For as long as mankind remembers, the world has functioned on the basic principle of Might is Right.
If you were a powerful state that wanted to acquire a piece of land that belonged to another state, you were legally permitted – rather obligated – to oppress, enslave, murder, maim, and loot people of that state.
The law of the land stated that the war you were waging was a just war and that Might made everything Right.
License to Kill
Empires and nations always had the license to kill. The lives of people were dispensable when it came to gaining a few extra acres of land.
Hugo Grotius drafted an international law that made it legally permissible for nations to enforce national policy or territorial rights by declaring war through the use of armed forces on other nations and killing thousands to that end.
Over the subsequent centuries, as more and more lawmakers came to the fore, little changed. One of the big upgrades made to the old law was the adding of the law of neutrality.
By this law, as a nation that was not involved in an armed conflict between two nations, you were bound by law to observe neutrality, i.e. not discriminate between the two warring parties, regardless of who you thought was the aggressor and waging an unjust war between the two.
This not only meant that you couldn’t send your troops in support of one country, but you were also not permitted to trade goods that would be of assistance to any one of the two countries at war.
Murder, when committed in the interests of your country, was legal. Granted, the rights of this nature did undergo a lot changes, but a lot of people got away with a lot of crime because they were committed to “serve the nation.”
For this generation though, all of that only belongs in archives and history books.
Today is the Best and Most Peaceful Time in Human History
Despite what the world’s leading intellectuals want you to believe, the world we live in today is the most peaceful than in any given moment in history.
We don’t even have a Cold War going on now, the one that followed the Second World War and lasted for decades. Remember that bi-polar world where United States and Russia called all the shots?
Pick any time in human history and you will find that for the people who lived through that time, armed conflicts were a way of life.
In the thousands of years of civilization, states have always been at war with each other, killing thousands without even being provoked was done just as a show of power.
The last 70 years, owing to the persistent efforts of some of the finest legal minds in history, have been revolutionary.
Now, before you scoff at me to remind me of tragedies of the scale of the Syrian war, Cold War between by Soviet Union and Germany – the heads of the bi-polar word of that era – up until the 90s, the internal and external conflicts that continue to ravage various parts of the Middle East, let me clarify something at the outset:
Here, I’m making a case that Y<X, which is not the same thing as me implying Y=0. If you compare the scale and frequency of wars waged before 1945 to the ones that have taken place since until the present-day, you will find Y to be just a tiny little dot on a giant canvas that is X, in Color Red.
You might be quick to point out that war ended because of democracy, global free trade, and nuclear weapons, but what if I told you these are not the causes that ended war but rather the consequences of the world without war.
Oona Hathaway’s The Internationalists details that one event that marked the beginning of the end of wars between states.
The Outlawry of War by Kellogg-Briand Peace Pact of 1928
It all began on a hot and humid day on 27 August, 1928 in Paris. Fifteen nations signed a Peace Pact to make war illegal, and over the course of the next 5 years, 48 more nations came aboard.
As per what’s known as the Paris Peace Pact or Kellogg-Briand Pact, any country that would go to war after signing the agreement would have to bear the consequences – for example, global isolation, imposing of economic sanctions by other countries, giving up of their conquests, etc. Essentially, all the signatories officially renounced the use of war as an instrument of national policy.
Wait, didn’t the World War 2, unarguably the deadliest armed conflict in the known history of mankind, happen After this Peace Pact? So, how then in the holy hell was this pact not more useless than a white crayon?
Glad you asked. Let’s explore the question and its possible answer.
Despite WW2, Why Should Peace Pact of 1927 Still be Considered a Success?
Outlawry of war as initiated on 27 August in the year 1927 did not work at the time. However, it closed the lid on the Old World Order, making way for the New World Order. That was as important a change as any.
Oona Hathaway sums it up perfectly:
“When seeking change, it is simply not enough to pass a law and expect everyone to comply. No political endeavor escapes the need to make laws binding through governmental power. Legal revolutions do not end with the passing of a law. They begin with them.”
To reinforce the point the quote is making, a law written down on a legal document and signed duly by multiple parties doesn’t end a crime. It simply outlaws it. This outlawry has then to be enforced and reinforced in the real world until everyone, especially the perpetrators and criminals, start to not just notice but also fear the law. That’s when the complying will happen.
The peace pact set in motion a series of events that took place over the next 20 years and culminated in the castigation of the Axis Powers compromising of Germany, Italy and Japan and, more importantly, the inception of United Nations.
These events, which ensued while WW2 was underway, were empowered at every step of the way by scholars and dedicated-to-peace individuals who spent days, nights, months, years and decades to draft a host of treaties and legal documents, each an improvement over its predecessor.
Hersch Lauterpacht was one of the names most prominent among those who made the impact. Apart from writing a host of books, he also assisted in the prosecution of the defendants from Axis Powers at the Nuremberg trials.
Outcasting Nation States that Don’t Comply With International Law
Over the years, one of the most successful measures – in terms of its effectiveness for make nation states comply without the need to enter into an armed conflict – has been political outcasting through sanctions on the belligerent.
This implied enforcing, in particular, trade and economic sanctions on countries that violate the international law by invading parts of other countries.
One of the most noteworthy example is of Russia invading Crimea in February 2014.
What exactly is Outcasting in International Law and Politics?
As mentioned, it is the isolating of national states, or specific firms, or even specific individuals, who are responsible for violating a nation’s sovereignty.
Where do you read all of it?
To read more about the contributions of Hersch Lauterpacht, and what other lawyers, writers and lawmakers brought to the table in context to the Kellogg-Briand peace pact of Paris in 1928, and further deep dive into the history of war, get your copy of The Internationalists by Oona Hathaway and Scott J. Shapiro.
In Steven Pinker’s words, “It will change the way you remember the 20th century and read the news in the 21st.”
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