Sunday, May 14, 2006

Global Governance ... DUH!

Government implies the power of making laws. It is essential to the idea of a law, that it be attended with a sanction; or, in other words, a penalty or punishment for disobedience. If there be no penalty annexed to disobedience, the resolutions or commands which pretend to be laws will, in fact, amount to nothing more than advice or recommendation. This penalty, whatever it may be, can only be inflicted in two ways: by the agency of the courts and ministers of justice, or by military force; by the COERCION of the magistracy, or by the COERCION of arms. The first kind can evidently apply only to men; the last kind must of necessity, be employed against bodies politic, or communities, or States.

It is evident that there is no process of a court by which the observance of the laws can, in the last resort, be enforced. Sentences may be denounced against them for violations of their duty; but these sentences can only be carried into execution by the sword. In an association where the general authority is confined to the collective bodies of the communities, that compose it, every breach of the laws must involve a state of war; and military execution must become the only instrument of civil obedience. Such a state of things can certainly not deserve the name of government, nor would any prudent man choose to commit his happiness to it.

Alexander Hamilton, The Federalist Papers

Yet that is the state of Global Governance today. The point that Hamilton is making is that laws must impinge directly on the individual, if they do not, then whatever sanctions are to be brought to bear, must be brought to bear on entire polities, or states. In the case of Iraq, because of the actions of one man, an entire nation continues to endure horrific daily punishment. Life, without parole.

Hamilton knocks it out of the park with this summary. Of course, he was talking about the United States in the period shortly after the revolution, not the world today, the point though is just as relevant.

In my fractious discussions with Americans, I frequently refer to the Federalist Papers, because that good old-fashioned Yankee common sense sometimes does get through. Hamilton was right of course, as evidenced by the relentless procession of minor wars we have endured despite the creation of the UN in 1946. The UN has failure in it's genes, because it punishes the state and not the individual.

Americans will frequently argue, that the world is too disparate culturally to endure a system of overarching law, and this is a compelling point. In a world with liberal democracies and sharia law living side by side, it is clear that significant conflicts could develop. So what to do?

Luckily we have some examples to draw on, specifically the EU. Subsidiarity is a term you hear used a lot in Brussels, it basically means that local matters should be handled ... well ... locally. This is clearly the way that this needs to be dealt with. In fact, we have made a start already. The International Criminal Court at The Hague deals with serious war crimes and genocide, the really bad stuff.

In these cases individuals can be accused and tried for these very serious crimes. However, that should just be the beginning. War clearly represents the most radical sundering of the fabric of society that can be imagined, as such, it's undertaking has to be considered very seriously, and those that choose this route, must be held accountable by an independent authority. Basically in my book, every act of war should be answered for in court.

The perceived, and frequently misguided national interest of a fraction of the global population can no longer be allowed to trump the survival of the entire human species. For that is what is at stake. For example, an attack on Iran by the US, even if sanctioned by the UN security council, could go wrong so horribly, and in so many dreadful ways, that the hawkish UK foreign minister Jack Straw considered the idea .... "nuts". A pithy, information packed sound bite, even for a politician.

It is clear from history, that there are a few scattered examples of "just" or unavoidable wars. The 2nd World War is perhaps the most deadly example. Therefore, and perhaps as a stepping-stone to an eventual peaceful world, the option for war must be left on the table. Those who take that route however, must come without their armies, and stand trial when summoned by the court.

So forget the idea of a monolithic global government reaching into the lives of ordinary citizens and tinkering with the machinery of their day-to-day existence. That too is "nuts". This is not what is needed, and it is likely that such an edifice would cause more violence than it prevented. What are required are clear-cut laws and penalties with regard to war, which impinge directly on the individuals engaged in declaring, conducting and leading the war effort, not the nation state, or the general citizenry.

So for example, Saddam Hussein and George Bush should both be tried for the Iraq War. Clinton should be tried for the war in Serbia, and practically everyone with any significant position of leadership in Dafur should be tried for what is currently transpiring there.

The question of course arises, who will bell this cat? Who will sign up to such a restrictive arrangement? How will it be policed? I'm guessing the small countries will be lining up to sign it. Ireland, Norway, Sweden, Belgium ... the list is large. Small countries are at much greater risk in a lawless world than large countries, and a critical mass could emerge that way.

How will it be policed? Peacefully of course. If a country has signed up to the treaty/law/global codex, if their leadership then engages in war, a summons will be issued to the relevant individuals, and they are bound to appear at the court. If they do not, a global arrest warrant will be issued, and all the police forces of all the signatory nations will be obliged to detain the parties referenced in the warrants. These are all very familiar law enforcement methodologies, and we have already seen some minor examples play out. Pinochet's near miss in the UK is perhaps the most obvious one. Also the various Balkans ICC defendants who have been in hiding for years, and can no longer safely move beyond the borders of their home states for fear of arrest.

As countries sign up, and as those around them sign up, military budgets may fall. If you live in a good neighbourhood with excellent policing and low crime, why would you spend good money on bars, gates, bodyguards and complex alarm systems that will never be required? The money would be much better spent on building that extension, or replacing those single glazed windows, or installing that expensive, but energy efficient heat exchange system for the hot water tank.

Humanity collectively spends $1 Trillion (this figure, incredibly excludes the cost of the invasion of Iraq) a year on weapons. This represents not just an initial theft from the global purse, but these same weapons when used, frequently destroy capital items that are valuable, expensive and time consuming to rebuild. Power stations, dams, water treatment plants, schools and hospitals. The initial cost of weapons production is merely the tip of the iceberg, the military globally represents the most dramatic example of the "multiple whammy", more bang for your buck indeed. The human cost is of course incalculable.

War will be hard to stop, certainly in the short term. However we must continue to make the effort. At the end of each cataclysmic conflict, we seem to take a few more steps forward, the survivors crying "never again". Yet eventually the lesson is unlearned, that generation dies, and the willingness to resort to war begins to build. That could be the conveyor we are currently on, and we may once again be reaching the peak of the cycle. So what now?

The choice is simple. We can either wait for the impetus to be a war that slaughters millions, hope we survive, and pick up the pieces. Or we can take action now. Agree the laws now. Enforce the laws now. The choice is ours, lets hope there will be a future humanity to judge our actions.

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