Published 30 October 2017
The contrast between the law of peace and the law of armed conflict is the greatest paradox in international law. On the one hand, international law offers elaborate and highly detailed rules on political and economic cooperation. On the other hand, in situations of widespread violence much of this body of law is replaced by a set of minimum rules dominated by military necessity.
These contradictory paradigms are reflected already in the title of the most classic of books on IL De iure belli ac pacis (1625) by Hugo Grotius. Grotius wrote the book during the 30 Years War, a period of extensive violence in Europe. Perhaps that is why bellum comes first before pax in his title.
Another famous book about War and Peace (1869) is of course the epic novel of that name by Leo Tolstoy. Unlike Grotius, Tolstoy was not a great lawyer and his novel is not a book about international law. In fact, Tolstoy began studying law at Kazan University. But he left the University in the middle of his studies and his teachers described him as "both unable and unwilling to learn".
This unflattering characterization of poor Tolstoy is actually a good description of humankind's involvement with armed conflict. Despite extensive historical experience with the ravages of war, we seem to be both unable and unwilling to learn. We accept armed conflict as a fact of life and actually make provision for it. We know that the next war will be more disastrous than the last one. Yet we spend enormous resources preparing for it.
Investments are particularly vulnerable to armed conflict. They involve long term commitments and cannot thrive under conditions of violence. The impact of armed conflict on investments is dramatic.
A number of cases dealing with this question are under way. Yet, there is relatively little legal scholarship on this topic.
Footnotes omitted from this introduction. This article is an expanded version of the keynote address given at the Conference on 'International Investment Law and the Law of Armed Conflict' in Athens on 5 October 2017. A version will be published in the forthcoming Special Issue of the European Yearbook of International Economic Law 'Investment Law and the Law of Armed Conflict' edited by Katia Fach Gómez, Anastasios Gourgourinis and Catharine Titi.