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American Society of International Law Proceedings




This presentation derives from a large research project that has been more than three years in progress and reflects the work of a multinational team of lawyers, policy analysts, and political scientists. The project is supported by the Ford Foundation and will conclude at the end of 2000 with the completion of a book that will cover the experience of nine democracies in deploying their military forces under international auspices as this experience relates to two large questions.

The project examines two questions:

  • What is the interactive relationship between international commitments and national constitutional and political requirements?
  • How does this relationship work for democracies, and does it ensure accountability, including democratic accountability for decisions made by international institutions?

But why examine democracies and why examine issues of the use of military forces? Democracies, starting with the United States, are world powers that play crucial roles in maintaining international order. Democracies require some measure of popular support for actions taken by their governments. The question for this project is: What level of popular support and what level of accountability are required, and how are these achieved in democracies? These questions are fundamental to assessing the viability of any post-Cold War security system.

The military action by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Kosovo added an unexpected element to the study after the project got underway, and introduced the international legal ambiguities and national questions of acting without the authorization of the UN Security Council. The Kosovo action demonstrated that the post-Cold War system as a revival of the post-World War II system was not adequate to address the conflicts of the post-Cold War period, and that the security packages represented by the United Nations and NATO needed to be reconsidered both internationally and nationally to fit the problems of today.

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Cambridge University Press

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