Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law

First Page



With each international crisis inevitably come the self-styled "realists" proclaiming that there is no such thing as public international law. The Vietnam war is no exception, although here, due to the unusual complexity of the facts and the controversy over the applicable rules of international law, many of the published replies to the "realist's" positions have themselves been insubstantial and unconvincing. Let us look first, briefly, at the arguments of one of the realists, and then, with equal brevity, at some of the counter claims. The remainder of this comment will be addressed to the larger issues involved and some suggested avenues for coping with the implementation of the ideal of world peace through world law. Mr. Joseph K. Andonian's impatience with those who would apply international norms to the Vietnam situation probably represents the views of a majority of successful domestic American lawyers. He claims in an article entitled "Law and Vietnam" that lawyers "make a mockery of law" when they "indulge in the pretense that the question of our involvement in Vietnam is a conventional legal matter. Andonian asserts that since there is no binding, enforceable, customary international law governing the Vietnam conflict, lawyers should not pretend otherwise. Such pretense confuses the public and denigrates the idea of the rule of law. Rather, Mr. Andonian argues, lawyers should expend their efforts to help bring about a sense of "community" in international relations by promoting increases in travel, trade, communications, and a sense of commitment to the world community. With the advent of this commitment, we may expect to see the gradual creation of an international legislature, an organized judicial system employing compulsory jurisdiction, and an international police force to back up the legislature and judiciary. Only then, he concludes, can lawyers meaningfully discuss questions of international law.