States of War: Defensive Force Among Nations (reviewing George P. Fletcher & Jens David Ohlin, Defending Humanity: When Force is Justified and Why (2008))

Guyora Binder, University at Buffalo School of Law


In "Defending Humanity: When Force is Justified and Why," George Fletcher and Jens Ohlin analogize international defensive force to individual self-defense. Based on this analogy, Fletcher and Ohlin justify a presumptive right on the part of every state to intervene against aggression, and a right of humanitarian intervention in support of national groups but not populations. They oppose reprisals, preemptive defense, and resistance to invading armies by irregular troops. This review essay argues that the relative weakness of the Security Council, the unequal power of states, and the contingency of international recognition on effective force all undermine the analogy between the position of states in the international order and the position of individuals in a rule of law state. This disanalogy undermines each of Fletcher and Ohlin's policy recommendations.