Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
September 27, 2022

Yale legal scholar talks international law system

By John Durovsik | March 14, 2013

Harold Koh, a professor of international law at Yale Law School, spoke at Hopkins this past Tuesday on the current state of international affairs, providing insight into his careers concerning U.S. foreign policy and international law.

A former legal advisor to the United States Department of State and the former Dean of Yale Law School, Koh provides a perspective on both the establishment of global codes of law and the current challenges to legal systems worldwide.

Citing experience with the Arab Awakening, 9/11, Guantanamo Bay, Wikileaks and the recent natural disasters in Haiti and Japan, Koh pointed to the rigidity of international law and the inability of governments to react to evolving societies and circumstances as the greatest challenge facing international law.

“Changing situations but unchanging laws [characterize today’s world],” Koh said.

He identified Smart Power, a combination of military, diplomatic, governmental and economic tools, as a potential solution to the current issues that plague the current global legal system.

“The U.S. will have to use a Smart Power approach of engagement, translation and leverage,” Koh said, remarking that this strategy could assuage the tensions between twentieth century laws and twenty-first century problems.

Koh specifically underscored the increasing significance of the changing geopolitical environment and the paucity of laws concerning cyberspace, cybersecurity, and cyberconflict.

Advocating for the establishment of a new forum for lawmaking, Koh concluded by emphasizing the pressures that globalization and an expanding virtual sphere exert upon an outmoded system of law.

Koh’s lecture was extremely well-received by students who attended his presentation..

“In terms of international law and structuralism, what the speaker was talking about is really useful and relevant in today’s world,” senior James Harris, an International Studies major, said. “Having a system of global cooperation and engagement seems to be really important in the current complicated world that we have today”

Senior Zeineb Bouraoui expressed similar sentiments.

“I thought that he dealt with the important questions of international law and especially the fact that we didn’t see all of the law issues in our class,” Bouraoui said. “It was very complimentary with our class and I also really like how he included real-life experiences and what he has done.”

 

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