By John Scales Avery
A “With law shall our land be built up, but with lawlessness laid waste.” Njal’s Saga, Iceland, c 1270 AD
The present United Nations Charter
After the unspeakable horrors of World War II, delegates from 50 Alliednations met in San Francisco California. The purpose of the conference,which took place between 25 April and 26 June, 1945, was to set up aninternational organization that would be able to abolish the institution ofwar. However, the Charter which the delegates produced was too weak toachieve this goal.
In many respects the United Nations has been highly successful. Duringthe 73 years that have passed since its establishment, a world war has beenavoided. The agencies of the United Nations, such as the World Health Organization, the Food and Agricultural Organization, UNESCO and the IPCC,have provided urgently-needed services to the international community. TheUniversal Declaration of Human Rights, and the Millennium DevelopmentGoals have set up norms towards which we can and should aim. Further-more, the UN has provided a place where representatives from many nationscan meet for informal diplomacy, through which many dangerous conflicts have been avoided.
Nevertheless, the United Nations, with its present Charter, has proved to be too weak to achieve the purpose for which it was established – thecomplete abolition of the institution of war. If civil wars are included, thereare, on any given day, an average of 12 wars somewhere in the world. The
task of abolishing war has become extremely urgent since the advent of thermonuclear weapons. The danger that these weapons will be used, throughaccident, technical or human error, or through uncontrollable escalation ofa war with conventional weapons, poses an existential threat to human civi-lization and the biosphere.
The Russell-Einstein Manifesto of 1955 describedour present situation in the following words:
“Here then is the problem that we present to you, stark and dreadfuland inescapable: Shall we put an end to the human race, or shall mankindrenounce war?… There lies before us, if we choose, continual progress inhappiness, knowledge and wisdom. Shall we, instead, choose death becauswe cannot forget our quarrels? We appeal as human beings to human beings:Remember your humanity, and forget the rest. If you can do so, the way liesopen to a new Paradise; if you cannot, there lies before you the risk of universal death.”
Why call war an “institution”?
Because the world spends almost two thousand billion dollars each year onarmaments, it follows that very many people make their living from war.This is the reason why it is correct to speak of war as a social institution,and also the reason why war persists, although everyone realizes that it is
the cause of much of the suffering that inflicts humanity. We know that waris madness, but it persists. We know that it threatens the future survival ofour species, but it persists, entrenched in the attitudes of historians, newspaper editors and television producers, entrenched in the methods by whichpoliticians finance their campaigns, and entrenched in the financial power ofarms manufacturers, entrenched also in the ponderous and costly hardwareof war, the fleets of warships, bombers, tanks, nuclear missiles and so on.
Military-industrial complexes, throughout the world, drive and perpetuate the institution of war. Each military-industrial complex involves a circular flow of money. The money flows like the electrical current in a dynamo,driving a diabolical machine. Money from immensely rich corporate oligarchs buys the votes of politicians and the propaganda of the mainstreammedia. Numbed by the propaganda, citizens allow the politicians to votefor obscenely bloated military budgets, which further enrich the corporateoligarchs, and the circular flow continues.
A World Federation
In order to save the world from destruction in a thermonuclear World WarIII, the United Nations Charter must be reformed and strengthened. Atpresent, the UN is a confederation of absolutely sovereign nation-states. Butin a world of all-destroying modern weapons, instantaneous global communi-cation, and economic interdependence, the absolutely sovereign nation-statehas become a dangerous anachronism.
Furthermore, history has shown confederations to be fatally weak. Forexample, the original United States Constitution was a confederation; but itsoon became apparent that this form of governance was too weak. Instead, afederation was needed. In his Federalist Papers, Alexander Hamilton wrote: “To coerce the states is one of the maddest projects that was ever devised…Can any reasonable man be well disposed towards a government which makeswar and carnage the only means of supporting itself, a government thatcan exist only by the sword? Every such war must involve the innocentwith the guilty. The single consideration should be enough to dispose every
peaceable citizen against such government… What is the cure for this greatevil? Nothing, but to enable the… laws to operate on individuals, in thesame manner as those of states do.”
George Mason, one of the drafters of the Federal Constitution, believedthat “such a government was necessary as could directly operate on individuals, and would punish those only whose guilt required it”, while anotherdrafter, James Madison, wrote that the more he reflected on the use of force,the more he doubted “the practicality, the justice and the efficacy of it whenapplied to people collectively, and not individually.”
At present, the United Nations attempts to coerce states through sanctions; but sanctions are a form of collective punishment, and collective punishment is expressly forbidden by the Geneva Conventions. The worst effectsof sanctions are usually felt by the weakest and least guilty of the citizens,while the guilty leaders are usually unaffected. Besides being a violation ofthe Geneva Conventions, sanctions are ineffective, their only effect being tounite the people of a country behind its guilty leaders.
The success of federations
A federation is a union of organizations to which specific powers are granted,all other powers being retained by the subunits. Historically, federations haveproved to be highly successful and durable.
Besides political federations, many other kinds exist, examples being Universal Postal Union, established by the Treaty of Bern in 1874, and the International Tennis Federation (ITF), founded in 1913.
