.Go Global: World governance for no war

By Lawrence S. Wittner

Russia’s war upon Ukraine should be a reminder that violent international conflicts not only persist, but constitute a plague upon the world.

One popular response to war is isolationism, which is designed to keep one’s nation out of the conflict. But this policy (labeled “America First” in the U.S.) ignores the suffering of other people and, of course, does nothing to stop a war elsewhere.

Pacifism is on a higher ethical plane, for it deplores the horrors produced by militarism and war. Furthermore, if most people around the world accepted the absolute pacifist position (which rejects military force in all circumstances), pacifists might be able to prevent wars from occurring or continuing. But this is not the case and, given widespread public support for “just wars” (including defense against invasion), seems unlikely to become so.

Nonviolent resistance has greater potentiality as an alternative to war or surrender, although its full promise has yet to be realized in coping with international war.

Legislative bodies enact laws, while police and judicial institutions enforce these laws. Unfortunately, on the global level, these institutions are so rudimentary and limited in power that they fail to produce an effective check upon violence. Thus, on the national level, governments can restrain violence by individuals, mobs or insurrectionists. But, on the international level, things proceed much as they did in the American Wild West of yesteryear.

In short, while nations have established useful governance at the national level, the world lacks effective governance at the international level. As a result, when nations have an international conflict, they are tempted, in the absence of the force of law, to invoke the law of force.

After thousands of years of blood and plunder, topped off in recent decades by the looming danger of a nuclear holocaust, isn’t it time to give strengthened global governance a try?

Nations of the world unite! There is nothing to lose but wars.

Dr. Lawrence Wittner is professor of history emeritus at SUNY/Albany and the author of ‘Confronting the Bomb.’

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