America’s War on Terror: Rattling International Law with Raw Power?


The need for more dramatic targets has led to the new and somewhat exaggerated emphasis on a unilateral right of pre-emptive self-defence by the United States. What is most striking about the new US policy is that it portrays state-sponsored terrorism and rogue states possessing weapons of mass destruction as a new problem, and unilateral action as the only way of dealing with them. It is dangerous to marginalise the UN and increase the role of multilateral global coalitions or unilateral action in policing “evil-doing” as this has the potential to supplant what initially was designed as the role of the United Nations. If decisions regarding the use of force become nationalised, this may lead to anarchic, piecemeal, random, and unilateral enforcement of the desirable shared goal of stamping out terrorism.


International Law

Date of this Version

May 2006