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In some contexts, unwritten norms can be more effective constraints, precisely because they enable a desirable flexibility for dealing with exceptional contexts involving political power. . . . Indeed, advocates of formal legal codification as a solution to problems of political power sometimes trade too easily on an implicit or explicit claim that the only alternative to law is force and chaos. Instead, the alternative to a legal text such as the UN Charter is a world in which limitations on state use of force are left to debate, determination, and enforcement through the system of international relations itself. . . . The choice is between the greater rigidity (and loss of flexibility) that tends to come with formal codification and the greater flexibility (and opportunity for unprincipled exercise of power) that comes from a less text-bound system of general principles of international relations. ... We should ask, for example, whether the multilateral military intervention in Kosovo that eventually took place (or the international intervention that never did take place in Bosnia) would have been easier to bring about - and many more lives have been saved - had the general norm against state use of force or the mechanisms by which collective force was mobilized been left to political debate and practice, rather than being codified into the form of a strong legal rule embodied in the UN Charter. Would a more flexible interpretation of this principle have been easier to achieve if the general "rule" had been left expressed as a norm instead of being turned into a textually embodied, formal rule of international law? . . . First, the Security Council had to decide whether the conditions that justified collective deployment of force were present in the Kosovo context. Second, once the Security Council failed to come to that conclusion, the further decision had to be made whether the collective use of force by NATO, not endorsed by the Security Council, nonetheless complied with the Charter. ... Would collective action to stop the ethnic cleansing in Kosovo have emerged more quickly had the codified provisions of the UN Charter not stood in the way? [Update: I believe roughly a year was spent debating the intervention, including its legality] It is impossible to know, given the relationship between material national self-interest and rule-of-law like considerations in the actions and discourse of states in this area. Would the arguments against intervention have been considered less forceful if the rules of the Charter had not been codified in text but instead existed as softer principles of international relations? If codification of these rules against the use of collective force (except with Security Council authorization, and even then, for perhaps only limited purposes), contributed to inaction or delay in any of these humanitarian contexts in recent years, that would be a serious cost of legal formalization that must be taken into account. Again, remember that we are dealing with relatively exceptional, singular contexts. . . . There is a critical question of whether legalization of norms has, as a dark side, the reduction in flexible interpretation of the underlying norms in new contexts. We ought not to preclude that debate by an overly simple assumption that more law, or more legalization, is always to the good. Perhaps the advantages of general, written rules, despite how over-or under-inclusive they might be - justifies this loss of flexibility; perhaps the relevant actors are likely to be just as appropriately flexible with law as they are with norms. But we need to consider these questions before simply assuming that legalization, clarity, and textual commitment are unadorned virtues.