Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 2005

Publication Citation

12 Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies 345 (2005)


The thesis of this paper is that governments of some otherwise enlightened states are increasingly fearful of acknowledging the restraints imposed on them by existing international law. They are also reluctant to enter into new commitments by way of international conventions that would expand the reach of international law. The paper asks whether these fears are based on a true understanding of international law or on some distorted view of it. It will draw comparisons and some contrasts between Australia and the United States in their reactions to a number of recent events as well as to some enduring situations of contemporary relevance. Had time (and the limits of my research) permitted, one might also have examined public attitudes toward international law in China, Japan, and Russia in this context, where similar fears appear to be entertained. France, Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom, also enlightened states, appear by contrast to belong to a group more dedicated to international law. As Robert Kagan has recently remarked, the experience of two world wars at close quarters, and the formation of the European Union, have made the European countries more dedicated to process, where the United States is more interested in results.