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The professed dichotomy amid international law and the issue of politics has occurred as a significantly imperative mark of reference for authors, scholars as well as critics within the discussions. Much of the discourse based on this perception revolves around determining the actual temperament of respective international law. Several scholars have treated both facets as a pair of unique frameworks and have generated arguments that either act in favor or oppose the prevailing issue. On one hand, authors assert that international law is simply a political mechanism that experiences by States in order to further their best interests. On the other hand, critics argue that international law does exist in its own capacity. However, in this particular supportive claim for international law, critics also assert that international law exudes insufficient prominence due to its predisposition towards experiencing considerable influence from political considerations. Nevertheless, in relation to these respective arguments, the fact that States can determine the sovereignty of international law illustrates that international law is just a political tool.

Reviewing Both Sides of the Argument

In overview, this perceptible peculiarity, that international law can be either political or legal, is entirely disingenuous. It does not provide an appropriate construal to the temperament of international legislation. The thoughts comprising a legal framework as well as a political structure have experienced considerable utilization by scholars in the decorum concerning international law’s nature. In addition, such ideas are simply ideal variants that should have relaxed interpretations since they are less likely to undergo replication in the actual global society. Rather, the usage of ideal definitions regarding the political and the legal offers a construed understanding of the predisposition of international law, and subsequently, the connotations of the political and the legal. In addition, having such a condensed meaning offers the capability of establishing the occurrence of a distinction between a political system and a legal framework. Almost certainly, international law comprises several political elements.

Regardless of the political nature of these statements, the elements also tend to be legal based on the manner they attempt to offer a sense of duties and obligations among states and civilians alike. For instance, the popular Rules of Combat possess insignificant political elements based on the way they focus on offering a valid distinction between a combatant and a civilian. As part of the Geneva Convention on Human Rights, these regulations authorize the point at which one classifies as a combatant or a person based on the current circumstance. For instance, if a combatant does not have a weapon at the time of conflict, then the opposing participant is under legal authority not to shoot or wound the person. However, if a civilian possesses a weapon especially in times of conflict, then it is legal to defend against him or her. Irrespective of this, it is still impossible to negate the fact that international law has undergone significant use in order to further the political interests of States.

The Argument: International Law is Just Politics

Indeed, Bolton expresses his discontent with the nature of international law in relation to the considerable political temperament it displays. Accordingly, he asserts that international law is not legislation; rather, it constitutes a collection of moral and political arrangements that rest upon or collapse within their own advantages (Slomanson, 2010, 10). Generally, on one hand, it is apparent that international law is merely a political mechanism. Elucidating this argument further, critics argue that describing international law in any other manner is just superstition. This is in accordance to the claim that States pursue their respective interests without following guidelines implied within international law. For instance, skeptics usually account for the excess existence of definite members such as the United Nations and the League of Nations. Nonetheless, such international organizations only illustrate the subsistence of an ineffective legal structure (Slomanson, 10). In addition, critics still assert the lack of difference between international law and politics by comparing the inefficiency of these supposed legal systems with politically notorious national legal frameworks.

In addition to the discourse on the politics of international law, Bilder further supports the notion of international law as a political mechanism. Accordingly, the author utilizes the illustration of the United States by viewing it as an international player that does not hold considerable conviction for the law. Based on this illustration, Bilder views international law as “a pretense and window dressing for realpolitik-based policies” (Slomanson, 10). Therefore, due to the political elements it possesses, it is important to avoid taking international law seriously. From the arguments expressed by Bilder, one can see the manner in which international law does not deviate far from politics. By describing it as a set of realpolitik-based procedures, the author surmises that international law constitutes a political structure upon which countries or States depend on in order to attend to their needs rather than explore effectual ideas that are considerably cooperative.  

Focusing on Bilder again, the author criticizes international law based on the increasingly insurmountable problems that people face. Consequently, international law is insignificant. This is because of the problems that international cooperation is unable to solve in relation to these laws. Accordingly, major foreign nations such as the United States increasingly devalue these laws since they limit the policies that the respective administration desires to pursue (Slomanson, 10). In addition to this predicament, it is impossible to provide a credible resolution for global issues through the institution of foreign authorized orders and policies. In addition, other critics still support the view expressed by Bilder regarding the political nature of international law. This is in accordance to the political inclination exuded by international law. Even though some of the critics agree to an extent that international law possesses a certain level of importance, which is in contrast to Bilder, they still assert that it is insignificantly prominent than its portrayal (Slomanson, 10).

