Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

New Podcasts Available

We have put out several new episodes on our various podcasts. For my "You Americans" podcast this week, I spoke to former Senator Alan Simpson who is in Ashland today to provide us with a luncheon lecture. The good senator did several interviews last night on Dick Cheney’s hunting accident. I spoke to him about it as well and I think you will enjoy the conversation. Get the MP3 here or subscribe to the podcast.

For our Ashbrook Events Podcast we have a speech from the Washington Times’ Senior White House Correspondent Bill Sammon on the presidency of George W. Bush which he gave at Ashland last February.

Finally, our Teaching American History Podcast this week is the second half of Richard Ruderman’s seminar on William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglass.

Discussions - 44 Comments

I listened to your interview with Alan Simpson, and both of you sounded like charming affable chaps.

Yet, you support this hideous regime that the american people have foisted on the world.

As a non american, I am more horrified by people like yourselves, than by the most rabid and ill informed "typical" american redneck.

How can, a thoughtful and measured person, support a government that has presided over the death of tens of thousands in Iraq, as well as millions displaced. Torture, arrest without trial, limitless detention etc., etc. In short all the horrors typically the remit of the worst totalitarian regimes?

I mean ... HOW?

Well, the American government also presided over the deaths of millions of Germans and Japanese, as well as millions more displaced. The government then engaged in torture (although the press kept quiet about it), arrest without trial, and basically everything else you mention. So, would it have been better for our European friends had we remained neutral during World War II?

Deal with the now, please. The US, today in 2006 has become a paraiah state that kills and tortures simply because it can, not because it must. That is a significant and compelling difference.

Comparison with the second world war is beyond ludicrous.

We could have stayed neutral in 1941; it wouldn’t have taken much to prevent the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. We could have minded our own business, instead of levying economic sanctions against Tokyo, and let Japan dominate East Asia and the South Pacific. Without Pearl Harbor, of course, we would probably not have become involved in the European War. We could have let Hitler rule over your ancestors (I’m assuming you’re a European); or, had the Soviets won, they could have been subject to Stalin.

In short, America never "has" to do anything. Be glad that the United States did enter World War II. If you were Iraqi you’d be glad the United States intervened in 2003. But you’re not, so to you it just looks like naked aggression.

John, you are trying to justify the present naked aggression (mind if I use that, it’s catchy) by casting US involvement in WWII as selfless.

Surely you cannot be so naive that you genuinely believe that to be the case? We surely agree that either a soviet or nazi occupation of Europe would have led to a clash with the US eventually? That such a situation was a threat the continued existence of the United States?

However neither Iraq nor international terrorism represent anything even remotely approaching the threat represented by either the Nazi’s or the Soviets. Thus the loss of life in Iraq and the massive cost of this pointless war cannot be justified on the grounds of dire national emergency, and absolutely not on the grounds of "selflessness".

Not to mention the jaw dropping erosion of civil rights in the US itself. Don’t you get how appalled the rest of us are?

Of course I’m glad the US entered WWII, and of course I’m glad that the US had the good sense to speak softly and carry a big stick for (most of) the duration of the cold war.

However, that was then, and this is now. What the US did in Iraq was more reminescent of the German invasion of Poland. An uncontested walk over, a land grab, framed as an heroic endeavour for the propaganda reels.

Your comment that the Iraqis are glad of the US "intervention", as you so deftly put it, is complete tosh and requires no futher explanation than an invitation to take a scroll anywhere outside of the "green" zone.

It looks like naked aggression to a lot of people, John, which could be a big problem. And surely you’re not suggesting that Iraq was as big a threat to the rest of the world as were Japan and Germany, right?

If you were Iraqi you’d be glad the United States intervened in 2003.

Well, that’s quite a declaration now, isn’t it? It doesn’t seem to match up with these numbers from a poll the British Ministry of Defence took in August of last year:

Iraqis who believe attacks against British and American troops are justified - 45% (65% in Maysan province)

Iraqis “strongly opposed” to presence of Coalition troops - 82%

Iraqis who feel less secure because of the occupation - 67%

Iraqis who believe coalition forces are responsible for any improvement in security -

Of course, this poll does not reflect the views of the thousands of Iraqis killed by, ahem, "coalition" forces. Who knows, maybe they were cheering on their liberators right before the bullet or bomb took their head off.


I’m not a college professor, so I’m unfortunately cast among the "typical uninformed American rednecks" that make up our Republic. Could you explain what "presided over" means you say

a government that has presided over the death of tens of thousands in Iraq, as well as millions displaced.

I’m guessing it means that the American government has acted so as to cause these things. If that is the case, was America the first cause, an effect of a first cause, or something else? Could you explain to me how American action towards Iraq is naked agression? These are not rhetorical questions. It seems that America has a justification (beyond WMDS) for being at war. How is its justification wrong and your assertion of naked aggression wrong? Let me know. (Note: Countless peace accords were broken by the Iraqi govt. after the first Gulf War. The first reaction was sanctions, and via Saddam Hussein, a ruthless leader now not in power, thousands starved to death. Military action should have been used earlier in response to this (note that Clinton did bomb Iraq as one of his last presidential acts) alone, but coupled with 9/11, the country was propelled to action. The international war has been called a "War on Terror" not a "War on Al-Quadea". As to the limits, if any, this grants the American govt. is an important question. So please let me know how the Iraq war is an example of an abuse of power and naked aggression.)

