Courtesy Reuters


"The tents have been struck," declared South Africa's prime minister, Jan Christian Smuts, about the League of Nations' founding. "The great caravan of humanity is again on the march." A generation later, this mass movement toward the international rule of law still seemed very much in progress. In 1945, the League was replaced with a more robust United Nations, and no less a personage than U.S. Secretary of State Cordell Hull hailed it as the key to "the fulfillment of humanity's highest aspirations." The world was once more on the move.

Earlier this year, however, the caravan finally ground to a halt. With the dramatic rupture of the UN Security Council, it became clear that the grand attempt to subject the use of force to the rule of law had failed.

In truth, there had been no progress for years. The UN's rules governing the use

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  • Michael J. Glennon is Professor of International Law at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and the author, most recently, of Limits of Law, Prerogatives of Power: Interventionism After Kosovo
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