Accordingly, the illustration of international law by various social entities such as the media, scholars, law professionals and public officials accord a higher status to international law. However, in reality, this is not true. This is due to the actuality that international law is a representation of the States’ opportunistic behavior. Simply, this body of policies and legislations is a mere facilitator for the pursuance of specific interests by States on the foreign level. Adding on, international law is less outstanding based on the way States are capable of amending it in order to suit their needs. The reason for this lack of prominence is due to the inability it expresses towards the compliance with values. Indeed, international law is unable to push nations towards conformity with its respective mores. This is because doing this will only coerce States to abandon their national or political interests (Slomanson, 11).

Reflecting on the previous argument, critics further claim that the application of an external authorized directive by international law cannot offer a possible resolution approach for global problems based on the way are extensively numerous. This is according to the fact that international law is merely a tool for extending national policy. Therefore, based on the claims of critics, any form of attempt bent on substituting international politics with law faces embedment in naïve confidence that it can really accomplish the objectives to which it desires (Slomanson, 11). In addition to its deprived prominence, international law is also primitive based on the mechanisms it lacks such as executive, legislative as well as judicial enforcement methodologies. In relation to this, critics arguing for international law assert that the entity’s principles as well as its obligations are always under obedience by nearly every nation.

Nevertheless, such critics still fail to point out the capability of the states to alter the law depending on the demands they seek to gratify. Therefore, it is possible to assert that nations follow the tenets of international law as long as the set of policies enable them to pursue their interests without restrictions. In addition, it is apparent that international law lacks the ability to exercise legal authority in comparison to national policy. As stated, this body of policies lacks the proper enforcement mechanisms. Therefore, the fact that international law lacks a proper mechanism for enforcing legal authority further describes the way it is unable to apply impartial policies that work for the utilitarianism ideology of the global society. Moreover, Slomanson (11) also asserts that the lack of a judicial enforcement approach within international law allows it to experience coercive influence facilitated by a rigorous political process.

Furthermore, the fact that international law lacks proper judicial enforcement approaches illustrates the way it is incapable of legislating. Accordingly, the primary lawmakers within the international legal structure comprise States and the respective more-establishing treaties. For instance, international organizations such as the United Nations usually recommend policies rather than legalize them. In addition, the Secretary General possesses null authority regarding direct intervention in situations of conflicts beyond those provided by the Security Council or the arguing parties (Slomanson, 11). Therefore, it is impossible for the United Nations to initiate military strikes since they do not possess standing forces. However, the organization can only focus on matters that pose an implication on international peace within the respective Security Council. This illustration further proves the authority that international law lacks as well as its susceptibility towards political interference.

Nonetheless, critics countering the argument assert that each law bases itself on politics. Within the international legal structure, the legal regulations created by society, even though full of utilitarian ethics, usually portray the demands and needs of the members who possess considerable control over resources. Based on this, the rule-creating procedure undergoes considerable influence based on the power that such members wield (Hurd 2011, 101). Indeed, in relation to this argument, critics view every other law, without the exception of national policy, as mere politics. This is because the members that hold more assets than others have the ability to deconstruct the legislative process in order to twist the law in their own favor. However, this situation largely defines the effect that political power imposes on the nature of international law. Indeed, law is secondary to political authority.

 Accordingly, power involves the capability of states to imply their will on other nations. Undeniably, the elements of such authority numerate the political and undergo an uneven distribution. Hence, the essential significance of authority as well as the pursuance of interests by states means that normal international law is able to surrender to these respective determinants and conclusively, emerge to a simple political methodology for states to apply their will on others. For instance, the imposition of will is evident based on the introduction of other international organizations such as the European Union, the International Cooperation for Assign Names and Numbers and the World Trade Organization (Slomanson 2010, 12). Consequently, such organizations portray an evolved international system that possesses significant authority over relations among nations and their federated entities, states and individuals, individuals and a set of states, nations and international firms as well as members and their respective organizations.

Based on this, such organizations possess the ability to construct the law in their own manner due to the power they hold over the most important elements of states and their civilians. Nonetheless, such evolved organizations illustrate the extent to which states are willing to go in order to pursue their interests without hindrance. In view of that, it is imperative to understand that states are naturally responsible for the creation of international organizations. At one point, states were the sole bodies viable for subjection under foreign law. The main principle that presided over these respective subjects comprised the sovereignty that each State possesses. Based on this, it is apparent that sovereignty is the element that allows States to structure international legislations in accordance to their will. Consequently, the fact that nations could not pursue their interests before the advent of international organizations certainly reflects the steps taken by these countries to ensure demand gratification (Alvarez 2006, 326).

