In the Shadow of International Law: Secrecy and Regime Change in the Postwar World
Oxford University Press, 2020 Available for pre-order through Oxford University Press and Amazon (Use code ASFLYQ6 for 30% discount at OUP) Secrecy is a staple of world politics and a pervasive feature of political life. Leaders keep secrets as they conduct sensitive diplomatic missions, convince reluctant publics to throw their support behind costly wars, and collect intelligence about sworn enemies.
In the Shadow of International Law explores one of the most controversial forms of secret statecraft: the use of covert action to change or overthrow foreign regimes. Drawing from a broad range of cases of US-backed regime change during the Cold War, Michael Poznansky develops a legal theory of covert intervention to explain why leaders sometimes turn to secret methods when toppling foreign governments, rather than using overt tools to accomplish the same objective. He highlights the surprising role that international law plays in these decisions and finds that once the nonintervention principle—which proscribes violations of sovereignty—was codified in the mid-twentieth century, states became more reluctant to pursue overt regime change unless they had proper cause. Without a legal exemption to nonintervention such as a credible self-defense claim or authorization from an international body, states were more likely to attempt regime change covertly to conceal brazen violations of international law.
Shining a light on the secret underpinnings of the liberal international order, the conduct of foreign-imposed regime change, and the impact of international law on state behavior, Poznansky speaks to the consequences of America abandoning its role as the steward of the postwar order, as well as the promise and peril of promoting new rules and norms in cyberspace.