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Last Updated: 10/13/2009World Peace through Law: Rethinking an Old Theory
James T. Ranney
James Ranney discusses the potential of law to bring about world peace, without submitting the world to a "global government" as such, but through the creation of a UN Peace Force to enforce the decisions of global courts, promote the abolition of nuclear arms, and generally create an atmosphere of global "justice" so that peace may prevail.
World federalists make what they view as an airtight argument for world federalism which runs as follows. There are only two ways to resolve true conflict (conflict that cannot be mediated) at the international level: (1) by war (not such a good idea any more, since WWIII would entail the almost certain extinction of at least our species), and (2) by law. Therefore, they say, choose law. And by “law,” they mean law that is the only kind worth having, enforceable law, enforceable upon individuals, i.e., world law, created by a global legislature and enforced by global courts and global police, unlike the inadequate currently-existing international “law” and the weak system of UN-based collective insecurity that we now have.
This article proceeds on the assumption that while the above syllogistic argument may speak an important truth, there is another possibility, that the “law” in the “world peace through law” formula need not be that of a global legislature, that there are other ways of securing world peace through law, both in the short term and in the long run.
As a former law professor, amateur legal historian, practicing attorney, and on-again off-again world federalist myself, I would like to suggest this: We are already on our way, while scarcely realizing it, to “world peace through law” through the one-step-at-a-time brick-by-brick, law-by-law, norm-by-norm accretion of a body of mere “international law” which is gradually becoming a body of genuine “world law” right before our unsuspecting eyes. And this has been happening even during the recent administration of a U.S. government more scornful of international law and international institutions than any in U.S. history.
What am I talking about? Well first, I am talking about a huge body of international law, built up over several centuries. It is worth looking at a mere “short-list” of the highlights of international law and institutions over the years, to remind ourselves of the progress that has been made, despite the many shortcomings that yet remain.
MILESTONES IN INTERNATIONAL LAW
What the above partial list makes clear is that, starting from the smallest steps, on up through the sweeping changes of the post-WWII years, a growing body of global law of considerable depth and breadth has gradually been accumulated. And while current international law and institutions are weak and ineffective (especially in the area of global security), they have grown stronger, despite the desperate opposition and scorn of the real-politikers. To take one example in the area of international trade: Initially the GATT (1947) operated only upon a consensus decision-making basis. Now, however, as of 1994 the new WTO has precisely the reverse rule: sanctions are now automatic upon a finding by the WTO tribunal in the absence of a consensus blocking them. Similarly, the Law of the Sea Treaty (1982) replaces conflicting power-based claims with a comprehensive rule-based framework to regulate all ocean space (70% of the globe), its uses and resources, from navigation rights to definition of territorial waters and related boundaries to fishing limits and other ocean resources regulation, all enforced via compulsory dispute settlement procedures. Although the Law of the Sea Convention was the result of a number of UN-sponsored conferences, the UN has no direct role in its operation, so that it is free of the P-5 veto in the Security Council. These two examples of “stronger” international law are emblematic of the kinds of evolutionary changes that have taken place and will only continue to occur over time. And gradually, as the edifice of international law becomes more and more impressive and gains greater acceptance, the philosophical debates as to whether international law is really entitled to be called “law” will become of historic interest only, as we awake to the profoundly simple notion that “law” is merely the body of decisions of those empowered to decide controversies or legislate international norms, and that that power can come from mere general acceptance in the real world and need not come from a World Parliament.
It is true, of course, that many of the more recent advances (e.g., the ICC and the Law of the Sea Treaty) have not yet been signed by the United States. This, despite the fact that many in the U.S., such as Ambassador Elliot Richardson, chief U.S. negotiator at the Law of the Sea Conference, and Bill Pace, Convenor of the NGO Coalition for an International Criminal Court, played a key role in their creation. But this will change. America will eventually move beyond the neo-con politics of fear and rejoin the world community. We will also come to realize that the cost of being “World Cop” is something we can no longer afford, with our current financial difficulties hastening this realization.