Therefore, the only way that States could satisfy their needs involved the inauguration of international organizations under the context of the international law. Because of this incidence, it is relatively simple to perceive the political nature of international legislations. Accordingly, the legality of this law is inherently impotent. This is because normal international law acquires its basis from the States’ sovereignty. The implication of this situation is that there is absence of official authority. Therefore, countries are not subject to subordination under any other superior authority. Slomanson (2010, 12) expresses a similar circumstance when he asserts that the international legal structure is hardly able to hold States liable for injustices since they are coequal sovereigns within the respective system. In addition, States know of the influence that their sovereignty holds. Because of this, most have been unable to transfer some of their autonomy to these international organizations based on the actuality that the organizations may actually end up controlling them and therefore, limiting them from accomplishing their political aims.

Consequently, the fact that States are unable to face any legal consequences irrespective of the existence of international law certainly proves the impotence of the international legal scheme. Since member nations are unable to experience subjugation under higher authorities, real restrictions on the actions of states only become binding on the perception of these entities regarding their particular national interests. Indeed, further evidence is apparent concerning the use of international law as a purely political framework. Boyle (2004, 77) asserts that international law continues to face incredulous influence from politics rather than law. For instance, Israel has never experienced any legal fallout because of the political considerations emanating from powerful Member States, in particular, the United States, which limit any actions by the United Nations from sanctioning the respective country (Stumer 2007, 559). Hence, justified by international legislation, it is possible to note the political side towards the incursion of Iraq.

Based on this illustration, it is evident that international law possesses an innate impotence due to the need to further political aims. Because of this, some critics brand international law as a null law. This is because it lacks the complete authority to enforce its power on States. Indeed, State sovereignty, which is among the weaknesses of the international legal structure, makes the system considerably unable to execute impartial and legal consequences on member nations. Accordingly, politics has always been a key determinant in ensuring the enforcement or absence of international law. However, enforcement usually occurs if States stand to gain politically. In addition, these situations usually involve the rules that border human rights with reference to Bosnia and Herzegovina (Besson and Tasioulas 2010, 89). Nonetheless, such issues are unlimited on this particular aspect. This is because political utilization of international legislation has been evident in the attempts by States to attain the Antarctic and Arctic spaces in relation to political rivalry.

Further political involvement is also evident based on the disagreements between member nations and the United Nations concerning the independence of Kosovo (Joyner 2002, 600). This is because the country did not possess an authorizing UN Security Council resolution for the bombing in 1999. Irrespective of this, member States still recognize the country as sovereign, especially with the justification exuded by the United States after it deviated from the framework provided by the UN. Based on this circumstance, it is clear that the international legal structure is essentially not an official system based on the way it does not exercise authority over the member States (Slomanson, 12). In another situation, Iran was capable of neglecting the resolutions provided by the UN Security Council as well as the judgment passed by the International Court of Justice during the occurrence of the Persian Gulf War (Slomanson, 13). This situation further reflects the impotence of international law due to significant political influence.


Indeed, the views expressed by most critics regarding the nature of international law coincide with the fact that it is highly political. Accordingly, the main reason for this supposition is on the basis that States utilize these laws to facilitate their political aims. This is verifiable to an extent based on the way that member nations are construct legislations that are political rather than utilitarian. In addition, the fact that global problems continue to increase further illustrate the minimal impact that international law imposes irrespective of the publicly related resolutions it implements whenever it attempts to solve the issues facing the global society. Moreover, the sovereignty of States also influences the political temperament of international law. Indeed, the international legal structure is unable to deliver legal punishment to States due to the status that these nations hold as coequal sovereigns. Therefore, based on these occurrences, it is naïve to conceal the political nature of international law.


Alvarez, Jose Enrique. “International Organizations: Then and Now.” American Journal of International Law, no.1002 (2006): 324-347.

Besson, Samantha and John Tasioulas. The Philosophy of International Law. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.

Boyle, Francis Anthony. Destroying World Order: U.S. Imperialism in the Middle East Before and After September 11. Atlanta: Clarity Press, 2004.

Hurd, Ian. International Organizations: Politics, Law, Practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011.

Joyner, Daniel H. “The Kosovo Intervention: Legal Analysis and a More Persuasive Paradigm.” European Journal of International Law 11,(2002): 597-619.

Slomanson, William R., Fundamental Perspectives on International Law. Boston: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning, 2010.

Stumer, Andrew Carl. “Liability of Member States for Acts of International Organizations: Reconsidering the Policy Objections.” Harvard International Law Journal 48, no.2 (2007): 554-580.

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