The Cult of International Law Revisited

Back in 2006, I wrote: “I’ve noticed in a variety of contexts that there are some rather well-educated, articulate individuals out there who have what seems to me to be a fanatical, quasi-religious belief in ‘international law’, and the idea that it should trump any other conflicting consideration.”

This analysis from Der Speigel, with the author wringing his hands over whether the killing of Osama bin Laden was “legal,” is an excellent example of this mindset.

It’s also worth noting that the cultists are inclined to take the most restrictive, often extremely tendentious view of international law, in which international law becomes a substitute for otherwise passe leftist pacifism or anti-Americanism. Note that the author makes the highly questionable claim that “for years, the very principle of international law has been to pursue justice rather than war.” If nothing else, it shows a mindset in which “war”, at least war engaged in by the U.S., is inevitably not the pursuit of justice.

And I had to laugh when I read this: “What is just about killing a feared terrorist in his home in the middle of Pakistan?”

Only everything.

UPDATE: Note also this lame attempt by Mary Ellen O’Connell to claim that the Osama hit was a product of “law enforcement techniques”, thus proving the superiority of the law enforcement model of counter-terrorism over the military model. The commenters are justifiably merciless.