3 The use of force in international law
In trying to reduce their propensity to go to war states have taken a twin-track approach by, first of all, developing a body of law directed at regulating and reducing the level of armaments held by states and, secondly, by developing a set of principles and rules regulating when states can actually use the destructive forces at their disposal.
Admittedly a heavily armed state is more likely to use force than one that is lightly armed, and an arms manufacturing state is also likely to be an arms exporting state, so that the limited progress made in arms control has impacted upon the effectiveness of any rules governing the use of force. Nonetheless, in 1945, at the end of the second global conflict of the century, states sat down and agreed a strict set of principles and rules governing the use of force in international relations.
It was no coincidence that the year in which the most devastating weapon of war was used for the first (and so far only) time against the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was the same year that the UN Charter was adopted containing a clear prohibition on the use of force by states. Albert Einstein envisaged this in 1944. With the discovery of atomic energy, he said that ‘everything changed’ and that, therefore, ‘we shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if mankind is to survive’.1
Prior to 1945 the jus ad bellum (the law regulating...
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