Response Paper #1 The reading materials in Week 6 explore the impact of international law on states, and more specifically, state behaviors. The idea is not to oversimplify the influence of international law but to understand in what circumstances (under various theories) would the legal framework and rules of international society shape and limit the behavior of nations and their alternatives. And these include many scenarios that constitute a change in state behavior - such as abstaining from invasion to imposing tariffs. One notes that state actions are primarily motivated by state interests. A state might uphold international law or norms because it is advantageous to its interest or even when it comes as a great sacrifice. The readings offer several theories hypothesizing why states might or might not conform to international law.
From a state psychology point of view, "Politics of Law Observance" suggests that some states may not observe the law because of a priori assumption of how other nations would behave. For instance if country A does not feel that the international community will impose threatening sanctions (or not threatening enough) to induce a change in behavior, then Country A would violate the law. Other (less cynical) reasons for non-compliance include ambiguity of legal rules, where the enforcement provisions are also vague that violating country knows that other nations wouldn't know how to quite respond. Moreover there could be limitations on capacity, where the states simply cannot perform the agreement either because of impossibility or fundamental change in circumstance. "The Theory of Compliance" suggests that efficiency, interests, and norms are three reasons for compliancy. In economic reasoning - since international law establishes an authoritative rule system, simply observing the law saves transactions since the burden of persuasion rests on the deviator.
There are also important foreign policy reasons for observing the law - such as common interests of nations. There is a built-in presupposition that nations have a common interest in keeping society and international relations orderly and friendly. States will observe international law when it suits their short-term or long-term interests. For instance, even in contentious treaties, states are engaged in an active process to weigh the benefit and burdens of legal commitment and more fully define their own interests. More subtly, there are "norms" that induce compliance. Taking a cross-example from "Politics of Law Observance", this could include domestic influences such as national values can also mold attitudes towards a particular law or obligation.
It is common that Western countries observe international law more often than totalitarian regimes - because the people in free countries have internalized a particular obligation to follow international law and its governments are sensitive to "guilt" of violations especially in the area of human rights. Thus the frequent "interaction" of country following international law leads to a more solid "internalization" of international law to shape state action. Thus in many of these reasons, one notes that enforcement has little to do with maintaining or achieving that compliance - posited from the managerial thesis. However skeptics might add that while many arms, trade and environmental regulation start off with little enforcement provisions, its continued progress depended on efficiently coping with an environment where defection is likely. Thus while managerial advocates hope that the environment will inspire nations to become more zealous in the maintaining the agreement, in reality, it is just often not the case. In class we also spoke of a number of theories of international political behavior (not in readings), and depending on those theories, each of the reasons for conforming or not conforming to international law might be moot or of utmost importance.
For instance a realist would disagree that domestic influences or national feelings of "guilt" would hinder a powerful nation from violating an international law opposed to their interest. This is a world where only power matters - and a powerful state need consider domestic influence or fear threatening sanctions from weaker states. However for a constructivist, national values and institutional ideas do matter. A public opposed to an inhumane war or a war that the UN has not approved "might" have considerable influence on the political leaders of a country to withhold from invasion. Thus it is important to consider both international politics and international law, so that real-world state practice can be better understood by international law's role on state behavior.