This book is among the few to develop in detail the proposition that international law on the subject of interstate force is better derived from practice than from treaties. Mark Weisburd assembles here a broad body of evidence to support practice-based rules of law on the subject of force.
Analyses of a particular use of force by a state against another state generally begin with the language of the Charter of the United Nations. This approach is seriously flawed, argues Weisburd. States do not, in fact, behave as the Charter requires. If the legal rule regulating the use of force is the rule of the Charter, then law is nearly irrelevant to the interstate use of force. However, treaties like the Charter are not the only source of public international law. Customary law, too, is binding on states. If state behavior can be shown to conform generally to what amount to tacit rules on the use of force, and if states generally enforce such rules against other states, then the resulting pattern of practice strongly supports the argument that the use of force is affected by law at a very practical level.
This work aims to demonstrate that such patterns exist and to explain their content. Weisburd discusses over one hundred interstate conflicts that took place from 1945 through 1991. He focuses on the behavior of the states using force and on the reaction of third parties to the use of force. He concentrates upon state practice rather than upon treaty law and does not assume a priori that any particular policy goal can be attributed to the international legal system, proceeding instead on the assumption that the system's goals can be determined only by examining the workings of the system.