Requirement 4
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Department of Political Science 

MTSU Library







Read through pages 47-77 in the merit badge book and use the information below to complete requirement 4 on the worksheet.

Do TWO the following:

4.a. Explain international law and how it differs from national law. Explain the role of international law and how international law can be used as a tool for conflict resolution.

Explain international law and how it differs from national law.

International law and national law are the same in one key respect—they are both sets of rules to limit behavior. National law lays out rules for each citizen to follow, i.e., rules on speed limits, against stealing, against assault and murder, and so on. National law, in other words, applies to individuals. International law lays out rules for each country to follow, i.e., rules on fair trade, proper use of the oceans and space, on the use of military force, and so on. International law, in other words, applies to countries.

There are important differences, however, between national and international law. National law is imposed by a government on its citizens and is enforced—if you break the rules you will be arrested, tried, and, if found guilty, punished. International law, by contrast, is voluntarily agreed to by each country. Consequently, there is no effective enforcement mechanism—if a country violates international law, it is not arrested, tried, and punished. In a few extreme cases, violations of international law prompt economic sanctions or military action by other countries, but these instances are quite rare. That said, the vast majority of countries follow international law the vast majority of the time.

What role does international law perform in the international system?

International law plays an important role in the international political system, which is why most countries follow the rules most of the time. International law makes the world less chaotic by making relations between countries more predictable and stable. With international law, for instance, countries know that their diplomats will be safe in other countries, that their commercial ships can travel the oceans unimpeded, that they can export their goods to other countries, and so on. These international rules help each country by reducing uncertainty; there are rules that can be counted on. There are certainly examples of countries choosing to violate or ignore international law, but the world would be much more unstable if international law did not exist.

Describe how international law can be used as a tool for conflict resolution.

International law provides mechanisms for countries to resolve disputes without resorting to war. Countries can voluntarily take their dispute to the World Court—officially, the International Court of Justice—to resolve disputes. Conflicts can also be referred to the United Nation’s Security Council for resolution. The Security Council consists of five permanent members (Russia, France, the United Kingdom, China, and the United States) and ten other countries selected periodically from the UN membership.

International law also provides rules to control how countries behave when they are at war. The Hague Convention establishes standards for how land wars are conducted, the proper and ethical use of new weapons, and the responsibilities of neutral countries. The Geneva Convention lays out rules for the ethical and humane treatment of prisoners of war, the wounded, and civilians caught in a war zone.

Finally, international law establishes crimes in wartime—crime for which individual soldiers and political leaders can later be tried for and punished. “War Crimes” are for gross violations of the accepted rules on the conduct of war (i.e., violations of the Hague Convention). “Crimes Against Peace”    apply if political leaders wage unjustified, aggressive wars. And, “Crimes Against Hunamity” apply for the purposeful extermination of large numbers of innocent civilians.

4.b. Using resources such as major daily newspapers, the Internet (with your parent's permission), and news magazines, observe a current issue that involves international trade, foreign exchange, balance of payments, tariffs, and free trade. Explain what you have learned. Include in your discussion an explanation of why countries must cooperate in order for world trade and global competition to thrive.

To start, you may wish to read the following:  Foreign Exchange, Balance of Payments,  Tariffs, and  Free Trade

Possible sources on current issues (it may take some time to find an appropriate issue, one which involves international trade, foreign exchange, and so on):

    - New York Times
    - Los Angeles Times
    - Washington Post
    - Christian Science Monitor
    - London Times
    - The Guardian
    - The Economist
    - Time 
    - Newsweek  

Again, with your parent's permission, you may use the Internet to search for information from other sources as well.


4.c. Select TWO of the following organizations and describe their role in the international system: (read through their web pages)

·        The United Nations

·        The World Court (International Court of Justice)

·        The World Organization of the Scout Movement

·        The World Health Organization

·        Amnesty International

·        The International Committee of the Red Cross

·        CARE