It seems that America has a justification (beyond WMDS) for being at war.

You refer to UN sanctions and resolutions. As many, or more of these have been, and are currently being flaunted by Israel, but Israel is a client state under the protection of the US. So instead being invaded and flattened nothing happens. Not that I’m proposing that by the way, the lunacy of killing thousands to remove one man is surely only a temporary insanity.

This hypocrisy of the UN system, seems to me to invalidate this entire line of justification.

WMD were lets face it, heavily touted as the primary justification. However, Colin Powell failed to convince the security council and so no UN legitimacy was conferred on the invasion. Plus, the weapons inspectors consistently reported no finds for months prior to the invasion and were, I might add, vilified for their "failure".

Many advised that an invasion where no threat, let alone an imminent one, was present was unconsionable given the loss of life and dislocation that would ensue. The rest as they say, is history.

So, as justification, Iraq’s history of intransigence won’t work.
WMD won’t work.

Get real. What possible justification could be provided by a bankrupt, run down former client dictator in his late 60’s?

As to the 9/11 reference, you are not one of THOSE people are you? Not one of the persistently vegatative who still thinks that 9/11 and Iraq had anything, WHATEVER to do with each other?

You are trying to justify the unjustifiable, in the teeth of all the detail readily available to anyone with a phone and a laptop. Specifically the destruction of a small weak country by a large powerful one. For no discernible reason. A destruction wrought simply ... because .... you ... could.

My knees must have been knocking. Grammatical errors:

means you say= means when you say

How is its assertion wrong and your assertion of naked aggression wrong=How is its assertion wrong and your assertion of naked aggression right?

As to the limits, if any, this grants=As to the limits, if any the American govt. is under in such a war...

The ol’redneck in me got kicking...I’m gonna go shoot some quail.

My point isn’t to sugarcoat U.S. policy from 1939 to 1941; just to suggest that it looks a lot more black and white in retrospect than it did at the time. Decisions on war and peace are not made by Mother Teresas or Darth Vaders, but rather by real human beings faced with difficult decisions. Reasonable people can disagree on whether those decisions were correct (surely there was plenty of opposition to FDR’s foreign policy pre-Pearl Harbor), but the kind of rhetoric I see from people like Brian Coughlan simply reveals them to be unserious people.

Now, I understand that it’s a lot more fun to spew venom, and what I’ve said here doesn’t fit well on a placard at a "peace" rally, but I happen to think it’s true.

Would my words seem more powerful if...I...put...ellipses...between...them? Hey, sort of sounds like William Shatner!

Would my words seem more powerful if...I...put...ellipses...between...them? Hey, sort of sounds like William Shatner!

Ohhh you are a cheeky one ... :-)

Ah thats how the paragraphing works.

but the kind of rhetoric I see from people like Brian Coughlan simply reveals them to be unserious people.

Why? Because I express outrage? In the words of an american friend "man, how could you not be? (outraged)". As we say in Ireland, thats just a load of old bollocks:-)

Millions of people around the world, and many in positions of significant power, agree with most of what I’ve said. Even many americans agree with these views.

You honestly expect anyone to beleive that spending $200 billion dollars, and killing thousands of people on the off chance that a threat to "national security" might be averted can be characterised as a reasoned and thought through act?

John, you and people like you exhibit a subliminal racism, that generally you are not even aware of. Let me elucidate it for you.

You would not consider it reasonable to raise the city of chicago to the ground, or starve the citizens of chicago to remove the mafia. Yet, you think this is a purr-fectly reasonable thing to do when removing a client gone bad in the lands of the fuzzy wuzzys.

Why is this? This is simply because you absolutely, honestly in your heart of hearts think that "american lives" are more important. Worth more, of greater value.

Thus if ACTUAL people are to be killed to eliminate a POTENTIAL threat, as long as those people aren’t americans, well thats kind of ok.

That is why talk about missing body armour, or poor medical aid for veterans gets traction in the US press, will egregious, daily violations of the human rights of iraqis goes largely unreported.

This is the root of the problem, and as it happens, very much the road that leads to fascism in the long term.

You fellows really need to snap out of it. The other 97% of us NEED you to snap out of it. Sooner rather than later would be REAL good.

Good conversation thread. Mr. Coughlan, the people who opposed the Iraq War don’t seem to grasp the overall strategic importance of the invasion. We’re now right in the middle of Terrorism Alley (between Syria, Iran, and Saudi Arabia) and we can now conveniently launch missiles, air strikes, commando raids, you name it, whenever and wherever the threat from one of these terrorist states grows too great. What’s better, these countries very conveniently know we can do this, and we can now accomplish much more through diplomacy because of the threat of our military. (If you don’t find Syria, Iran, and Saudi Arabia to be a serious threat then there’s not much point in carrying on this conversation).

