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The Fog of Law: Pragmatism, Security and International Law . . .A new book by Michael J. Glennon

Professor Michael J. Glennon is one of the most thoughtful scholars of international law today. At a time when far too many writers paint an overly optimistic picture of the current state of the international legal system, Mike Glennon assiduously works to give an accurate portrayal of the realities of the law. Stanford University Press has just published his latest book, The Fog of Law: Pragmatism, Security and International Law. Here is a description from the publisher:

When and why are international rules binding? Focusing on questions of state security, The Fog of Law considers the nature of obligation in international law. In so doing, it challenges the prevailing theories of obligation based on natural law or positive law approaches.

Michael J. Glennon argues for a pragmatist approach to international law—that international law has force when enough countries honor it. Using elements of rational choice theory, Glennon describes an international “frame of mind” that draws on the fluctuating network of incentives and disincentives surrounding international rules to explain states’ uneven compliance. The Fog of Law defends its approach through discussions of key contemporary security issues, including the United Nations’ use of force rules, security assurances, nuclear proliferation, and the new crime of aggression proposed for the International Criminal Court.

And here are reviews of the book prior to publication:

“Michael Glennon is the most articulate advocate of legal pragmatism since Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. The Fog of Law provides a rigorous theoretical basis for a recommendation that the UN Charter’s rules on use of force be declared in desuetude, and sheds light on the proposed law of aggression and other disputed issues. No defender of legal universalism can afford to ignore the challenge of this book.” —Pierre Hassner, Research Director Emeritus, Sciences Po, Paris

“At a time when many seek peace and security through treaties, statutes, and UN Security Council resolutions, Glennon wisely reminds us that what matters most is not how much law statesmen create, but how much they actually follow.” —Charles Lane, author of The Day Freedom Died: The Colfax Massacre, the Supreme Court, and the Betrayal of Reconstruction

“A most timely contribution that provokes important reflections, whatever one’s perspective on the rule of law or the limits of international law. This book deserves to be read widely in the United States and, even more so, beyond its shores, to understand the politics of pragmatism.”—Philippe Sands,University College London

This sounds like an outstanding contribution to the international legal literature. I very much look forward to reading it!

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Anthony Clark Arend is Professor of Government and Foreign Service at Georgetown University and the Director of the Master of Science in Foreign Service in the Walsh School of Foreign Service.

Commentary and analysis at the intersection of international law and politics.