International Law and the Use of Force:
Beyond Regime Theory
1. Right versus Might
In recent years, Stanley Hoffmann developed a resounding critique of the so-called Reagan
Doctrine, while in the process-and more importantly-analyzing the ethical foundations
of international law and world order, particularly with respect to superpower relations.l
According to Hoffmann, from this broader perspective, the "rules" of the "game" between
the then superpowers do not constitute a "regime" as that has been defined in the literature
of international political science. Hoffmann was certainly correct to argue that there cur-
rently is no such thing as an international security regime between the United States and
the Soviet Union, or Russia, its successor state. Nevertheless, there does indeed exist such
a phenomenon known as a "regime" concerning the threat and use of force in international
relations. The existence of such a regime is made possible by the fact that whatever their
respective differences inter se may be, both superpowers during the cold war did share a
common interest in regulating and then reducing the transnational threat and use of force
by other actors in the international system, if not even oftentimes by themselves.
Hoffmann concluded his chapter by noting the "seachange" in Soviet international be-
havior under Mikhail Gorbachev that was designed to produce more superpower coopera-
tion. Gorbachev's initiatives were certainly worth U.S. reciprocation. Realistically speak-
ing, cooperation seemed the only alternative for America in today's world of "existential
In any event, a good deal could be learned from the application of regime theory in order
to better understand the nature of the relationships between international law and inter-
national politics concerning the threat and use of force.2 By now, political science regime
theorists have established the critical importance of international law and organizations
to the areas of international trade, monetary policy,
human rights, natural resources, the
pages from Ideas and Ideals: Essays on Politics in Honor of Stanley Hoff-
(edited) by Linda B. Miller and Michael Joseph Smith. Copyright
© 1993
by Westview
Press. Reprinted by permission of Westview Press.
Previous Page Next Page