If you don’t find Syria, Iran, and Saudi Arabia

Well John, you’ve kept things civil, and I appreciate that. Many discussion threads simply disintegrate into incoherent name calling, especially once I get all verbally violent. So kudos on that score:-)

However I’m still mystified and disturbed by the callous acceptance by americans of the deaths of thousands of unknown foreigners to secure some vague national interest, or some vague strategic edge.

I get what you are saying, but am appalled that you are so comfortable with the price. Is till remain especially disturbed by the academics and articulate that support this war. I’m also not convinced that this was a prudent long term strategic move, but that is a whole other discussion.

The US would achieve far more by signing up to, and driving forward international attempts to limit dramatically the scope for war. This of course would require US soldiers, airmen and presidents to be subject to agreed, negotiated international law and this where the sticking point is.

Face it guys, you have become for the world what the biggest most violent warlord is to Somalia. A big, fat stumbling block to national unity, and an end to war. Unwilling to pool one iota of sovreignity, regardless what the cost is to the people of the world.

The Fredrick Douglas pod-cast is good.

Brian, if there is anything that the history of the twentieth and now twenty-first century shows us, it is that all the utopian attempts to "ban war" have failed miserably because they are based upon false premises about human nature. The League of Nations and the UN have not done anything to stop "international aggression."

Secondly, while you attack the Bush administration for seeking to protect a "vague national interest" (which you may or may not be correct), that is what presidents do. They protect America’s national interest and citizens, as seen going back to Washington’s Farewell Address. You seem to prefer internationalizing our military rather than protecting our national interest. We should be protecting American lives, not trying to limit dramatically the scope of war, according to our Founding principles.

Brian, if there is anything that the history of the twentieth and now twenty-first century shows us, it is that all the utopian attempts to "ban war" have failed miserably because they are based upon false premises about human nature.

Well certainly Tony, if that is your attitude, you won’t acheive much in this regard.

Rest assured, as long as large nation states like the US refuse to allow their excesses to be curbed, their will be war. The solution is clear, regions that pool sovreignity, and allow over arching rule of law are internally at peace.

We have a name for them, nation states. We even have a few supra national regions like the EU, the US and India where this is also largely the case.

However if we insist each arbitrary national boundary (lets face it a creation of chance, circumstance and history) is to remain utterly sovereign and no over arching authority can have a claim, well then you are right, war will always exist.

The trend though is against that, as it should be. Individual nation states can no longer simply act as if they were alone, independent or sovereign. I reject right of the US to kill or arrest anyone, based on a whim or what is considered in the heads of your leaders to be right. It is a disgrace, and an outrage, and anyone who promotes that view should be ashamed.

Let me leave you with a thought from one of your most famous countryman.

The world no longer has a choice between force and law; if civilization is to survive, it must choose the rule of law…"... we have been warned by the power of modern weapons, that peace may be the only climate possible for human life itself ... There must be law, steadily invoked and respected by all nations, for without law, the world promises only such meager justice as the pity of the strong upon the weak.

That is the world you envision for us? The world you condemn your children to? Well then I’m sorry for you.

The solution is clear, regions that pool sovreignity, and allow over arching rule of law are internally at peace.

History suggests that such regional arrangements can work, if there is a shared commitment to certain norms and standards. The Holy Alliance of early 19th century Europe is one example (though one that the Left would hardly be enthusiastic about). The League of Nations and the UN have both failed because no such consensus existed. With the exception of Israel, and possibly Turkey, I cannot think of a single nation in the Middle East in which there is any grounds for an arrangement that would include the United States. As for Saddam’s Iraq, it was an outlaw regime and, as far as I am concerned, fair game for any country that sought to destroy it. I anticipate that Brian will respond that the United States is morally equivalent (if not worse). And at that point our conversation will end.

I anticipate that Brian will respond that the United States is morally equivalent (if not worse). And at that point our conversation will end.

No I don’t beleive THAT. The US for all it’s faults is a recognizable democracy, and I have enormous respect for the US constitution. A good deal more I suspect, than the current incumbent of the White House.

No my primary beef is with the that man and his lawless administration.

This comment of yours though I do find reprehensible As for Saddam’s Iraq, it was an outlaw regime and, as far as I am concerned, fair game for any country that sought to destroy it.

Saddams Iraq is not some faceless entity, it is made up of humans, people. It furthermore, after a decade of sanctions, and regular bombardment posed no credible threat to it’s own immediate neighbours, let alone the nation that accounts for 50% of the global $900 billion spend on weapons. So, at the risk of repeating myself, killing thousands of people to remove Saddam was and continues to be completely unjustifiable.

As to having nothing in common with many countries in the middle east, well, no argument there. However, you have much in common with the 57% of non americans that live in democracies, why not start there? Together we now make up 60% of the worlds citizens, that is a pretty hefty chunk of the global population.

Small countries like Ireland, Sweden and Belgium are positive to international organisations, will medium size countries like the UK, France and Australia are luke warm. Large countries though, they really are the problem. Top of the list being the US, and the US has got to accept that at the very least in the area of the most grevious crimes that US citizens be the same as any other global citizen, subject to agreed laws that impinge directly on them. Once again there is that pesky rub:-)

Finally the league of nations failed and the UN is hopelessly dysfunctional because the systems are crap, and designed to serve the interests of large countries. The current UN structure is a recipe for inaction, which is largely what happens. I mean you have 5 countries with vetoes! To expect anything OTHER than utter paralysis is to be wilfully blind to reality.