When that happens, and we (the U.S. and the world) gradually reform a host of international laws and institutions to (1) accord greater respect for human rights, (2) create a meaningful UN Peace Force, evolving into the only acceptable and, eventually, the only possible way of using force at the international level, (3) regulate global trade and finance to foster economic justice worldwide, and (4) institute other reforms long urged by globalists of all sorts, we may find that we have arrived at a place where we have in fact substituted the rule of law for the use of force to resolve international conflict. If and when that day comes, we will have realized humanity’s long-time dream of world peace through law, regardless of whether or not world federalists would want to call it true world federalism and/or world law.
This ongoing historic process, which is gradually turning weak “international law” into enforceable “world law,” is very like the growth of the early common law. In twelfth and thirteenth-century Britain, the common law crimes and torts grew up one by one, gradually converting various self-help mechanisms into Pleas of the Crown and causes of action enforceable in the central royal courts. Similarly, various legal institutions, such as trial by jury and an independent parliament, only gradually came into existence, after much hard work and acts of individual courage and even occasional battles, transforming what were arms of royal power into democratic individual-freedom-enhancing legal institutions. This, it is submitted, is what can happen and will happen and is already happening at the international level.
What will it take? It will of course take more than mere “legal” change. It will take social and political change. It will take increased understanding amongst countries, facilitated by vastly increased exchange programs, twinned-universities, worldwide internet and interfaith exchanges, a sharing of the most precious children’s literature of all cultures, and the like. And since law is merely public sentiment crystallized, each of us has a crucial role to play.
Short-range policy prescription: Assuming that the above theory of long-term social change is correct, what are the practical implications in terms of short-range action plans or at least mid-range (fifty years) strategic vision? For me the answer is simple. I believe that we do need some kind of meaningful UN Peace Force. This could be effectuated via a “Law of the Sea approach,” avoiding the veto problem of the UN Security Council, and without the need to create a global government. All that would be needed is what every criminal justice system needs: “cops, courts, and corrections.” That, plus the critical element of what might be called an Operational Mechanism (left vague on purpose) controlling when and how a UNPF would be committed. This would have to be negotiated over time, and is perhaps the subject of a future article or book. Some will say that I have merely pushed off the problem of global governance unless this key “command and control” issue is resolved in advance. But I think that some kind of procedural mechanism (whether a weighted-voting or qualified-majority or other device altogether) can be negotiated, just like the Law of the Sea Convention was negotiated. And in the short term, we need a UN Emergency Peace Service, the U.S. needs to sign the ICC Treaty, and the current nuclear powers need to dismantle their weapons of mass destruction and disinvest in their nuclear weapons programs.
That is my vision. I do not claim that this is the only way or even the most likely way to a world beyond war. But I believe it is growing more likely every day. We are already reducing nuclear forces down to “minimal deterrence” levels. As we gradually come to view these remaining forces for what they are—illegal and immoral weapons designed to boil, fry, incinerate, and irradiate countless innocent men, women, and children—then we may find the seemingly difficult jump to the zero option less difficult than imagined. The abolition of nuclear weapons, accompanied by reductions in conventional weapons and their restructuring toward “defensive-only” postures (such as fixed anti-tank emplacements, which can be used only defensively), will result in an infinitely safer world. And as we gain greater experience with already-existing UN peace forces, increasing their capacity and competence, we will reach a situation where the normal expectation will be that a UNPF is considered the only proper means of dealing with international conflict. Simultaneously, the expectation will be that such conflict should be subjected to a comprehensive array of international legal dispute resolution mechanisms. At that point, we will have reached the de facto replacement of the rule of force with the rule of law at the international level. Regardless of whether these de facto systems are subsequently converted into de jure systems, with the UNPF becoming the enforcement arm for an all-encompassing system of international justice, the point is that a lasting structure for peace is possible in the near term via a Burkean step-by-step process without having to re-invent the world’s entire political superstructure in one giant leap.
