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The Contemporary Practice of International Law

Lecture, Open—Fall

In a landscape pocked by genocide, wars of choice, piracy, and international terrorism, what good is international law? Can it mean anything without a global police force and a universal judiciary? Is “might makes right” the only law that works? Or is it true that “most states comply with most of their obligations most of the time”? These essential questions frame the contemporary practice of law across borders. This lecture provides an overview of international law: its substance, theory, and practice. It addresses a wide range of issues, including the bases and norms of international law, the law of war (jus ad bellum and jus in bello), human-rights claims, domestic implementation of international norms, treaty interpretation, and state formation/succession. Readings will draw from two key texts: Murphy’s treatise, Principles of International Law, and International Law Stories, edited by Noyes, Janis & Dickinson. These readings will be supplemented by articles and original sources such as conventions, cases, and statutes.