Get rid of the vetoes, and the security council, weight the votes by population in the general assembly and make decisions taken binding. Then you’d be a long way to resolving much of the intractable problems in the world.

I’d even be up for a two tier UN, where democracies are on the inside track, and everyone else on the outside looking in. Throw in some cash (instead of using it to blow stuff up) and you’d have countries Q’ing up to join. Look at the EU, we practically have to beat them off with a stick these days:-)


Your quote from Dwight Eisenhower is a good one so far as authority of the rule of law is concerned, but let’s remember that it is the content of the law that matters first.

Why a world order rather than national ones? It’s clear now that your basis of criticism is rooted in the idea that a world order is the best of political regimes. But why? I would suggest that one of the problems with a world order is that it must have some foundation (obviously), and the content (again) of that foundation is what’s important. To keep up the presidential quotes, I’d prefer "the apple of gold in the silver frame" any day over a 350 paged document attempting to synthesize the real problem power (in light of human nature, well said Tony, and national loyalty) presents is structuring a regime.

Also, is patriotism racism? The value and worth of human lives qua humanity, I agree, is equal...but yet, all political regimes institute law that allows some to lose the natural rights that are created by their humanity (whether it be life, liberty, or property). Is this not true in war? Or perhaps your reference is in regards to the innocent lives that are lost. It is tragic. If the war is not legally justified, it is criminal (as are the lost lives of "enemies". However, you have a long way to go to convince me it wasn’t. The United States is governed by the laws of its people, not by the consensus of the world. If the war was not morally justified (a much more difficult question), then the innocent lives lost create a horrible guilt and blameworthiness, but again, I’m not convinced. Especially when that moral framework must take into account the political structures that are involved in creating the action.

Also, I don’t think I’m one of those people about 9/11. Iraq was an illegitimate regime that endorsed and supported acts of terrorism. The United States is fighting a War on Terror (and not a War on Al-Quaeda), so....

Fred, great thought provoking post. Lots to cogigate over:-)

You have certainly get me tagged. I am an enthusiastic EU citizen, and since the invasion of Iraq have become a confirmed mundialist. I now see the resolution of some of the intractable issues we face as only being possible within a global context. What drives me crazy is that we were actually slowly getting there until Bush and his entourage hove into view.

You ask why a world order rather than a national one. To answer that, let me ask this question. Why a federation and not a confederacy? Why not allow (US) states complete independence to go their own way and do their own thing? You know why, and Alexander Hamilton also knew why and explained it in some detail in the federalist papers. Have a read, simply replace the word federal or national with global, it translates perfectly.

Expecting a group of completely sovereign nation states to simply "get along" marks out the true cuckoo land utopian. I like Alexander Hamilton am a realist, and have a healthy understanding of human nature. Without laws impinging directly on global citizens there will always be war. Just as the founding fathers of the US realised, and crafted the constitution and institutions with sinful, fallen humans in mind, not saintly angels.

As regards patriotism, I don’t believe it’s an overt in your face racism, but yes, I do now believe that it is a form of subliminal racism. At it’s most basic it encourages you to believe a myth, that you, by virtue of the geographic happenstance of your birth are better than someone born somewhere else. Put like that it’s patently nonsense.

At some point we are going to have to bell this cat, bite this bullet and settle into a global federal government.

Perhaps the EU is already the snowball gathering speed that will pull ever increasing chunks of the world into it’s orbit. Maybe NAFTA, the AU, the EU and the new regional bodies in Asia will coalesce, and eventually come under some frankensteins monster of a global umbrella. Whatever emerges will inevitably be a rats nest of conflicting and contradictory legislation, and probably run to a good bit more than a mere 350 pages. Consider your own state constitutions and laws, and lets not get started on the EU!!

However what is the alternative? The global equivalent of Somalia? You note that The United States is governed by the laws of its people, not by the consensus of the world. You underscore the very nature of the problem. Implicit in this statement is the question "Who the heck are YOU?". The answer through all of history has always been "Who the heck am I? Who the [email protected] are YOU?". You see the problem? You may have laws and national security concerns, but gee, SO DO I!!! Refering to the democratic leverage and legitimacy afforded by the american people therefore gets us precisely nowhere:-(

The US will not be the biggest warlord on planet Somalia for ever. With only 3% of the global population, surely it makes sense to drive this agenda NOW, while the US is the most powerful country on earth, basically unassailable?

If the US stepped up to the plate and assumed global leadership on this issue, people would follow. Smaller countries would be falling over themselves to get on board, IF there was a real sense of fair play and one rule for all about the effort.

The US unhappily seems to be following the same dance steps of small entrenched elite’s of the past. Facing growing intransigence, sullen silences and unwilling co-operation from the various tiers of the global feudal system. Will this all end in a French revolution, a British accommodation or a totalitarian slaughter? We’ve seen this all before within nation states, it can go any of those ways, but it’s not just going to muddle along as things are now.