As to possible objections: It is true that a UNPF might be less than perfect. And it might not be (at least initially) precisely the kind of institution that a left-leaning-liberal such as myself would thoroughly approve. But in the real world, it seems that just about nothing is perfect and, in fact, there are disadvantages to almost everything. Further, the fact that a UNPF might at some point be partially co-opted as a good idea by the very neo-conservatives that I have so excoriated does not disturb me. Unless a few ideas of the peace movement are “co-opted,” they will never go anywhere.
It may be said, also, that the above mid-range policy prescription is altogether too minimalist to secure world peace because it neglects social justice. It is true that ways need to be found to address such concerns, not only poverty and healthcare, but also major areas of economic regulation and the environment. And it may be that something on the order of a parliamentary assembly would be a good way to better address such concerns. But just as you cannot have peace without justice, you cannot have much justice without peace. And nothing seems quite so intuitively central to securing world peace as some kind of UN Peace Force.
Finally, it may be objected that there is an alternative and even simpler vision for a peaceful and just future world which is the classic idea of a mere gradual but steady decline in militarism and military spending worldwide, as part of a generalized increase in understanding amongst countries. Just as now the United States would not think of going to war with Canada (any more) and just as Great Britain and France would no longer think of going to war (any more), so too the U.S. and Russia and others may arrive at a similar point of mutual understanding in our joint destinies. And this would be accompanied by the de facto resort to readily available legal dispute resolution systems. Thus, there might not be much need for a UNPF or at least not a large one.
Of course, it is altogether likely that aspects of both visions will prove necessary, each in fact supplementing the other. Indeed, there are many paths to peace, things that we can do, collectively and individually, to secure a safe and sustainable world, but we must “keep everlastingly at it.” For we (America and the world) face a fundamental choice: between what we have been doing for decades--bleeding the private and public sectors white with military spending while in the end inevitably falling prey to the age-old pattern in which individual empires rise and fall--and a whole new paradigm, a whole new world, providing global solutions to global problems in a world without war and with social justice. The choice is ours.
 See, e.g., C. Hamer, A Global Parliament: Principles of World Federalism (1998)(one of the most thoughtful expositions available); Lusky, “Four Problems in Lawmaking for Peace,” 80 Political Science Q. 341 (1965); and G. Clark & L. Sohn, World Peace Through World Law (3d ed. 1966)(the classic work).
 For an excellent overview of the growth and importance of international law, see M. O’Connell, The Power and Purpose of International Law: Insights from the Theory & Practice of Enforcement (2008). For something of a counterbalance to such views, see J. Stone, Of Law and Nations: Between Power Politics and Human Hopes (1974)(hard-headed analysis of some of the limits of international law per se).
 Cf., e.g., Oona Hathaway, “Why We Need International Law: Undoing the Bush Administration’s Damage,” The Nation, 11-19-07, at 35-36 (remarkable internal documents show deep aversion to international law) and Delahunty & Yoo, “Peace Through Law? The Failure of a Noble Experiment,” 106 Mich. L. Rev. 923 (2008). Cf. generally Franck, “The Power of Legitimacy and the Legitimacy of Power: International Law in an Age of Power Disequilibrium,” 100 J. Int’l L. 88 (2006) and P. Sands, Lawless World: America and the Making and Breaking of Global Rules from FDR’s Atlantic Charter to George W. Bush’s Illegal War (2006).
 See Steinberg, “Judicial Lawmaking at the WTO: Discursive, Constitutional, and Political Constraints,” 98 J. Int’l L. 247 (2004) and Zangl, “Judicialization Matters! A Comparison of Dispute Settlement Under GATT and the WTO, 52 Int’l Studies Q. 825 (2008)(also noting increased political independence of the Appellate Body and the use of legal reasoning instead of political bargaining).
generally www.un.org/Depts/los. For a good synopsis of the early history and issues, see Hudson, “The Scramble for the Seas,” Global Report, at 3-8 (Center for War/Peace Studies, v.13 no. 3, 1975).
