Why Nations Behave

The idea for this symposium on “implementation, compliance and effectiveness” grew out of the 1997 annual meeting of the American Society of International Law (ASIL), devoted to that theme. As one of the co-chairs of that meeting, I suggested to the student editors of this journal that they solicit articles on a topic that has seized the attention of researchers within international law as well as in seemingly unrelated fields. As Professor Thomas Franck has indicated in a recent well-received book, an ever increasing number of scholars are going beyond well-worn debates about whether international law is truly “law” to undertake “post-ontological” inquiries appropriate to the new “maturity” of the international legal system. As the 1997 ASIL annual meeting demonstrated and, as further confirmed by the contributions selected by the student editors for this volume, today the question of why international norms secure compliance seems to be as popular as more traditional descriptions of how nations behave, and, at least to some, is a more relevant line of inquiry than “outdated” debates over whether nations behave. Compliance inquiries seem particularly germane at a time when more and more individuals, from academics to journalists, contend that the ever increasing waves of “effective” international regulation, often involving matters previously ceded to the internal “domestic jurisdiction” of states, portend the “demise” or even the “end” of “sovereignty” (at least as traditionally conceived).