So whats it going to be? An insistence on "my way or the highway"? Which must end badly for someone .... or a use of your unparalleled position in history to make it all good?

yessiree Bob, How’s athings goin’ in old Eire, Brian? Yew fellers there in the UE........err...sorry.da EU have really got it together in Gaul, Espana, Belgum, Sweedon and those other exotic places out yonder. Ah mean check this out.......

"EU statistics show that the 25 member nations among them maintain more than 2 million men and women under arms. About 60 percent of military budgets go for the pay and pensions of military personnel.
Most of the troops remain in barracks, with no real tasks beyond training. Contingents from EU members serve in Afghan- istan and Kosovo under EU or NATO flags; some are in Iraq as part of the U.S.-led coalition." from.........

Now Brian, whut ya gonna do when ol Ahab de Arab starts cuttin’ your throats en masse? Save your dime to call American rent-a-troop to bail yourself out? Oh, by the way get the phone # of the Mossad, they’ll help despite your .......well never mind.

Ah Jesse, Jesse ... you don’t get it. I consider the statistics you quote encouraging.

I LOVE to see the the military within the EU atrophy. The EU’s incoherence in military matters in one of it’s MOST attractive features:-)

Violence and terrorism, and there is fair bit of it, is treated as a police matter and handled through the civil courts. The British, God bless ’em, showed the way in the North. There were a few misstep, sure, but imagine if they had invaded the South? Or carpet bombed Dublin?

No, Ireland and the UK dodged a bullet there, and it was thanks in no small part to British restraint. You could do worse than to examine that period and region, you’d learn a lot.

The EU is now too big to be conventionally attacked, yet to unco-ordinated and politically unwieldy to identify a common enemy to invade. Ya’ gotta love it!!! So we just absorb (through consensus, a little postive bribery and negotiation) everything we touch.

You should try it:-)

Brian, I really don’t think Hamilton would care too much for your Kantian/Hegalian worldview. Likewise, he would not view someone who looks forward to the day when mankind will achieve perpetual peace a realist.

Comment 25 by Andrew

Brian, I really don’t think Hamilton would care too much for your Kantian/Hegalian worldview. Likewise, he would not view someone who looks forward to the day when mankind will achieve perpetual peace a realist.

Link to this Comment | 2/17/2006 1:53 AM

Sure, and there were plenty that thought that the idea of a federal state was a terrible impractical idea. However, they were wrong. It’s a great idea!

I’m not certain that Hamilton, in possession of all the detail would consider perpetual peace, all that unlikely.

I’m obviously not talking about a fuzzy "we love our neighbours because we are good kind of" peace. Rather, a peace acheived through agreed laws. Plus obviously it’s war specifically we are keen to eliminate, there will always be lone gunmen and bombers. These we will have to deal with through the police and courts.

The danger is obvious the mind numbing waste that the miltary entails around the world is obvious, and we are already doing the "peace thing ... man" in regions so enormous that Hamilton would certainly be astonished.

We have the US with 330 million.
We have the EU with 500 million.
We have India with 1.3 billion.
We have China with a billion.

So OK, 6.5 Billion is a stretch, but is it really that wild? Given the technology at our disposal global constituents could be in more immediate contact with their representatives than an american citizen could have dreamed of in 1810 say.

So it is clearly possible. The key challenge is framing global governance around the issues of global importance, and leaving everything else to local tiers.

Well let me make a humble start.

1) You can’t attack anyone unless it’s been signed off by the global goverment.

2) If you do, no one will attack your country, but in perpetuity arrest warrants will be issued for the heads of state and generals and what not involved. Valid and for immediate action in all participating jurisdictions. Thats not so complex to hammer out is it?

1) You can’t attack anyone unless it’s been signed off by the global goverment.

2) If you do, no one will attack your country, but in perpetuity arrest warrants will be issued for the heads of state and generals and what not involved. Valid and for immediate action in all participating jurisdictions. Thats not so complex to hammer out is it?

Come on, do you really think that a fear of "arrest warrants"--with no apparent means of acting on them--would restrain an aggressor? I think you’ve been living in Sweden too long.

Come on, do you really think that a fear of "arrest warrants"--with no apparent means of acting on them--would restrain an aggressor?

John, you have to start somewhere, allow the process to coalesce around some theme that the majority could agree on. Something as basic as if you are the aggressor you get arrested, is a (relativley) simple and clear concept.

This would not deter EVERY aggressor certainly, at least not initially. The head man might be gung ho in a given sitution. But would every general, every minister and every senior civil servant required to carry out their orders be as willing to put their freedom on the line?

If no one in your government or military could move outside of your home state for fear of arrest, how well could your government function?

If every act of aggression, including covert ops, could end in arrest and lengthy imprisonment, any time in the indefinite future, how willing would all the parties in the chain of command be to carry out those orders?

Initially the effect would be slight, but once a few of these guys had been arrested and banged up, it would give these people increasing pause for thought. People live for a very long time these days.

As more and more parts of the world signed up, it would become impossible for these people to live and move. The experiences of the war criminals (still at large) in the Balkans is very instructive in this regard. As is that Pinochet near miss.

These people thought they could operate with impunity, and they were wrong. How much better it would be if they knew from day one that there would be arrest warrants issued in their name?

