Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
International Incidents

International Incidents: The Law That Counts in World Politics

Copyright Date: 1988
Pages: 296
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    International Incidents
    Book Description:

    What law "counts" in international politics? Does any? How are effective international norms established? This provocative book introduces a new way of looking at these questions. It shows that many international standards of acceptable conduct derive far less from adjudications, statutes, or treaties and far more from what is found to be acceptable in the conflicts that we today call international incidents. The contributors demonstrate how law that counts has been developed, modified, and terminated in a variety of dramatic international incidents: the Cosmos 954 satellite accident, the downing of Korean Air Lines Flight 007, the Harrods bombing, the Argentine invasion of the Falklands/Las Malvinas, the incursions of foreign submarines into Swedish waters, the Soviet gas pipeline problem, the situation in Lebanon, and the Gulf of Sidra incident. This volume is a first, experimental effort at establishing a format for a new and more relevant kind of international political and legal analysis.

    Originally published in 1988.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5948-1
    Subjects: Law

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface and Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-x)
    W.M.R and A.R.W.
  4. List of Contributors
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. 1 INTERNATIONAL INCIDENTS: Introduction to a New Genre in the Study of International Law
    (pp. 3-24)

    The scene is Beijing. You are an international political advisor to the government of the People’s Republic of China. The news dominating the cable traffic is that Argentina has invaded the Falkland Islands.¹ Even though the invasion is on the other side of the planet, in a region in which the People’s Republic is not directly involved, you will follow the events there with great interest for the next several weeks.

    Some of your colleagues will be concerned about the military dimensions of the conflict, for example, problems encountered in launching amphibious attacks on well-defended island positions, establishing supply lines...

  6. 2 INCIDENTS: An Essay in Method
    (pp. 25-39)

    In studying incidents for the purpose of monitoring the genesis, modification and termination of international norms, there are advantages to having a broadly homogeneous approach. Although creative efforts in the genre need not conform to rigid specifications, certain general features would seem indispensable to a systematic study. The pieces included in this volume approach the study of incidents in a comparable fashion: each identifies the problem to be covered and its legal importance, presents a detailed account of the facts of the incident and the claims brought by the participants, analyzes how a complex and frequently unorganized decision process resolved...

  7. 3 FOREIGN SUBMARINES IN SWEDISH WATERS: The Erosion of an International Norm
    (pp. 40-67)

    It has been a well-settled international norm that the appropriate responses of a coastal state to an intrusion by a foreign submarine into its internal waters or a noninnocent passage through its territorial sea are limited to requiring the intruding ship to leave its waters and to making a protest to the ship’s flag state. This norm has been related to the jurisdictional immunity of foreign warships, a norm long deemed vital to the public order of the oceans.

    Increasing violations of Swedish internal waters by unauthorized foreign submarines, typified by the incident described below, induced Sweden to change its...

  8. 4 COSMOS 954: The International Law of Satellite Accidents
    (pp. 68-84)

    Falling satellites¹ are an unavoidable hazard of space exploration: at the current level of technology, a certain number of satellites will inevitably fall out of orbit.² The traditional sources of international law provide little help in determining what norms would govern a situation in which a falling satellite causes injury.³ The 1978 crash of the Soviet Union’s Cosmos 954 satellite, however, has shed some light on the normative expectations of states concerning satellite accidents.

    From the events leading up to and following the crash of Cosmos 954, four governing norms emerged: (1) A state that becomes aware that one of...

  9. 5 THE SOVIET GAS PIPELINE INCIDENT: Extension of Collective Security Responsibilities to Peacetime Commercial Trade
    (pp. 85-114)

    In 1980, the Soviet Union began construction of a 3,000-mile pipeline to supply natural gas to Western Europe.¹ To accomplish this massive undertaking, the Soviet Union sought financial credit, equipment, and technology from the West. On December 29, 1981, while the natural gas pipeline was still under construction, President Ronald Reagan barred U.S. companies from supplying pipeline equipment to the Soviet Union. His decision was motivated by a variety of policy considerations, the most salient of which was the need to respond to the declaration of martial law in Poland. On June 18, 1982, the president broadened the ban to...

