“If law shapes real power, and ideas shape the law, then we control our fate”—a searching analysis of contending views of state violence and warfare.
Signed into law in 1928 and ratified by the U.S. Senate with just one no vote, the General Treaty for Renunciation of War as an Instrument of National Policy effectively outlawed war. It remains in effect. Of course, the treaty, better known here as the Kellogg-Briand Pact, has not had much force. Yale Law School professors Hathaway and Shapiro (Legality, 2013, etc.) work their way through a vast body of data and centuries to examine how such an “internationalist” view of state relations came to be. They begin with the work of Hugo Grotius (1583-1645), a “corporate lawyer” in a time when the concept of the corporation was new, who had to tease out some thorny problems—e.g., is loot gotten in war justly gained? And what of piracy, especially when committed in the name of a corporation? (Grotius’ conclusion: an “employee of a trading company could wage war on his own authority.”) Against this “Old World Order” backdrop, Hathaway and Shapiro chart the development of an internationalist ethic embodied by the United Nations, whose constraints on war are less thoroughgoing than Kellogg-Briand strictly interpreted—for in the place of a no-war stance, a “just war” theory has evolved and is still evolving. Where war was once “the mechanism for solving disagreements between states,” as the authors write, it has been increasingly seen as the act of last resort. However, they add, given the new U.S. administration, that assumption may be outmoded: Donald Trump entered office on an “anti-internationalist platform that promised to restrict the movement of goods and people across borders,” a platform that risks the idea of peaceful cooperation in favor of “zero-sum military competition.”
Rich in implication, particularly in a bellicose time, and of much interest to students of modern history and international relations.