This all pretty academic though:-) The real question is : Could you envisage the US subject to such a body of legislation? Subject along with all the rest of the worlds nations? Because if the US did, it would send shockwaves around the world. The simple act of the US being on board would give the process incredible weight and gravitas.

Tricky ..... :-)

Well that was fun ...

Please don’t insult Hamilton by linking him to this nonsense utopian thread of "thought," or should I say wishful thinking. He studied the ancient Greeks and Romans and understood human nature.

Comment 30 by Tony Williams

Please don’t insult Hamilton by linking him to this nonsense utopian thread of "thought," or should I say wishful thinking. He studied the ancient Greeks and Romans and understood human nature.

Exactly, he understood human nature and realised that there had to be checks, balances and accountability if a system were to work.

I mean what is your objection really? We know laws work.

We know that they need to be agreed.

We know they work best with as broad a public input as possible.

Would you prefer we wait for another global conflagration resulting in 50 million, or a billion deaths to spur us onto the next step beyond the united nations? That seems to be pattern, perhaps because all the most rabidly nationalistic have been killed serving their "country" in the preceding conflict and aren’t around in sufficent numbers to interfere with the efforts of the more sensible and survival oriented?:-)

Hamilton, and all the founders of the United States were visionaries. The idea of a nation of free men, with the potential to take and rule an entire continent was breathakingly foolhardy and visionary for the time.

I find it laughably unlikely that Hamilton, were he alive today, would be a comfortable supporter of the global status quo.

I think you do him a far greater insult by assuming he shares your narrow and parochial view of the world.

A few more relevant quotes on the subject.

Socrates 469-399 B.C. I am a citizen, not of Athens, or Greece, but of the World

Cronkite, Walter 1916 - It seems to many of us that if we are to avoid the eventual catastrophic world conflict we must strengthen the United Nations as a first step toward a world government patterned after our own government with a legislature, executive and judiciary, and police to enforce its international laws and keep the peace," he said. "To do that, of course, we Americans will have to yield up some of our sovereignty. That would be a bitter pill. It would take a lot of courage, a lot of faith in the new order.

Asimov, Isaac 1920-1992 There are no nations! There is only humanity. And if we don’t come to understand that right soon, there will be no nations, because there will be no humanity.
Asimov, Isaac 1920-1992 It is quite clear that as long as the nations of the world spend most of their energy, money, and emotional strength in quarreling with words and weapons, a true offensive against the common problems that threaten human survival is not very likely. A world government that can channel human efforts in the direction of the great solutions seems desirable, even essential. Naturally, such a world government should be a federal one, with regional and local autonomy safeguarded and with cultural diversity promoted.

Churchill, Winston 1874-1965 Unless we establish some form of world government, it will not be possible for us to avert a World War III in the future,,, "Unless some effective world super government for the purpose of preventing war can be set up ... the prospects for peace and human progress are dark ....If .... it is found possible to build a world organization of irresistible force and inviolable authority for the purpose of securing peace, there are no limits to the blessings which all men enjoy and share.
Clinton, Bill It’s not possible to have a global commercial system without a global economical policy, and without global environmental, educative and sanitary policies, and without a global agreement on security

Gorbachev, Mikhail 1931- On today’s agenda is not just a union of democratic states, but also a democratically organized world community. An awareness of the need for some kind of global government is gaining ground, one in which all members of the world community would take part.

Havel, Vaclav 1936- The UN should transform itself from a large community of governments, diplomats and officials into a joint institution for each inhabitant of this planet in order that, on the authority of the people, it looks for ways toward a lasting well-being of the humanity and toward a genuine quality of life. Such a UN would rest on two pillars: one constituted by an assembly of equal executive representatives of individual countries, resembling the present plenary, and the other consisting of a group elected directly by the globe’s population. These two bodies would create and guarantee global legislation.

Jessup, Philip C. 1947 The impulse to establish world government is to be attributed to the insistent human yearning for peace. Fresh experience of war is requisite to provide the drive for active campaigns to check this greatest of all human ills. As each modern war has ended, people have insisted that there must not be another and for a time they have struggled to solve the problem. As the memory of the horror fades with the passage of time, the impulse is blunted, the activity decreases. Differences of opinion on details of program split the ranks and enlistments fall off. We have compulsory service to wage war but not to wage peace.

Kennedy, John F. 1917-1963 We must create world-wide law and law enforcement as we outlaw world-wide war and weapons

Mahatma Gandhi 1869 - 1948 The right to live is ours only if we accomplish our duty as a world citizen. Nationalism is no longer the highest concept. The supreme concept is a world community.

Monnet, Jean 1888-1979 The sovereign nations of thepast can no lornger solve the problems of the present... They cannot ensure their own programs or control their own future. An the European communitiy itself is only a stage on the way to the organized world of tomorrow.

Paine, Thomas 1737 - 1809 My country is the world, and my religion is to do good.

Russell, Bertrand 1872-1970 Science has made unrestricted national sovereignty incompatible with human survival. The only possibilities are now world government or death.
Russell, Bertrand 1872-1970 Our world needs a rational and creative hope that procures a positive sense to our lives. Our goal, I repeat, should be the creation of a world government. And, if it gets possible, the humanity will entry a period of prosperity and welfare completely unknown in our last experience as specie.

