In This Review

Lawless World: America and the Making and Breaking of Global Rules From FDR's Atlantic Charter to George W. Bush's Illegal War
Lawless World: America and the Making and Breaking of Global Rules From FDR's Atlantic Charter to George W. Bush's Illegal War
By Philippe Sands
Viking, 2005, 320 pp.

After World War II, the United States and the United Kingdom championed a global order built in part around multilateral rules and institutions, but recently their enthusiasm seems to have waned. This book, by a British international lawyer, offers an impassioned and critical narrative of this 60-year drama of power and law. Over the decades, international law itself has undergone a "silent revolution," in which rules increasingly reach into the "nooks and crannies" of everyday life. At the same time, the United States has become more powerful and less willing to put up with this deepening system. Sands also sees a change in American attitudes: international rules are now viewed as constraints rather than opportunities -- a return to an earlier era of national exceptionalism. The book leaves unclear how deeply rooted this alleged American estrangement from international law really is. Is the United States abandoning or simply renegotiating global rules? But Sands still poses an important challenge: to reconnect the world of law to American values and interests.