Peace Not a Pool Game

By Hanna Newcombe

In the August 1990 issue of Peace Magazine, I gave some reasons why collective security was not an appropriate way to respond to international crises, even if the aggressor could be clearly pinpointed as was the case with Saddam Hussein. I propose to add another reason for progressing beyond the collective security system to a truly new world order.

Collective security is based on the old and obsolete "billiard ball model" of sovereign nation states. Ball A rolls on the table, hits ball B, which bounces off to hit ball C...Eventually, through the causal chain of events, a ball falls down a hole, and someone is declared victor.

This picture of the world is no longer true. There are many other kinds of "actors" on the international scene besides nation states: intergovernmental organizations such as the U.N., E.C., OAS and NATO; non-state nations such as the Palestinians, the Kurds, the Armenians, the Macedonians; non-governmental organizations such as the Red Cross, Amnesty International, Greenpeace, the churches, labour unions, the Mafia-good and bad as in all human creations.

Participants in the Gulf War included not only Iraq, Kuwait, the U.S., the other Coalition states, and Iran, but also the U.N. ( insofar as it was genuinely independent ), the Kurds and the Shiites. The PLO , whose credibility and status changed drastically as a result of their supporting Saddam Hussein, was implicated, as were millions of people affected by the war's ecological disasters . Scientists have predicted that monsoon rains, and therefore crops, in Pakistan may be affected.

In considering a proper response to future crises, we should abandon the "crime and punishment" mentality and adopt a stance of consequential ethics in which we are responsible for all the foreseeable consequences of our actions-political, social, ecological, economic. We can no longer simply respond to some dictator's past actions, the way a billiard ball responds to an impact from behind. We must look to the future as agents of our own history.

When Grotius formulated the principles of international law in the 17th century, it was an advance in the history of thought. Further elaborations of this system have led us to many treaties, customs, conventions and covenants which now regulate relations among nations. The World Courts and the United Nations were created to deal only with nation states. The system must be widened to something that might be called world law rather than international law, a system that would correspond to reality and that would be better suited to secure our future.

Peace Magazine Sep-Oct 1991

Peace Magazine Sep-Oct 1991, page 12. Some rights reserved.

Search for other articles by Hanna Newcombe here

Peace Magazine homepage