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Islamic Law and International Law: Peaceful Resolution of Disputes. By Emilia Justyna Powell. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2020. Pp. xiv, 314. Index.
American Journal of International Law  (IF3.091),  Pub Date : 2020-10-01, DOI: 10.1017/ajil.2020.55
Beth A. Simmons

practice would have been useful, particularly in evaluating how their authority to interpret— and their agenda in applying—treaties differ from states (the authority and agenda of international courts is not, for example, that of a state party, even assuming both operate in good faith). That said, Nolte does recognize actors’ perceptions of treaties can change quickly and that we “may be facing another major crisis” (id.). He concludes with a call for more attention to treaties, asking if it is time to seek “stronger swords” or consider substitutes—“informal, specific, and short-term arrangements in an electronically accelerated and interconnected world” (pp. 236–37). Treaties and Their Practice is a significant and useful intervention in a field where treaty lawyers have long lived with myopia. It offers a welcome, nuanced, and broad-ranging evaluation on how international lawyers can—and should—evaluate treaties. Its ambit stretches well beyond the VCLT’s confines, without diminishing the importance of that canonical text. Nolte does not, however, overclaim; his case studies are not meant to be representative of all treaties, let alone a diagnosis of international law generally (p. 24).12 As such, he leaves room for diagnostic tools beyond treaty practice. Indeed, his closing suggestion that we evaluate alternatives to treaty-making hints at one such approach—comparing states’ use of treaties and political commitments.13 Alternatively, studying treaty functions would add another perspective for evaluating them. Nolte’s story of Ulysses, for example, gives value to “constrictive” agreements, restricting Ulysses’s (and states’) freedom of action. But Ulysses’s story did not end with the Sirens. He had other adventures that did not involve proscribing his own behavior, such as he and his crews’ innovative escapes to freedom (e.g., from the cyclops Polyphemus) or difficult decisions on limiting losses (e.g., in steering toward the monster Scylla to avoid Charybdis). In short, Treaties and Their Practice may mark the beginning of a longer odyssey for treaty lawyers. Ulysses’s odyssey ultimately brought him back home. Where this one takes us remains to be seen.