It is not what a lawyer tells me I may do; but what humanity, reason, and justice tell me I ought to do.

—Edmund Burke. Edmund Burke, speech on conciliation with the American Colonies, March 22, 1775.

There is no such thing as international law. This is because a sovereign nation is not capable of being legally bound by a power higher than itself. What people call ‘international law’ is in fact a collection of international treaties and customs. Nations that breach treaties are not acting illegally, rather they are reneging on their treaty obligations. Such reneging may give rise to a just war against them, but that does not mean what they are doing is illegal. To use the expressions illegal, legal, and international law when talking about foreign affairs insults the free people of the world because it suggests they are governed other than by their own consent.

United Nations resolutions

Every free and sovereign state has a right to determine, according to the dictates of her own conscience, what her duties require of her, and what she can or cannot do with justice. If other nations take upon themselves to judge of her conduct, they invade her liberty, and infringe her most valuable rights.

—Emerich de Vattel. The Law of Nations, 1758.

United Nations resolutions lack moral legitimacy because:

  1. Delegates to the United Nations vote as their governments instruct them to. Many of those governments (for example China’s, which alone rules one fifth of humanity) are despotic. Thus, respecting the decisions of the United Nations is akin to respecting the resolutions of mob bosses.
  2. Under the natural law legislation cannot be made without the consent of the governed.
  3. Under the natural law the executive branch cannot legislate, yet the delegates to the United Nations receive their instructions from the executive branches of their governments.
  4. Under the natural law delegated legislative power cannot be further delegated. Thus, even if the delegates received their instructions from the legislature, it would still be a void as delegation.

A sovereign country should therefore always ignore United Nations resolutions and instead follow the dictates of its own conscience. A sovereign country should never use United Nations resolutions as justification for military action. It is craven to claim legitimacy from such a dubious source. The soldiers who are being sent into harm’s way, instead of representing the conscience and call to honor of their mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, grandparents and neighbors, are being asked to risk death and to kill according to connivances of Latin American generalissimos, European socialist bureaucrats, tin-pot African dictators, Iranian mullahs, Arab sheiks and Chinese commissars. This is a recipe for disaster and shame.

This article is an extract from the book ‘Principles of Good Government’ by Matthew Bransgrove