  10. 6 THE ARGENTINE INVASION OF THE FALKLANDS: International Norms of Signaling
    (pp. 115-143)

    States communicate by exchanging “signals.”¹ This chapter is a study of an international incident in which signaling led to a serious misunderstanding and eventually war. From 1965 to 1982, the United Kingdom and the Republic of Argentina exchanged signals about the legal status of the Falkland Islands.² Argentina interpreted this exchange to mean that Britain was willing to recognize Argentine sovereignty over the islands, and that an Argentine invasion of the Falklands would not lead to an uncompromising British reaction and international ostracism of Argentina. The Argentine estimate of British intentions proved incorrect, and the result was a costly war...

  11. 7 THE WAR IN LEBANON: The Waxing and Waning of International Norms
    (pp. 144-180)

    In June of 1982, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) began an invasion of Lebanon that lasted over three months, resulted in heavy civilian casualties, and extended over the entire territory of Lebanon, including the occupation of the presidential palace and the capture of Beirut. The purpose of the invasion, according to Israel, was to protect the security of its borders and the security of the state itself, by destroying the bases of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and restructuring the political power in Lebanon to favor a treaty with Israel. To justify this extensive invasion Israel invoked the norm governing...

  12. 8 THE GULF OF SIDRA INCIDENT OF 1981: The Lawfulness of Peacetime Aerial Engagements
    (pp. 181-201)

    On August 19, 1981, U.S. F-14 fighter aircraft engaged in combat with two Libyan Sukhoi-22 fighters above the Gulf of Sidra, approximately sixty miles off the coast of Libya.¹ By the end of the encounter, both Libyan planes had been destroyed. According to Libyan assertions, one of its fighters destroyed one of the F-14s, but the United States denied this contention. Although Libyan aircraft had on previous occasions fired upon U.S. military planes,² the Gulf of Sidra incident marked the first time that U.S. aircraft returned fire.

    The Gulf of Sidra incident demonstrates that aerial rules of engagement formulated by...

  13. 9 THE SHOOTING OF KOREAN AIR LINES FLIGHT 007: Responses to Unauthorized Aerial Incursions
    (pp. 202-237)

    In the early morning of September 1, 1983, a Korean Air Lines (KAL) Boeing 747 was shot down by a Soviet fighter while on a regularly scheduled flight from Anchorage, Alaska, to Seoul, South Korea. The Korean airliner had penetrated restricted airspace over a sensitive military base located on Sakhalin Island, on the northern Pacific coast of the Soviet Union. All 269 people aboard were killed. The downing resulted in the greatest loss of life and produced the strongest international reaction of any use of military force against civilian aircraft to date.

    The response of effective elites to this incident...

  14. 10 THE BOMBING OF HARRODS: Norms against Civilian Targeting
    (pp. 238-262)

    Military legal theory has long asserted reasoned limitations over military conduct. Current military theory derives prescriptive limitations on military activity from two fundamental principles: military necessity and humanitarianism.¹ These principles find application through the standards of proportionality and discrimination. Proportionality prohibits the excessive use of force to attain a military objective,² a standard intended to balance military and humanitarian requirements. Its complementary standard, discrimination, requires military forces to discern between military and civilian personnel and to target only combatants.³ These traditional rules of warfare, developed out of practical exigencies of war, are, in part, statements of the pragmatic realization that...

  15. 11 THE STUDY OF INCIDENTS: Epilogue and Prologue
    (pp. 263-270)

    The preceding chapters are a collective effort to develop a systematic method for the study of events in international politics, not for their own sake and not as morality tales, but as prisms for identifying and enlarging the actual expectations of authority entertained by those who are politically relevant in international politics. The incident method does not reject traditional sources of law in toto but starts from the generally acknowledged fact that the effectiveness of law-producing entities in international politics and the correspondence of their pronouncements with elite expectations is lower and more difficult to discern than in advanced national...

  16. Index
    (pp. 271-278)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 279-279)