Talbott, Strobe 1992 The best mechanism for democracy, whether at the level of the multinational state or that of the planet as a whole, is not an all-powerful Leviathan or centralized superstate, but a federation, a union of separate states that allocate certain powers to a central government while retaining many others for themselves.
Tennyson, Alfred 1809-1892 Till the war-drum throbb’d no longer, and the battle-flags were furl’d
In the Parliament of man, the Federation of the world.

You get the idea. We have the technology, but not yet the collective political will, and you are really not helping.

Apologies for the spam, but this was an especially good one:-)

Truman, Harry 1884-1972 It will be just as easy for nations to get along in a republic of the world as it is for you to get along in the republic of the United States. Now when Kansas and Colorado have a quarrel over the water in the Arkansas river they don’t call out the national guard in each state and go to war over it. They bring suit in the Supreme Court of the United States and abide by the decision. There isn’t a reason in the world why we can’t do that internationally

Look, nobody here has an objection to international law per se. Indeed, it’s been something that conservatives have long favored. Where we differ is that you don’t seem to understand that law without force to back it up is worse than useless. This is precisely why the League of Nations failed. It had nothing to do with Great Powers having vetoes, it was simply that Woodrow Wilson never understood the importance of military power. He believed that the moral force of world opinion would be enough to keep national governments in line. We know today that this is hogwash--the force of world opinion did nothing to stop Mussolini, the Japanese militarists, or Hitler. The subsequent history of international organizations underlines that sad fact again and again.

Where we differ is that you don’t seem to understand that law without force to back it up is worse than useless.

Actually, I don’t disagree on this point at all. Law must of course have force to back it up.

The question is what kind of force? If a demagouge holds a people in thrall, do you starve and bomb the entire populace or target the individual and his direct support structure?

America again and again decides to wage war against an entire populace, rather than creating an atmosphere conducive to international law that impinges directly on the individual. Primarily because some the individuals would be americans, and such arrangements restrict national room for manouver. Which of course, is the whole idea.

The heartbreaking irony, is that now, the US although unassailable, still behaves as if it were 13 colonies clinging desperatly to existence.

We all of course are at risk from terrorism, but we share that risk and need to eliminate it by striking at the causes (poverty and ignorance) while simultaneously bringing the full weight of civilian police and judicial forces to bear on the individuals that support, fund and carry out these actions. As an Irishman I have some experience in this area:-) Study recent Irish history, and it becomes obvious that you cannot crush terrorism by force of arms. Relentless, undifferentiated violence is the oxygen on which terrorism feeds. War in other words.

I mean come on! It’s obvious to everyone except the wilfully stupid that the terrorism in Iraq is being generated by the occupation. That the occupation is now a cause, not a solution.

So in a nutshell,we agree then that there should be international law, equally binding on all. Were we differ is that I beleive that the individual is the level at which the law must be brought to bear, and you think that the nation state is the level at which the law should be enforced.

Well, that is completely unworkable, and is the exact issue that Hamilton addresses. Here :

Below an excerpt, I mean this is GREAT stuff. This guy is my hero, it’s amazing how he actually sounds like he is talking about the UN as he complains and bitches about the Confederacy.

It is true, as has been before observed that facts, too stubborn to be resisted, have produced a species of general assent to the abstract proposition that there exist material defects in our national system; but the usefulness of the concession, on the part of the old adversaries of federal measures, is destroyed by a strenuous opposition to a remedy, upon the only principles that can give it a chance of success. While they admit that the government of the United States is destitute of energy, they contend against conferring upon it those powers which are requisite to supply that energy. They seem still to aim at things repugnant and irreconcilable; at an augmentation of federal authority, without a diminution of State authority; at sovereignty in the Union, and complete independence in the members. They still, in fine, seem to cherish with blind devotion the political monster of an imperium in imperio. This renders a full display of the principal defects of the Confederation necessary, in order to show that the evils we experience do not proceed from minute or partial imperfections, but from fundamental errors in the structure of the building, which cannot be amended otherwise than by an alteration in the first principles and main pillars of the fabric.

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.

John, this guy hits the nail on the head, the ball out of the park. He had it sussed 250 years ago.

So, say Saddam Hussein invades Kuwait. Instead of going to war against Iraq, we send the police to arrest Saddam and his cronies? Do you expect them to go peacefully? Of course not, they will resist with their army, and the police (in practice, the United States) will have to use deadly force, and civilians who are unfortunate enough to be caught in the middle will die. It is not fundamentally different from the dilemma that law enforcment authorities within countries face all the time, except that international criminals are armed with far deadlier weapons.

John, I absolutely agree unreservedly with everything in your last post.

As things currently stand, there is often no recourse but war.

How do we get around this conundrum?

Hamilton has the answer, Gawd bless ’im ...

They seem still to aim at things repugnant and irreconcilable; at an augmentation of federal authority, without a diminution of State authority; at sovereignty in the Union, and complete independence in the members.

There is a logical disconnect here. Everyone whines about the UN, but the UN is without power, because nations are still seen as independent entities, and have ceeded no significant power to the UN. To make any progress, this circle has to be squared.