 This aspect of the Convention is of particular interest. This “Law of the Sea approach”—a functionalist approach keyed to a particular problem and neatly avoiding the constraints of the P-5 veto--could be utilized in other problem areas. See Center for War/Peace Studies, “What Elliot Richardson Thinks,” Global Report, at 1 (No. 4, 1978)(Amb. Elliot Richardson is interviewed by Richard Hudson, and states: “To me the Law of the Sea Conference offers the hope of a major contribution in the building of a global order. It may well be the single most important potential to build it.”
 Some international and some not. See Noah Feldman, “When Judges Make Foreign Policy,” N.Y.Times Magazine, 9-28-08 (nice discussion of two recent U.S. Supreme Court cases where the Court was forced to deal with international law in resolving domestic cases). See also a classic instance: Trial of German Major War Criminals (Goering et al), International Military Tribunal (Nuremberg), Judgment and Sentence (Sept. 30 & Oct. 1, 1946)(Cmd 6964, HMSO, London), at 40: “The law of war is to be found not only in treaties, but in the customs and practices of States which gradually obtained universal recognition, and from general principles of justice applied by jurists….”
 Increasingly, international law has what the German international legal scholar-philosopher Georg Jellinek called “practical validity” (praktische Geltung). See M. Koskenniemi, The Gentle Civilizer: The Rise and Fall of International Law 1870-1960, at 200 (2001). See also J. Goldstein, M. Kahler, R. Keohane, & A. Slaughter, eds., Legalization and World Politics, at 1, 4 (2001)(while eager to disavow any “teleological view,” the authors find that “[i]n many issue-areas, the world is witnessing a move to law.”); Allott, “The Emerging Universal Legal System,” 3 Int’l L.F. 12 (2001); and H. Kelsen, Law and Peace in International Relations: The Oliver Wendell Holmes Lectures, 1940-41, at 145, 149-151 (1942)(argues that natural evolution of law is from courts to legislatures).
 See also Ranney, “How World Federalism Will Likely Come Into Existence,” The Federalist Debate, v. 19 no. 2, p. 13 (June 2006).
 See, e.g., W. LaFave & A. Scott, Criminal Law, at 619 n.3 (1972)(crime of larceny by bailee finally recognized in 1473).
 See generally J. Ranney, Heritage of Our Freedoms (1987 slideshow and coursebook).
 See Bill Wickersham (Draft of speech captioned “The Prevention of Nuclear War” sent to author in 1985, while a law professor teaching “Law and World Peace;” on file with author): “When people tell there is nothing they can do to prevent nuclear war, my usual reply is, ‘Yes, there is something you can do. You can educate yourself and others. Education is an essential ingredient for the solution of any social problem.’ In order for us to free ourselves of the nuclear warfare trap, we obviously have to have social and political change. Social and political change requires attitudinal change. Attitudinal change requires education.”
 See Dwight David Eisenhower (“I like to believe that people in the long run are going to do more to promote peace than are governments. Indeed, I think that people want peace so much that one of these days governments had better get out of the way and let them have it.”); Noam Chomsky (“[Y]ou keep plugging away—that’s the way social change takes place. That’s the way every social change in history has taken place, by a lot of people, who nobody ever heard of, doing work.”); Abraham Lincoln (“Public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without public sentiment nothing can succeed. Hence, he who molds public sentiment goes farther than he who drafts statutes or pronounces decisions. He makes statutes or decisions possible or impossible to be executed.”); and, of course, Margaret Mead (“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that has.”). See also Lawrence Wittner, Confronting the Bomb: A Short History of the World Nuclear Disarmament Movement (2009)(fabulous work of scholarship, including research into once-secret government archives, proving that change comes from ordinary people).
 What I used to call the “three C’s” back when I was a law professor teaching constitutional criminal procedure.
