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Democracy goes to War

Nigel White

Published in print June 2009 | ISBN: 9780199218592
Published online September 2009 | e-ISBN: 9780191705595 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199218592.001.0001
Democracy goes to War

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With the end of the Second World War there came the United Nations and a new world order based on the prohibition of military force in international relations, and yet since 1945 British troops have been regularly deployed around the globe: most notably to Korea, Suez, Cyprus, and the Falklands during the Cold War; and Kuwait, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq since the fall of the Berlin Wall. The decisions to deploy forces are political ones made within several constitutional frameworks, national, regional, and international. After considering the various legal and institutional regimes applicable to such deployments, the main purpose of this book is to examine the decision to deploy troops from the perspective of international law. In its military interventions since 1945, Britain has consistently tried to utilize international law to justify its actions, though often it argues against orthodox interpretation of the laws. In an area of law that is notoriously open-ended and contested, caution must be observed and the simple application of rules to the facts avoided. However, the inherent fluidity of international law must be balanced against the fact that there is consensus among states on certain fundamental rules, though that consensus must be constantly reappraised. In gauging whether Britain's actions are in breach of international law we can make judgements at different levels using various forms of accountability — from judicial fora (for example the International Court of Justice in the Hague or the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg), to political ones (the UN General Assembly in New York or the House of Commons in Westminster), though political ones dominate. While this book examines international and regional mechanisms, tumultuous debates on Suez, Afghanistan, Iraq, and others in the House of Commons and its Committees are highlighted to show how international law impacts upon domestic politics. In considering whether democratic accountability is effective in upholding the principles of international law, this book throws new light on an old democracy, and thereby makes a contribution to current reform proposals that are aimed at improving democratic decision-making.

Keywords: military interventions; use of force; accountability; United Nations; Parliament; NATO; EU; Korean War; Suez Crisis; Falklands War

Book.  336 pages. 

Subjects: Human Rights and Immigration

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Introduction in Democracy goes to War

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Helping a Friend in Afghanistan in Democracy goes to War

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