Examples of political federations include the European Union, the FederalRepublic of Germany, the Swiss Federation, the Russian Federation, theFederal Government of the United States, and the governments of Australia and Brazil.
Laws binding on individuals
In general, political federations have the power to make laws which are binding on individuals, thus avoiding the need to coerce their member states.An effective World Federation would need to have the power to make lawsthat act on individuals. The International Criminal Court is an importantstep towards the establishment of a system of international law that acts onindividuals rather than on states, and the ICC deserves our wholeheartedsupport.
Greatly increased financial support for the UN
A very important step towards strengthening the United Nations wouldbe to give it at least 50 times the financial support that it has today. Atpresent the entire yearly budget of the UN is only 2.7 billion US dollars, aridiculously low figure, considering the organization’s duty to ensure peace, law. human rights, social justice, respect for the environment, human health,and a safe food supply for the entire world. If the financial support of theUnited Nations could be greatly increased, its agencies could perform theirvitally important duties much more effectively. This would give the UNincreased prestige and authority, and the UN would thus be better able to resolve political disputes.
Various method for increasing the money available to the UN have beenproposed. For example, James Tobin, who was Sterling Professor of Eco-nomics at Yale University, and Nobel Laureate in Economics, proposed thatinternational currency transactions be taxed at a small fraction of a percent.He believed that even this extremely small tax would make exchange rates much more stable. When asked what should be done with the proceeds ofthe tax, Tobin added, almost as an afterthought, “Give it to the UnitedNations”. In fact, the volume of international currency transactions is soenormous that even the tiny tax proposed by Tobin would be sufficient tosolve all the UN’s financial problems.
A standing UN Emergency Force
The United Nations is often called on to act quickly in emergency situations,an example being the call for the UN to stop the Rwandan genocide. Itwould be helpful if the UN had a standing armed force which could actquickly in such emergency situations. The force could consist of volunteers from around the world, pledged to loyalty to humanity as a whole, ratherthan loyalty to any nation.
A reformed voting system
In the present UN General Assembly, each nation is given one vote regardlessof size. This means that Monaco, Liechtenstein, Malta and Andorra have asmuch voting power as China, India, the United States and Russia combined.For this reason, UN resolutions are often ignored.
The voting system of the General Assembly should be reformed. Onepossible plan would be for final votes to be cast by regional blocks, eachblock having one vote. The blocks might be. 1) Latin America 2) Africa 3) Europe 4) North America 5) Russia and Central Asia 6) China 7) India andSoutheast Asia 8) The Middle East and 9) Japan, Korea and Oceania.
In a reformed, democratized and possibly renamed Security Council, theveto power would be absent, and final votes would be taken between regionsof roughly equal populations.
Hope for the future
Can we abolish the institution of war? Can we hope and work for a timewhen the terrible suffering inflicted by wars will exist only as a dark memoryfading into the past? I believe that this is really possible. The problem ofachieving internal peace over a large geographical area is not insoluble. It
has already been solved. There exist today many nations or regions withineach of which there is internal peace, and some of these are so large thatthey are almost worlds in themselves. One thinks of China, India, Brazil,the Russian Federation, the United States, and the European Union. Many of these enormous societies contain a variety of ethnic groups, a variety ofreligions and a variety of languages, as well as striking contrasts betweenwealth and poverty. If these great land areas have been forged into peacefuland cooperative societies, cannot the same methods of government be appliedglobally?
Today, there is a pressing need to enlarge the size of the political unitfrom the nation-state to the entire world. The need to do so results fromthe terrible dangers of modern weapons and from global economic interdependence. The progress of science has created this need, but science hasalso given us the means to enlarge the political unit: Our almost miraculousmodern communications media, if properly used, have the power to weld allof humankind into a single supportive and cooperative society.
We live at a critical time for human civilization, a time of crisis. Each ofus must accept his or her individual responsibility for solving the problemsthat are facing the world today. We cannot leave this to the politicians. Thatis what we have been doing until now, and the results have been disastrous. Nor can we trust the mass media to give us adequate public discussion ofthe challenges that we are facing. We have a responsibility towards futuregenerations to take matters into our own hands, to join hands and make ourown alternative media, to work actively and fearlessly for better governmentand for a better society.
We, the people of the world, not only have the facts on our side; we alsohave numbers on our side. The vast majority of the worlds peoples long forpeace. The vast majority long for abolition of nuclear weapons, and for aworld of kindness and cooperation, a world of respect for the environment.
No one can make these changes alone, but together we can do it.Together, we have the power to choose a future where international anar-chy, chronic war and institutionalized injustice will be replaced by democraticand humane global governance, a future where the madness and immorality of war will be replaced by the rule of law.
We need a sense of the unity of all mankind to save the future, a new globalethic for a united world. We need politeness and kindness to save the future,politeness and kindness not only within nations but also between nations.
To save the future, we need a just and democratic system of internationallaw; for with law shall our land be built up, but with lawlessness laid waste.
A freely downloadable book: A new 418-page book entitled “A World Federation” may be downloaded and circulated gratis from the following link.
John Scales Avery, Ph.D., University of Copenhagen