 See generally R. Johansen, ed., A United Nations Emergency Peace Service: To Prevent Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity (2006); www.globalactionpw.org; www.wfm.org; and H. Res. 213 (may be found via www.thomas.loc.gov).
 In addition to the ICC and the International Court of Justice (with compulsory jurisdiction), we may eventually need to resort to the ancient idea of an international equity tribunal of some kind, dispensing pure “equity” in a compulsory arbitration setting (preceded by mandatory mediation). See O’Connell, supra note 6, at 12-13, 31, 46-52, 196 (tracing history of this idea back to Grotius and his predecessors) and Kennedy, “The Move to Institutions,” 8 Cardozo L. Rev. 841, 879-882 (1987)(prior to WWI, many prominent jurists, industrialists, and statesmen favored various forms of “world peace through law”). Also cf. H. Kelsen, Peace Through Law, at 49 (1944)(a Central American Court of Justice was created by a treaty signed on December 20, 1907 between Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Salvador which provided for compulsory arbitration of “all controversies…of whatsoever nature”; it came to an end in 1918, after hearing only a few cases [www.pict-pcti.org/courts/CACJ/html]). On the other hand, it is possible that a reformed (veto-less) Security Council could handle such matters. A third possibility is that a reformed Security Council could have the option of referring such issues to an equity tribunal or to the ICJ with an added jurisdiction to sit specially as an equity tribunal.
 See generally www.projectfornuclearawareness.org; www.globalzero.org; and www.iiss.org/events-calendar/2008-events-archive/September-2008/press-launch-abolishing-nuclear-weapons (conference at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on “Abolishing Nuclear Weapons,” Sept. 22, 2008). Also cf. R. Rhodes, Arsenals of Folly: The Making of the Nuclear Arms Race (2007)(very important book).
 See Granoff, “Nuclear Weapons, Ethics, Morals, and Law,” 2000 BYU L. Rev. 1413 (2000).
 This is not the place for an extended discussion of what a good UNPF would look like (although obviously it would need to be able to respond timely to diverse challenges in appropriately diverse ways, with fully-equipped well-trained crème de la crème officers and troops with access to adequate logistics, intelligence and communications, operating under well-organized and well-coordinated command and control and a clear mandate). Also, the emphasis upon a UN peace “force” does not imply a too-ready resort to force. On the contrary, this must be a “peace and reconciliation” force that makes full use of conflict resolution and other non-violent approaches (e.g., something like the existing Non-Violent Peaceforce should be either a part of a UNPF or available to it).
 E.g., one can already foresee the objection that a UNPF might look too much like an overgrown NATO. Cf. Marischka, “How Ban Ki-moon subjugated the UN to NATO,” Informationsstelle Militarisierung (June 1, 2009)(www.imi-online.de/2009.php3?id=1925)(largely unnoticed document of 23 September 2008 signalling cooperation between UN and NATO objected to by Transnational Foundation for Peace & Future Research on several very good grounds).
Serafino, “The Global Peace Operation Initiative: Background and Issues for Congress” (Congressional Research Service; March 19, 2009)(even Bush Administration favored multilateral peacekeeping and stabilization forces).
 See John Logue, “Grotius, Justice and World Federalism,” in Asser Instituut, International Law and the Grotian Heritage, at 253-56 (1985)(classic arguments along these lines).
