Non domandarci la formula che mondi possa aprirti,
sì qualche storta sillaba e secca come un ramo.
Codesto solo oggi possiamo dirti,
ciò che non siamo, ciò che non vogliamo.
Eugenio Montale, ‘Non chiederci la parola’, in Ossi di Seppia (1923)
In this paper, by identifying some deep differences between domestic and international law, I shall present some arguments about what international law is not, and about what its key players do not want. If I am right, there is a risk that some discourses on international law – those that underestimate these differences – sacrifice neutrality on the altar of an ideological pursuit or are, at the very least, victims of irrational hope.
Of course, the fact in itself that a theory has a normative goal is not a problem at all. The problem arises when the line between description and prescription is blurred. Statements about actual law lose all pretension to scientificity if there is an evident mismatch with the reality they pretends to pur...