepticism the notion that international law has enduring efficacy while the Liberal theory and English Schools of international relations bulwark their normative approach on a belief in the potential for international law as the cornerstone of a rules-based global order.

For those who subscribe to a belief in the efficacy of international law, its durability is based on the general belief that states are likely to subscribe to a norms-based system as a result of shared expectations. In that way, international law can succeed without the police and court systems that are features of domestic law.

However, while there has historically been an absence of enforcement mechanisms in the international systems, in recent times some limited methods of global law compliance have been created. The intertwined nature of the world economic system allows violators of international law to be subject to sanctions and tariffs ordered by international tribunals. And, in extreme cases, the United Nations Security Council has a legal monopoly on the offensive use of force in the international arena.

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First of all, we must note that international law is not always effective. Countries may choose to ignore international law and do whatever they want.  This happens more often than we would like.

But this shows us why international law is sometimes effective.  When it is effective it is effective because it is useful for all or most nations.  Because we have international law, countries do not have to come into conflict with one another as often as they would have to if there were no international law.  Instead of having to negotiate over every little issue that arises between countries, we can instead rely on international law to adjudicate these issues.

This is helpful for many countries.  It helps them to be able to reduce the amount of conflict they face.  Therefore, they are willing to cooperate with and obey international law most of the time.

The answer then, is that international law is effective (when it is) because it is useful to many countries and they therefore choose to obey it.

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