This book, by the late Sir Ian Brownlie, Chichele Professor of Public International Law at Oxford University 1980-99, is possibly the best text on international law. His chapters on war and peace are of special merit.
He observes, "The member States of the United Nations, or at least the majority, recognised the legality of wars of liberation in certain conditions."
Brownlie comments on NATO's 1999 attack on Yugoslavia: "There is a preliminary and major difficulty in classifying the action. This because the authenticity of the subsequent claims that the action had humanitarian motives is substantially undermined by the fact that, beginning in October 1998, the threats of force were linked directly to a collateral political agenda, that is, the acceptance by Yugoslavia of various political `demands' concerning the status of Kosovo, these `demands' being presented under threat of a massive bombing campaign. This background has been ignored by many commentators."
He points out, "The position in 1999, when the operations took place, was that there was little or no authority and little or no state practice to support the right of individual States to use force on humanitarian grounds in international law. ... State practice has been overwhelmingly hostile to the concept of intervention on such a selective and subjective basis. The weak legal position was recognised by the United Kingdom Government when it informed the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Commons of its aim of establishing in the United Nations `new principles governing humanitarian intervention'."
Brownlie notes, "It is difficult to bring forcible regime change within concept of self-defence or the principle of self-determination. ... the international consensus [is] that individual States, or a group of States, cannot resort to force (for purposes other than self-defence) except with the express authorization of the Security Council." The Foreign Ministers of the Group of 77 (actually 132 states) declared on 24 September 1999 that "They rejected the so-called right of humanitarian intervention, which has no basis in the United Nations Charter or international law."
Brownlie observes, "Since 1945 the practice of States generally has been opposed to anticipatory self-defence. The Israeli attack on an Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981 was strongly condemned as a `clear violation of the Charter of the United Nations' in Security Council Resolution 487 (1981) (adopted unanimously)."
He points out drily, "The Bush doctrine, published in 2002, claims a right of `pre-emptive action' against States who are seen as potential adversaries. This doctrine is applicable in the absence of any proof of an attack or even an imminent attack. This doctrine lacks a legal basis, but it does have an historical parallel, the attack on Serbia by Austria-Hungary in 1914."
Brownlie also criticises `the gross and persistent measures of discrimination and breaches of humanitarian law on the part of Israel against the Palestinian people and their institutions'.