Thursday, September 27, 2018
The Internationalists, by Oona Hathaway & Scott Shapiro
Hathaway and Shapiro marshal literally centuries of evidence to make their arguments, which is necessary considering the size of the argument they're making. The fact that the deadliest of all wars in history happened after the nations involved chose to abolish war significantly undermines the idea that the Paris Peace Pact actually worked, but I think that Hathaway and Shapiro manage to construct a convincing argument that the treaty managed to change at least popular opinions on the legitimacy of war as a tool of political power.
Hathaway and Shapiro divide history into the ''Old'' and ''New'' orders, dating the ''Old'' order back to the 1600s and the work of Hugo Grotius, the Dutch legal scholar credited with first codifying the ideas of international law. Most importantly Grotius developed the framework for just wars which influenced European diplomacy and how Europeans declared war for centuries. As European nations expanded and enforced their legal systems on the rest of the world, the framework that Grotius created spread with them, the most famous example they use being the rapid industrialization of Japan and their adoption of European legal systems to become a member of the club of Great Powers.
Hathaway and Shapiro argue that from 1928 to the beginning of war in 1939 international relations were in a transitional state, where war was outlawed but no effective means of punishing states such as Italy and Japan that invaded and conquered other countries existed. Economic sanctions were attempted but were weakly enforced at best and largely ineffective as a result. The only exception was the sanction on oil to Japan which completely cut of Japan's supply of oil and pushe dJapan to declaring war on the United States in 1941. To use war to punish those who waged aggressive wars was a contradiction that the other signatories to the Paris Peace Pact couldn't stomach and with no other enforcement mechanism the Pact, as well as the League of Nations, proved ineffective.
During World War II the Allied powers, and even before the United States was involved in the war, began organizing general war goals as expressed in the 1940 Atlantic charter. The United States, the United Kingdom, and later signatories declared that this would not be a war of conquest, that the victors would not seek new territory at the end of the war. Instead the Allied powers professed a commitment to the right of self-determination and protection of the sovereignty of independent nations. These ideals became part of the framework of the United Nations with a general admonition against war in general and wars of conquest in specific and Hathaway and Shapiro argue rather successfully that it worked.
Looking at data from 1816 to 2016, Hathaway and Shapiro not only counted the instances of war, but also the transfer of territory from one country to another as the result of war. From 1816 to 1928 the number of wars and the amount of territory transferred through conquest was incredibly high and on average a nation could expect to lose territory to conquest on average once every twenty years. But when you look at the data after 1928, the results are the reverse. While the nations occupied by the Axis powers represents large transfers of territory by conquest, the important thing is that these territories were returned to their previous owners at the end of the war and did not stick. Furthermore, there were additional large transfers of territory but this was through a largely peaceful process of decolonization rather than through wars of conquest. The number of military conflicts that actually resulted in a transfer of land has been infinitely smaller than in the previous century.
However, this has not been all to the good. Hathaway and Shapiro point out that while the likelihood of a state being attacked by its neighbors has become fairly low, the likelihood of a state being riven apart by civil war or other internal conflict has increased significantly. This has allowed terrorism, insurgency, and other forms of asymmetric warfare to flourish. While strong states can control and prosecute criminal violence through police forces and the justice system, weak states often do not have the capacity or ability to end these except through military force, further fueling internal conflict. However, despite the issues Hathaway and Shapiro argue, and I'm inclined to agree, that the decreased likelihood of military conflict between states is a net benefit and while we have problems now, it does not mean we can't work to solve them in the future.
Overall I thought this book was interesting because it looked at something so often ignored or dismissed in major history and makes a pretty strong argument that the Kellogg-Briand Pact was far more influential than we give it credit. If you're interested in legal or political history then this is definitely a book worth taking the time to check out.