The Law: Legality Undermined?

Even as President Nixon was announcing the mining of North Vietnamese ports, the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., George Bush, moved to inform the Security Council. According to prescribed protocol, such formal notification is made to the Council president, but this month that regularly rotated position happens to belong to the U.S. representative, namely Bush. Bush ceremonially addressed his letter and then delivered it to himself, informing himself that the U.S. had a legal right to take action under the U.N. Charter's doctrine of "collective self-defense."

The mildly pointless ritual underscored old questions: Can international law have any real value in limiting...

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