The Limits of International Law

Earlier today, Trunk linked to a review by Peter Berkowitz of three new books about international law, including The Limits of International Law by Jack Goldsmith and Eric Posner. It happens that I finished reading that book today. I highly recommend it to those with the time and intellectual energy to tackle its careful and elegant reasoning.
Goldsmith and Posner argue that “the best explanation for when and why states comply with international law is not that states have internalized international law, or have a habit of complying with it, or are drawn by its moral pull, but simply that states act out of self interest.” If they are right, then the limits of international law are profound because states will not comply with international law when it is not in their self interest to do so. And Goldsmith and Posner make a compelling case for their thesis.
Along they way, they fill their book with terrific nuggets of analysis. My favorite is probably their discussion of Sweden in the book’s final pages. It seems that even the Swedish internationalism is designed to serve the welfare of local constituents.

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