An investigation of the relationship between international law, international politics and the state using Syria as a case study
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The thesis investigates the relationship between international law, international politics and the state using Syria as a case study. Syria was chosen because it has historically been the site of regional and international tussles for influence of which the post-Arab Spring proxy war is but the latest example. The research is interdisciplinary in that it utilises analytical tools from the international law and international relations disciplines. It initially examines the most prominent theoretical approaches to international law and international relations focussing on their treatment of the relationship between international law, international politics and the state. It then tests their respective assertions against Syria’s actual experience from the late Ottoman period to mid-2018. The thesis reveals that no one theoretical approach to international law or international relations has captured the precise contours of the relationship between international law, international politics and the state. Some of their assertions have been confirmed by Syria’s experience, whereas other have been challenged. Three core themes emerge: (i) the threat that inequality and injustice pose to order; (ii) the repeated betrayal of Middle Eastern populations by Western actors; and (iii) the sense that, on balance, throughout history international law has operated to the detriment of the Syrian people. The analysis resurrects many of the age-old controversies that have historically permeated the international relations and international law disciplines, most notably, the ‘order versus justice’ and ‘realism versus idealism’ dichotomies. These controversies need to be rigorously debated in order to determine whether international law can be effectively utilised for progressive ends or whether it is irreparably compromised by its structural bias towards the world’s most powerful actors. Finally, the thesis demonstrates the importance of in-depth knowledge of the relevant historical, political and socio-economic context when responding to complex crises and the potential value of interdisciplinary approaches.
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