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Some Lessons From Iraq: International Law and Democratic Politics, 16 Yale Journal of International Law 203 (1991)


The Emirate of Kuwait and many other relatively small and weak states rely, in some measure, on the expectation that the United Nations Charter and its collective security system will protect their territorial integrity and politicalindependence. The dictator of Iraq and others like him rely on exactly the opposite expectation, that the collective security system of the United Nations exists only on paper, in large part because the remaining superpower, the United States, irremediably traumatized by the experience of Vietnam, may have the military power, but will be politically ,incapable of undertaking the military operations necessary to make the United Nations work. Although President Bush mobilized the United Nations and placed an imposing and apparently adequate military force in Saudi Arabia, the evidence is that Saddam Hussein still believes that his expectation is well-founded. Hussein seems to believe that no one will try to oust him militarily or, if they try, will stay the course.

The outcome of the Iraqi aggression is uncertain. But whatever happens, some important lessons can already be learned. Some are clear, while others only direct us to further study.

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