 See, e.g., Economist, May 6, 2006, at 58 (“Holes in the net”)(since shopping for low tax rates is no crime, multi-national corporations escape paying billions in taxes); The Week, May 8, 2009, at 13 (“Where money goes to hide”)(tax havens worldwide hold estimated $12 trillion in assets and allow 83 of USA’s 100 largest companies to avoid paying an estimated $100 billion a year in tax revenue); Stiglitz, “A Real Cure for the Global Economic Crackup,” The Nation, July 13, 2009, at 11 (preview of upcoming UN report on global economic reforms needed); Kennedy, “The Mystery of Global Governance,” in J. Dunoff & J. Trachtman, Ruling the World? Constitutionalism, International Law, and Global Governance, ch. 2 at 59 (2009)(“Speaking loosely, and to put it in the starkest terms, with economic globalization and the continued loss of public capacity, large swaths of the world will, in twenty years, have whatever social security system, whatever environmental regime, whatever labor law, whatever wage rate, prevails in China.”); Garten, “The Case for a Global Central Bank,” Business Week, Sept. 28, 2009, at 83; and Bernstein, “A Major Swipe at Sweatshops,” Business Week, May 23, 2005, at 98. See generally P. De Senarclens and A. Kazancigil, Regulating Globalization (2007).
 Cf., e.g., J. Speth and P. Haas, Global Environmental Governance (2006).
 Compare, e.g., Falk & Strauss, “On the Creation of a Global Peoples Assembly: Legitimacy and the Power of Popular Sovereignty,” 36 J. Int’l L. 191 (2000) with P. Kennedy, The Parliament of Man: The Past, Present and Future of the United Nations, at 215 (2006)(“It’s a lovely, idealistic proposal, but it’s destined for the dustbin of history.”) and Kennedy [David], “Speech: Assessing the Proposal for a Global Parliament: A Skeptic’s View,” 13 Widener L. Rev. 395 (2007).
 See L. Bloomfield, et al, International Military Forces: The Question of Peacekeeping in an Armed and Disarming World (1964)(still the best discussion of the pros and cons of a permanent international peace force to accompany disarmament, tracing origins of idea to a 1910 congressional legislative proposal and, later, to a 1960 proposal by Secretary of State Christian Herter; also discusses how it might be accomplished shy of creating a world government); E. Boulding & R. Forsberg, Abolishing War, at 14, 57-60, 67-68 (1998); Clark and Sohn, supra note 2; Ranney, “Beyond ‘Minimal Deterrence’—An Approach to Nuclear Disarmament,” 4 Journal of World Peace 18, 19-20 (Spring, 1987); and Ranney, supra note 9 at 13 nn. 6-10 (noting websites re a UNPF).
 As hard as it is right now to envision reconciliation with our current worst enemies, I believe that we will eventually see precisely that, especially as there is a decline in what may be called religious extremism, on all sides. This will be the culmination, worldwide, of the Age of Reason. Cf. T. Paine, The Age of Reason (1794)(devastating attack on organized religion, in particular the divinity of Christ, while arguing for existence of God). Cf. also www.strategicforesight.com (fabulous organization working on an “inclusive world”); Mishra, “The Misunderstood Muslims,” Review of Books, 11-17-05, at 15-16 (reviewing books arguing that religious and gender rights reform is already under way in most of the Muslim world); K. Armstrong, The Battle for God: Fundamentalism in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (2000)(the author in 2008 called for creation of an interfaith Charter of Compassion devoted to shared moral priorities to foster greater global understanding); I. Manji, The Trouble With Islam Today: A Muslim’s Call for Reform in Her Faith (2008)(arguing for a return to the original Muslim emphasis upon critical thinking); Z. Karabell, Peace Be Unto You: The Story of Muslim, Christian, and Jewish Coexistence (2008); and R. Wright, The Evolution of God, at 437-442 (2009).
Mr. Ranney is a 1969 graduate of Harvard Law School (and University of Wisconsin, 1966), with prior experience as an assistant district attorney (Philadelphia, 1970-1976), law professor (University of Montana, 1977-1987)(constitutional criminal procedure; legal history; and peace studies seminar); University Legal Counsel (1987-1988); and private solo practice (Missoula, Montana and Philadelphia, PA)(criminal law; employment law; and class actions). He left a very successful law practice in order to return East to do more and better work on the peace issue. He founded or co-founded the Jeannette Rankin Peace Center; Montana Lawyers for Peace; and Global Constitution Forums.