International law has had a complicated, even love-hate relationship, with the use of force. Efforts to limit the unrestricted right of a state to resort to military force gained traction in the twentieth century; they began with the Porter Convention in 1907 and culminated in the United Nations Charter in 1945. The Charter enjoined “[a]ll Members . . . in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.” Lawful military force was to be authorized by the Security Council under its plenary Chapter VII powers. In case a state suffered an armed attack, it could resort to individual or collective self-defense pending action by the Security Council. The Council was the organ empowered to determine whether aggression had occurred and what to do about it.
Whatever the intention of Charter Article 2(4) may have been, the international political system remained essentially co-archical; the Security Council, because of its voting procedures, was often unable to act and individual uses of force, without prior authorization by the Security Council, continued to occur. While all of them were, in terms of the black letter of the Charter, illegal, not all of them were considered by political and legal observers as unlawful in their context, though unanimity in appraisals of the lawfulness of unilateral actions (indeed, in the appraisal of anything in international law) has been rare. To mention only a few examples, wars of decolonization have not been deemed unlawful and the General Assembly’s Declaration on Principles of International Law went so far as to entitle peoples seeking self-determination to receive support from other states. Wars of national liberation have been deemed lawful. Overt and covert assistance in internal wars has rarely been sanctioned and often praised. Humanitarian interventions, protection of nationals abroad, blockades, military exercises as a means of conveying threats and so on, have all benefitted from a tolerance which the black letter of Article 2(4) would hardly support. Welcome to EditPad.org - your online plain text editor. Enter or paste your text here. To download and save it, click on the button below.