Tuesday, October 23, 2007

International Law

I've claimed to my international relations colleagues for years that international law ought to be at the core of our student's education. I published a little piece, The Hegemon and the Professions, in International Studies Perspectives about teaching my Tech undergrads Int Law. I tried to show how useful it was in teaching international relations.

But now I see the importance of my claim more clearly than ever. I'm giving some lectures at the International Maritime Law Institute (IMLI). As I've mentioned in other posts, the men and women at IMLI are all lawyers and all doing either public or private international maritime law. I teach in the public international law course. I face a room of people from all around the world: Africa, Europe, Asia, Latin America, N. America, Carribbean. They come from wealthy countries, poor countries. They come from governments of all persuasions and from the world's many religions. And, every last one of them is learning the same law. What's more, when I sat in on a few of Prof. Attard's elegantly clear lectures....he taught the same concepts as I taught at Tech (only I now have a better way to teach them!). I've been talking with some Algerians and what is their interest? Making sure Algeria meets all the international legal obligations they have agreed to meet through treaty. A lawyer from Dominica talked to me about bases to claim territory and we were using the same language to address a problem.

Yet, too often in the US, students can get an undergraduate degree in international relations and take no international law. Even worse, in graduate education many dismiss the topic as not important to theorizing about states or even as not something that matters in state behavior. It is so misguided. Law is probably 75% of all state behavior, so why isn't it more important in American international relations programs?

Of course we veer off in class to talk about political explanations rather than legal ones...and it is usually not that difficult to mark the point where one leaves off and the other begins. Of course the students know that big powers have better lawyers and can pursue their interests through law more readily than smaller ones. Yet, we can use law to discuss the whys and wherefores of this behavior...and to show how law itself changes in light of state initiatives and resistance.

International law is for everyone, and putting it into every American IR curriculum will be my mantra.


Kathy Archambeau said...

Hi Mary. Well, I caught up with what you have been up to. WOW! I don't know how you keep your feet on the ground. The pictures are wonderful. It seems like a dream. I, again, will share this with the Noteworthy group. How will you ever get used to Copper Country life after Malta? Stay safe. Kathy

Mary said...

Thanks Kathy,

I'm a little homesick at the moment. I am very happy with Malta and my teaching, but miss my husband, my house, even all the trees and flowing waterfalls.