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Analysis of Primary Weakness of International Law: Critical Essay

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While a law is a set of rules that govern the behavior of people in a certain country or geographic boundary, International law is the law that governs the behaviors of states and other international persons.

Because international law is applied at the international level, this analytical article will be different from the other law papers, it will not contain constitutional laws or other national laws as it applies. This article focuses only on the nature of international law, what it has been doing well, and the areas that it hasn’t been doing well including the areas that it hasn’t been acting on or paying attention to and it should. For all those things as written in Vaughan Lowe’s book entitled “international law a very short introduction,” I will then present an analysis and prediction of what the future of international law is and if indeed it does have a future.

Vaughan in his book presents us with an amazing introduction to international and its nature. I will be analyzing only chapters 6 and 7 where he provides an analysis of International Law explaining what it does badly, and the areas that it does well.

A summation of what international law does well and what it does badly based on Vaughan’s book in chapters 6 and 7, Vaughan starts chapter six explaining that the simple existence of international law that removed international anarchy is already a victory, so, although we state the goods and bad deeds of it, it is not in the intent of overshadowing g it’s significance. To summarize chapters six and seven, here is an outline of the strengths and weaknesses of international law.

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  1. The removal of anarchy in the international realm: Before international law, there were no laws governing all state's behaviors besides the customs that also varied. Thomas Hobbes in the book Leviathan explains how a lawful state is better than a state without law or the state of nature that he describes as a brutal and short life.
  2. Its existence of International law is the key to cooperation between states.
  3. International law has been praised for its success in the realm of statistics logistics and especially in health investigation.
  4. International law has been very successful in bringing to our attention issues that were primarily ignored but are very important. A good example of this is the issue of climate change. In this area, the Scandinavian states are a good example.
  5. There are issues that can only be effectively solved on the international level and international law is the forum to address them. Some examples of these issues are mass migration drug trafficking human trafficking and others.
  6. International law has found a way for states to obey international norms even though there are many reasons why states obey.
  7. International law brings justice even to the most powerful people, showing that no one is untouchable. A good example of this is the Charles Taylor case and the ICC.
  8. Brought equality amongst states and people: international law brought equality amongst states giving them all a voice in international decisions but also, it brought equality amongst all the citizens of the world. Only the consecutive human rights already made us all equal and established a basic living standard for all regardless of their sex, religion, country, race, and other differences.

The weaknesses of international law:

  1. Enforceability: One primary weakness of international law is the lack of a specific body to enforce international laws, the lack of an international military force is one of the biggest failures of international law. Without enforcement it is almost impossible to have success, I personally believe this is the biggest failure of international law.
  2. Application of that enforceability is sometimes blocked for political reasons: because international law is applied first at the international level and states are the key agents, they can be biased in their decisions and enforce only laws that benefit them and try to stop laws that may not be so beneficial for their state interests.
  3. The use of humanitarian intervention to reach state goals/interests.
  4. States can opt to not sign treaties and they are not bound by them. This idea makes it hard to regulate international behaviors since not all states abound by the same treaties, it sounds a bit like a buffet where countries can choose what to eat. There are certain exceptions of course.
  5. Structural Inequality amongst States in International Organizations: international organizations are the key lawmakers in international law, and most of these key governmental organizations have an unequal structure in terms of the weight of the state’s decisions. A good example is the UN and the security council and the WTO, which have a similar structure. These are the key failures I could extract from Chapter 7.

The future of international law:

First of all, it is important to highlight that international law does have a future, and with a lot of effort and cooperation above all, it can have a bright one.

Unfortunately, while most of the problems with international law and the international system as a whole have to do with its nature, it is thus almost impossible to change and it isn’t correct to compare it with national law since they have different objectives. However, there is a very large room for improvement, especially in the area of enforcement. International law would be way more effective if we had specific laws and sanctions or punishments gif states who break them and a clear procedure for their application and implications, that would change a lot.

International law has for example achieved in preventing another world war and that alone makes it worth its existence.

The importance of law can never be expressed enough, the truth is that even though it is not so effective, it is better than no law, and international law has managed to fill that void of lack as well described by Hobbes and in this case, it is applicable even at the international level.

Each year that goes by, we see more and more improvements, more states are part of the UN now and more states are signing treaties and fighting for its enforcement, more radical customs are being eliminated due to the country's exposure to the international world. Just based on this increased cooperation, we can conclude that the future is bright and better.


  1. Vaughan Lowe – international law pages 114 – 140
  2. Thomas Hobbes – Leviathan
  3. Slaughter, Anne-Marie, and William Burke-White. “The future of international law is domestic (or, the European way of law).” Harv. Int'l LJ 47 (2006): 327.
  4. Chimni, Bhupinder S. “The past, present, and future of international law: a critical third world approach.” Melb. J. Int'l L. 8 (2007): 499.
  5. Goldmann, Matthias. “We need to cut off the head of the king: Past, present, and future approaches to international soft law.” LJIL
  6. Oppenheim, Lassa. The Future of International Law. Good Press, 20194.
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