Why Can't We Outlaw War?

Published: 2021-07-07
1291 words
5 pages
11 min to read
Vanderbilt University
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War is one of the longest-serving and most controversial instruments of foreign policy. In 1928, a signed U.S sponsored treaty apparently renounced war as an arbiter in international affairs. Commonly known as the Kellogg-Briand Pact or the Pact of Paris, this agreement was informed by the idea to prevent another World War; similar to or worse than the first World War. Other ideas that came up in the same breath included the proposal for disarmament and the requirement to cooperate with the League of Nations together with the World Court. The illegalization of the declaration of war failed terribly. Two years later, Japan went to war with China and years later, in 2003, President George W. Bush declared an aggressive war on Iraq. These were obvious violations of the 1928 treaty. Interestingly, no legal actions were taken against these parties. These blatant violations of the Kellogg-Briand Pact are indicators that it is impossible to outlaw war. As such, the technicalities that overshadow the ability of the United Nations to ban wars and the conditions that would otherwise facilitate the enforcement of such a ban are subject to discussion.

The position of the United Nations in the birth of legally binding norms of international law cannot be undermined. It is majorly tasked with encouraging the development of international law. Needless to say, the United Nations is in no position to enact any laws that will govern sovereign states. The creation and implementation of international law depend entirely on the mutual understanding and agreement between or among sovereign states. These rules are accepted as binding in associations between countries. It, therefore, is impossible for the United Nations to pass a law that bans wars. The much that this non-governmental organization can do is to act as a mediator in the negotiations of various binding treaties in a bid to regulate international relations. Accordingly, the Charter of the United Nations in Article 102 indicates the importance of the publication of treaties in fostering transparency and accountability in international relations.

Laws become useless if they cannot be enforced. People continue doing illegal deeds not because of the lack of clearly stipulated requirements but due to the failure of the relevant bodies to ensure that the rule of law is followed to the latter. Without proper reinforcement, it is impossible to outlaw war, and such was the case with the Pact of Paris. The ambiguity of the body that ought to bear full responsibility for the enforcement of the Pact of Paris is to blame for its failure. It is impossible to cite hope as a tool of implementation as was proven in this case. Instead of dedicating a body such as a selected state agency to ensure that the members of the treaty obliged to the law without fail, Kellogg-Briand indicated no sanctions against countries that would violate the pact. Hope informed the decision to rely on the intensity of world opinion and the thirst for diplomacy as being powerful enough to prevent nations from declaring war upon one another. In no time, countries like Italy and Germany exercised aggression and atrocities that bestowed upon the World War II.

Additionally, the law to outlaw war was particularly difficult to enforce because of the lukewarm handling of the term Self-defense.' It failed to document the constituents of a situation that would warrant for self-defense as a reason for aggression. Although it indicated that self-defense was not a justification of war, this was not ruled out completely. Hence, some nations proceeded to act aggressively against their neighbors. Case in point is Japan, who regardless of the fact that she was one of the countries that signed the treaty, invaded Manchuria citing self-defense. In reality, the Chinese posed no threat to the Japanese and were merely victims of a false accusation. According to Japan, Chinese dissidents planted and detonated dynamite on a Japanese-owned railway track inherently triggering war.

Now more than before, it is increasingly becoming impossible to outlaw war because of the greed, arrogance, and selfishness displayed by most of the world leaders. Conflicts between nations are unlikely to end anytime soon, and the decision to settle these legally as stipulated by law and a sense of justice; or to go down the path of aggression lays in the hands of those in power. It is crucial to understand that ordinary citizens can never wish for any form of conflict even on personal levels. It goes without saying that a nations people would not want their country to make war. The buck, therefore, starts and ends with leadership. Self-centered leaders are architects of egotistic policies and offensive schemes that prove to benefit personalities rather than the masses. These gladly hone their instruments of force so that the countries that they represent emerge victoriously after a duel at the expense of its citizens. Since corrupt leaders pay lip service to the rule of law, they ensure that they can never be held accountable for their actions hence the vicious cycle of impunity. It is a no wonder that little is known about the Kellogg-Briand Pact in the current generation. It only surfaces in relevant lectures at the tutors discretion, yet it should have been a revolutionary treaty.

If another of the Pact of Paris is initiated and agreed upon in the coming year, then it should be more than a knee-jerk reaction to a horrible incident. The Kellogg-Briand Pact, though noble, was majorly informed by the adverse effects of the World War I. Next year, the members of the United Nations should outlaw war regardless of the then state of peace within countries. In the treaty, consequences such as prosecution for those found guilty of waging war out to be outlined so that there is no justification whatsoever for going to war. None of the countries that consent to the law to outlaw war should be accorded special treatment in that they are allowed to add clauses that will protect their interests. For instance, it was a mistake to allow the United States to be allowed the right to self-defense as this later created a loophole. It is to say that no particular country should be tasked with establishing and maintaining the set laws as it will be a collective responsibility among member states. All nations will be required to stand on the same moral platform concerning the implications of war. Additionally, the law should impose a ban on the sale of arms. This move will ensure the unavailability of tools that necessitate aggressive wars and instead encourage dialogue and reconciliation. A body should be formed and tasked with the role of law enforcement. If possible, the United Nations International Court of Justice in conjunction with the International Criminal Court should assist this body by upholding international law and offering legal redress. Such are steps in the right direction in ensuring that conflict resolution is antonymous with war.

All in all, the mitigation and eventual cessation of aggressive war among countries is a collective responsibility. The 1928 Kellogg-Briand treaty possibly failed due to the failure to personalize the illegalization of the declaration of war in addition to the lack of goodwill among those in state leadership positions. To crown it all, the lack of a certain enforcement strategy brought the pact to its knees. It, therefore, did not survive long enough to serve its purpose: pacifying aggressions that would result in World War II. However, if history serves as a lesson to the wise, a declaration by the countries of the United Nations to outlaw war need not be doomed like that of its predecessor. Steps such as the selection of the right enforcement bodies and clear consequences for those that would disobey are instrumental in the success of outlawing war.

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