The psychologist Steven Pinker, in Rationality, writes that “none of us, thinking alone, is rational enough to consistently come to sound conclusions: rationality emerges from a community of reasoners who spot each other’s fallacies.” This could be applied to governments contemplating war. Americans increasingly understand that the United States often engages in violence not for noble purposes like protecting innocents, democracy, and freedom, but rather to protect and grow its economic and global power. Other countries have similar histories. In sum this has cost scores of millions of lives. An important step to ending war (and indeed nations) is to lift its declaration and execution from the national to the international level. With war exclusively in the hands of the international community, the wrongful motives of individual States can be mitigated. It is a little-known fact that the U.S. has already agreed to this.
We can pause here for a few caveats. First, war must be the absolute last resort to any crisis, due to its horrific predictable and unpredictable consequences, its unavoidable traps. It often is not the last resort for individual governments — nor will it always be so for the international community, but the collective reasoning and clash of skepticism and enthusiasm from multiple parties may reduce the foolhardy rush to violence so common in human political history. Diplomacy and nonviolent punitive actions can be more fully explored. Second, this idea relates to both reactions to wars of aggression launched by single States and to observed atrocities within them. If one nation invades another, the decision to repulse the invader must be made by a vote of all the nations in the world, with all those in favor committing forces to an international army. Same for if genocide is proven, among other scenarios. Third, none of this prohibits the last legitimate instance of unilateral violence: national defense against an invading power.
The argument is that the era of the United States as the world’s policeman must end — the world can be the world’s policeman. This writer has long voiced opposition to war and to nations, advocating for a united, one-country Earth (and is in good company: as documented in Why America Needs Socialism, Gandhi, Einstein, Orwell, Dr. King, and many other giants of history supported this idea). Talk of just war and how nations must approach it should not be misconstrued as enthusiastic support for these things; rather, as stated, vesting the power to wage war solely in the international community is a move down the long road to global peace and unity (with one day an equilibrium perhaps being reached wherein no actor risks facing the wrath of the rest of the world). It is far preferable to a rogue superpower invading and bombing whoever it pleases.
The United Nations, of course, needs structural changes to make this possible. The small Security Council can authorize use of force, but its five permanent members (the U.S., the U.K., France, China, and Russia) have veto power, meaning a single country can forbid military action. The decision to use violence must pass to the General Assembly, where a majority vote can decide, similar to how resolutions are passed now. A united army already exists, with 70,000-100,000 UN troops currently serving, gathered from national forces all over the globe, commanded by generals from all over the globe. Like those of any individual country, such as the U.S., UN military ventures have seen defeats alongside great successes. UN forces must be strengthened as their role broadens. Finally, UN member countries must actually abide by the treaty they signed to no longer engage in “the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state” (UN Charter Article 2). This was the entire point of founding the United Nations after World War II. The U.S. signs binding treaties (the U.S. Constitution, in Article 6, makes any treaty we sign with foreign powers the “supreme law of the land”), promising to forsake unilateral action (such as the UN Charter) or torture (such as the UN Convention Against Torture), then ignores them. That is why U.S. actions such as the invasion of Iraq, whether looked at from the viewpoint of U.S. or international law, are accurately labeled illegal. Under a new paradigm, the U.S. and all member States would have to accept that should the General Assembly vote against war, there will be no war — and accept consequences for illegal actions that undermine this vote.
As with a one-nation world, there will be much screaming about this now, but in the future, whether in a hundred years or 1,000, it could easily be taken for granted. The nationalist American mindset says, “If we see evil in the world we’re going in! We won’t get anyone’s permission. We won’t sacrifice our sovereignty or decision-making. America, fuck yeah!” Cooler heads may one day recognize that their own nation can commit evils, from unjust wars to crimes against humanity, making a community of reasoners an important check and balance. If violence is truly right and justified, most of the world will recognize that. New voices may also question why one country should carry (in patriotic theory at least) the brunt of the cost in blood and treasure to make the world safe for democracy and freedom, as is occasionally the case with U.S. military action. Why not have the world collectively bear that burden, if the world is to benefit?