International and Comparative Law Quarterly

Research Article


Colm Campbell*


The hegemonic position of the United States, and its implication for international law, are rapidly emerging as sites of intense scholarly interest.1 It is a truism that the fall of the Berlin wall has been followed by a period of unprecedented American predominance in the military, economic, and political spheres. Replacing the bi-polar certainties of the Cold War is a world in flux, dominated, to a significant extent, by one remaining superpower, or, in the words of the former French Foreign Minister, Hubert Vedrine, by a ‘hyperpower’. 2 Some though, have emphasised the continuing importance of other loci of (lesser) power in a ‘uni-multipolar’ world.3 That this domination posed critical questions for international law was obvious well before the 9/11 atrocities, as the debate over NATO's use of force in Kosovo illustrated. Since the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and with the global ‘war on terror’ reaching into ever-increasing spheres, the debate has intensified significantly.


* Colm Campbell, Professor of Law, Transitional Justice Institute, University of Ulster (UU), Northern Ireland (email: <>. The research for this paper was conducted while the author held the post of Visiting Senior Research Fellow, at Jesus College, Oxford, and was assisted by the award of Senior Research Fellowships by the British Academy and the Leverhulme Trust. I am grateful to Professor Colin Warbrick of the University of Durham, to Professor Fionnuala Ní Aoláin (UU), and to Professors Richard English and Adrian Guelke of the School of Politics and International Studies (QUB), for their comments on earlier drafts. Responsibility for the views expressed and for any errors that may remain is my own. I am also grateful for the superb contribution of my Research Associate Ita Connolly (UU), and to Martin O'Brien, former Director of the Committee on the Administration of Justice, Belfast, for permitting access to the Committee's archives of international legal material in relation to Northern Ireland, and for making available his excellent unpublished LLM thesis, ‘Northern Ireland at the United Nations’, 1960–1996, Queen's University Belfast (1996) (hereafter O'Brien, Norihern Ireland).