AJIL at 111.

Author:Alvarez, Jose E.
Position:American Journal of International Law

The American Journal of International Law (AJIL) was launched in January 1907, under the editorship of the indefatigable James Brown Scott, in tandem with the founding of the American Society of International Law (ASIL). After 110 years of being self-published by ASIL, AJIL has embarked on a new era. Starting with this issue, AJIL will be published by Cambridge University Press (CUP). This note is about the transitions AJIL has so far undertaken, both in print and in cyberspace. We sketch some of the changes that have taken place since we assumed the joint editor in chief role in April 2013, and highlight some possibilities for the future, as an invitation to AJIL readers to comment on the changes made and on changes they would like to see utilizing the new technological platform and taking account of shifts in the demography, interests, and needs of practitioners, scholars, and students in all fields concerned with international law. Editorial changes to a publication concerned with public international law should also be informed by different views on changes occurring in the field itself, and we begin with a brief reference to some of these.

In the 1990s, with some of the constraints of the Cold War division lifted and new political dynamics in many countries and regions, a wide array of ambitious international legal projects surged forward on a liberal tide, energizing young people and bringing new horizons for expanding legal elites. This spirit echoed and updated the hopeful sentiments which, in the early 1900s, animated some participants in the establishment of ASIL, including former U.S. Secretary of State Elihu Root, who took an active role in the Society's founding. In the early 1990s some members of ASIL talked of a "new world order" with reinvigorated UN peacekeeping and resurgent regional and global institutions. It was thought that these changes might at last bring to fruition the legalistic goals foreshadowed by successive generations, including Root and his colleagues, as well as those who in the 1940s were "present at the creation" of the UN system. A veto-free UN Security Council might "finally work as intended" to deliver collective security--not only to defend Kuwait against outright invasion, but to protect states and peoples against many kinds of threats. By 1994, the Uruguay Round had transformed a somewhat frail General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade into the thoroughly reformed World Trade Organization (WTO), with compulsory and binding interstate dispute settlement. War crimes tribunals were established, remarkably, by UN Security Council fiat. In the years following, those innovative adjudicative mechanisms were joined by over twenty other new international courts or tribunals--a period of "judicialization" that led to a new interest in the capacity of law to restrain, or at least influence, nations, including, notably, among political scientists. One of us came to describe the new patterns of governance as having the markings of "global administrative law," while others, particularly in Europe, deployed a more general "international public law" frame. Scholar-advocates wrote hopefully of further reforms to international regimes to advance not simply "legalization," or even "constitutionalization," but an aggregate of attributes that together would effectuate the international rule of law, while international institutions like the United Nations and the World Bank, would promote and deepen national "good governance" in pursuit of comparable ends.

In 2017 that era seems long gone. Characterizations such as "authoritarian," "populist," and "illiberal democracy," imprecise or reductionist as they often are, now attach to governmental styles in many great and medium powers. Tensions involving major powers are increasingly widespread and recurrent. United Kingdom voters and their government have opted for an eventual British exit from the European Union, and the EU faces other significant internal and external difficulties. A U.S. president, elected amidst a popular rejection of some standard North Atlantic political positions, has signaled some resistance to many international organizations and regimes, and other electorates may follow. Economic might and geopolitical power have shifted, and the era of North Atlantic dominance has given way to a more diffuse distribution and a...

To continue reading