"Rethinking Legality/Legitimacy After the Iraq War"

Michigan Law Authors
Publish Date
Legality and Legitimacy in Global Affairs
Publication Type
Book Chapter

The chapter assesses the concepts of legitimacy and legality in the context of three exercises of Western power over the past decade: Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq. None of these cases was unambiguously legal under existing international law and international institutions offered little assistance in determining the legality or legitimacy of these coercive actions. Various legal arguments have been offered in support of the military action in each case, including intervention on humanitarian grounds, legal responses to terrorist acts, self-defence, the right to remove an undemocratic regime that commits human rights abuses against its own people and Security Council authorization (implied or transferred). Although different weight has been given to the various legal arguments (and by different protagonists), the justifications have become merged, especially in the context of Iraq. It concludes that language and legal concepts have been hi-jacked and international legality claimed regardless of compliance with formal legal requirements while assessments of legitimacy are conditional.

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