In most situations, states that have violated Article 2(4) of the Charter have asserted their innocence by distorting the facts to conform to the license givne by Article 51, or by interpreting that license creatively. Thus, North Korea insisted that after its invasion of the South on June 1950, that is had been attacked by the South . This lie was blatant and would not have fooled even the most gullible brainwashed communist as their legions swept over the south.
But the mere fact, that Kim had to lie attests to the North’s recognition that, yes there is a norm, one that is still universally recognized as binding and that cannot simply be disregarded with impunity. The same has been done in Iraq where Bush had to raise so many pretenses about weapons of mass destruction and other causes to justify the invasion. The WMD have not been found but he still had to pretend they existed. Lying about fact, it may be said, is the tribute scofflaw governments pay to international legal obligations they violate.
Another common method is distorting what the law says. When Morocco invaded the Spanish Sahara in 1975 it claimed to be defending Rabat’s “historic title ” against UN efforts to implement the Saharawi people’s right to self-determination, neither the ICJ nor the General Assembly found that justification convincing . Significantly, the Moroccans at least tried to place their actions within the normative framework, rather than attack its legitimacy. “Fancy lawyering” of that sort, one must suppose, is another tribute paid by scofflaw governments to the legitimacy of international system of rules.
After World War II, no government, no matter how powerful or hubric jas thought it good tactics to penly say that the law is whatever it says it is. Is such back-handed tribute still habitually being paid? If not, we might conclude that we are, indeed, in a world without law, where violators no longer recognize the legitimacy of the law they are violating. If the law has lost its compliance pull, we would know that, first, by the willingness of at least some states to say, as they did so often in the ages before the Charter, “La loi, c'est moi. ”
Of course, even if a state were to proclaim itself, openly, as above the law, that alone would not delegitimate the law, although, at some point, widespread noncompliance could have that effect. The failure of one state, even a powerful one, to obey the law raises, but does not answer, questions about the popular perception of the law's continued determinacy. To address that issue, it becomes necessary to resort to a kind of legal empiricism: to ask how many states, in how many situations of disputation, currently discredit the law pertaining to the use of force in word and deed?
If the practice of these openly defiant “scofflaws” begins to overwhelm the restraint of governments that habitually comply with the law, then--but only then--it might be arguable that the rules have surely lapsed into desuetude. Or if the community of states fails to register its displeasure with the law's violation in some significant fashion, it would be arguable that the norm is being allowed to lapse into meaninglessness.
A brief examination of the history of interstate behavior since World War II till resent quickly demonstrates not only that states never challenged the legitimacy of the law they were violating, but, even at the risk of failing the laugh test, insisted that they were acting in full compliance with it. Vietnam averred that it have been invaded by Cambodia Moscow alleged that its occupation of Afghanistan was launched at the invitation of the legitimate Afghan government .
The United Kingdom insisted that they agreed with U. S. intelligence that there wwre indeed WMDs in Iraq poised to strike within 45 minutes notice . Even the U. S. secretary of state presented bogus facts just to convince the world of the justness of its campaigns. Assuming these facts were true, the actions of Hanoi, Moscow, London and Washington were in fact in compliance with the law. Even after the U. S. government’s own 9/11 commission concluded that there was no evidence of Al-Queda with Saddam Hussien Even Vice President Dick Chaney has chimed in on the charade. All this was done to make the U. S. resort to violence legally justified. Stripped of this myth the illegality of their actions will stand exposed. Even after the president’s own chief weapons inspector, David Kay, reported that there were no weapons of mass destruction to be found in Iraq, Bush still refuses to admit that the WMD’s did not exist , To admit that the weapons did not exist, given the obvious proof that they really didn’t, would be tantamount to admitting that the invasion of Iraq and the thousands of American, British and Iraqi lives sacrificed for it was entirely illegal.
Thus, even a cursory examination of the post-Charter historic record clearly states that in actual practice, almost all states, almost all the time, do not abide but the strictures of Articles 2(4) and 51, that of refraining from resorting to violence to resolve disputes. During the Cold War, most scofflaw behavior was skirmishing between the superpowers. In each instance, however, and with varying degrees of success, the UN system has been enlisted in strenuous efforts to mitigate and end those violations, applying and reinforcing precisely the rules that are being violated .
To conclude, the UN charter remains relevant to the world today. It is followed to the letter in the sense that people still prepare pretenses and excuses to make it appear that their actions are justified under the UN charter. If it were not for the Charter many wars and invasions could be accomplished with impunity. Which is not to day they are not, rather they can be prosecuted with impunity and without regard because there is not even that minimum need to justify their actions before world public opinion and the UN Charter.
Introductory note of UN charter available at http://www. un. org/aboutun/charter/ Haiti Information Project,"Evidence mounts of a U. N. massacre in Haiti", 2005-07-12. (English) Keefer, Edward "The Nixon Administration and the United Nations: 'It's Damned Debating Society" Kirkpatrick, Jeanne. "UN Mugging Fails", Legitmacy and Force, 229 Bush George, " President Salutes Sailors at Naval Station Mayport in Jacksonville: Remarks by the President at Naval Station Mayport" available at www. whitehouse. gov/news/releases/2003/02/20030213-3. html February 13, 2003 (last accessed 29 Dec 07)