On the Law of Nationsnby Daniel Patrick MoynihannCambridge and London: HarvardnUniversity Press; 224 pp., $22.50nO n the Law of Nations is a powerfulnbrief in favor of what thenUnited States Supreme Court in 1900ndeclared to be “the customs and usagesnof the civilized world.” (In PaquetenHabana, the highest court declaredninternational law to be “part of ournlaw” and therefore binding upon thenAmerican government and uponnAmerican citizens. Article One, SectionnEight of the Constitution givesnCongress the power to punish “Offensesnagainst the Law of Nations.”)nBy “international law,” Moynihannmeans the evolving customs and writtennlegal obligaHons defining internationalnrelations and preventing thosenrelations from becoming entirely arbitrary.nWhat makes this brief particularlyncompelling is Moynihan’s honestynregarding the obstacles to achieving hisngoal.nDespite his stated admiration fornWoodrow Wilson, for example, Moynihanncites the policies of PresidentnWilson and of his secretary of state,nRobert Lansing, in order to underscorenthe difficulty of applying internationalnlaw fairly. Though Wilson’s appeal tonCongress for war against Germany onnApril 2, 1917, invoked internationalnlaw, Wilson and Lansing had schemednto bring about American involvementnin the conflict. They had filtered publicninformation through governmentnagencies and had drawn the Cermansninto peace negotiations in Decembern1916, while urging the British andnFrench to remain intransigent. Moynihannnotes that both American geopoliticalninterests and the cultural biases ofnthe Eastern establishment predestinednPaul Gottfried is a professor ofnhumanities at Elizabethtown Collegenin Pennsylvania.n34/CHRONICLESnPeaceable Kingdomsnby Paul Gottfriedn’The consent of all nations is the law of nature.”n— Ciceronthe United States to incline toward thenAllied side. But the struggle in Europenwas between constitutional monarchiesn(England against Germany and Austria-Hungary),nnot, as it was depicted,nbetween besieged democrats and aggressivenmilitarists. And Wilson’s allegationsnconcerning violations by Germanynof international law were bothnhypocritical and hyperbolic, given theninsincerity of America’s claim to neutralitynand the rough moral equivalencenthat could be demonstrated betweennthe two sides.nnnThroughout the book Moynihanntakes the position “pacta servandansunt,” which holds that civilized states,nlike civil individuals, should keep thosenobligations they publicly accept. He isntherefore troubled that the UnitednStates encroached upon the sovereigntynof the British Commonwealth,nwhich it claims to recognize, by invadingnGrenada. He is also disturbed thatnAmerican Presidents now take militarynactions against foreign powers withoutndeclarations of war and without seri-n•o ously consulting Congress. Neither in-n5 ternational conventions nor constitu-n-g tional restraints are currently permittedn2 to stand in the way of American forgneign policy. Moynihan bristles at an< statement by Robert Bork, made onnthe eve of the Panama invasion, thatn”by eliminating morality from its calculus,ninternational law actually makesnmoral action appear immoral.” Then”moral action” that Bork was justifyingnwithout reservation was “restoring democracynand freedom” to people whonhad lost them. Bork was explainingnwhy the United States was morallynobligated to ignore the sovereignty ofnother states whose behavior it foundnobjectionable.nMuch in Moynihan’s brief shouldnplease authentic conservatives and,nconversely, drive neoconservatives upnthe wall. Despite his past as a ColdnWar liberal and his occasional Wilsoniannaberrations, Moynihan (at least innhis latest book) takes views on foreignnpolicy similar to those of ThomasnFleming and Murray Rothbard. Mynown notions of sovereignty beingnHobbesian rather than Jeffersonian, Infor one would have no strong objectionnagainst a chief executive taking militarynaction without consulting Ted Kennedynand Howard Metzenbaum, providingnalways that two conditions be obtained:none, that there must be annobvious danger to the safety of thenAmerican people; and two, that thenuse of force must be justifiable in termsnof public security, not by pointing to an