Emmanuelle Jouannet, in the European Journal of International Law, discusses “one of the central recurrent questions in international law: the relation between the universalism of certain of its principles and the possibility that they are imperialist in nature”. She argues:
The paradox of international law will never be definitively overcome, because international law is intrinsically paradoxical. It is paradoxical because it is both one and the other, it is an instrument for universalization and a reflection of ambivalent particularities; a means of domination and a space for cooperation and emancipation.
If you like that sort of thing, then do tuck in. But it reminds me of a part of the UN Charter that gets very little notice.
Amid all the talk of universal internationalism and respect for the sovereignty of member states, article 2.6 takes quite a different view of non-member states:
The Organization shall ensure that states which are not Members of the United Nations act in accordance with these Principles so far as may be necessary for the maintenance of international peace and security.
Or ‘we will force them to do what we want, subject to our saying that we really really need to’. This is, in principle, the greatest imperialistic claim ever made – although the original intention was merely to keep the losers of World War II (not founder members) on notice to behave themselves.
As UN membership has grown, the significance of this has shrunk. We do, though, collectively retain the right to bomb the crap out of the Vatican, should we feel the need. They also have plans for world domination, I’m led to believe.