As aside, can I note that I’m NOT a fan of the UN. It sucks on a whole range of levels, but most especially it’s horribly undemocratic. However, thats another discussion.

Clearly, as a first minimalist step, the right to attack other nations has to be revoked and war, as a last resort must be sanctioned by a global body. Ideally a democratic body.

Lots of specifics missing there I know, but you get the idea.

Anyone who is deemed to have violated the law is fair game for every agency of law on the planet. I’d even be amenable to the idea of special ops teams on standby to capture these people and extradite them by force for trial. As long as it was all done according to agreed global laws. You know, like SWAT teams.

The key point here is that everybody signs up to the same set of rules. Rules that reduce conflict to negotiation. Plus when 50%/66% ?? of the global population has signed up, the law becomes binding on you regardless of wether your nation has signed up or not.

The EU is a good example of this. Although within the member states people often roll there eyes in exasperation at bad tempered wrangling by bureaucrats in Brussels, they miss the broader point that these discussions used to held with tanks and fighter aircraft.

If we had that in place, after a few high profile arrests and trials over decades, unused militaries would gradually atrophy. Which as Jesse kindly pointed out, is exactly what is happening in the EU. I mean unless aliens are going to invade, what are we spending $900 billion a year for?

Okay, we can disagree about why the UN has the problems that it does, but at least we agree that there are problems, and that they run deep.

My objection to what you wrote above--and indeed to the whole concept of world government--is that it claims to take care of the problem of international conflict. It does not; it simply redefines it. So with world government we no longer have wars, we have civil wars instead. Civilians still die, so what’s the difference?

As I’ve said above, collective security arrangements among groups of nations can occur where there is substantial consensus on fundamental issues (it’s not just a matter of having democracy; there’s more to it than that). You’ve posted some useful quotes by Truman and Kennedy (and others), but you’ll note that neither of these presidents believed that world government could happen anytime soon (or else why wouldn’t they have tried to create it?). They believed that eventually the rest of the world would accept American political, legal, economic, and cultural institutions; once they did, world government could follow. Does anyone sincerely think that one can be established that includes countries governed by Sharia law?

Of course, if you have a collective security arrangement that does not include all states, you still run into problems when a nation that is a member of the arrangement comes into conflict with one that does not. In that case, the arrangement looks more like a traditional alliance rather than the UN. And this is precisely why men like Theodore Roosevelt, Henry Cabot Lodge, and William Howard Taft--all of whom were great believers in international law--believed that the proper alternative to Wilson’s UN was an alliance between the United States and Great Britain.

... claims to take care of the problem of international conflict. It does not; it simply redefines it. So with world government we no longer have wars, we have civil wars instead. Civilians still die, so what’s the difference?

The difference is the scale. In law enforcement bad things happen. Consider that business in Waco, or any number of hostage situations. I’m not disputing that. I’m objecting to the idea that collectively punishing an entire people for the crimes of some despot who has grabbed the levers of power is a reasonable way to manage these issues.

If repeated attempts had been made to capture Saddam rather than invade Iraq, the butchers bill would not have run much past some law enforcement officials (on our side), some of Saddams body gaurds and the unlucky lady that does his feet.

I mean, even if it was 10 times worse than that, it would be exponentially better than what we have now. So it is a question of degree.

I agree with the bulk of what you’ve said, but none of it precludes us making a start.

If you have a schoolyard full of children hitting each other, not all the kids are going to stop fighting at the same time. While things wind down, the teacher can afford to take a few slaps while holding the smaller more violent kids at arms length, and restraining them from hitting each other.

What the teacher shouldn’t do is beat the little kids insensible, even if they are out of control.

You’ve raised a bunch of intractable points, and I’m not disputing that those are tricky issues. However, I don’t believe anything you said invalidates my main point. Nation states must pool sovereignty for any such arrangements to work. If the US was prepared to do it, as the pre-eminent military force on the planet, many would gladly follow, because most of us have nothing to loose and everything to gain.

If a military power to challenge the US emerges then all bets are off, but that’s not going to happen anytime soon.

So keep your military by all means, just don’t use it, unless an Iranian invasion force is sighted crossing the Atlantic:-)

You, also note : Does anyone sincerely think that one can be established that includes countries governed by Sharia law? Certainly. Although I do find Sharia law objectionable, we are not asking them in the first instance to abolish Sharia law, just to refrain from invading neighbouring countries.

If a head of state, or some jumped up Generalissimo decides to go ahead and do that, warrants are issued for all the parties involved, and robust attempts are made to arrest them and try them. They don’t need to be charged hard to prove war crimes, but for in effect "breach of the global peace" which should be very easy to prove.

John, in the final analysis, the problem here is not the arrangements. These can be plucked almost verbatim from any developed world state you care to mention, and will work at a global level. The sticking point is everyone wants to be sovereign, and no one wants to be subject, just like in Hamiltons Confederacy. That is a circle that cannot be squared.

However, if the most powerful nation state in the world agrees to use it’s military only for local defence, or at the request of global authorities, then we are on the home straight.

The difference is the scale. In law enforcement bad things happen. Consider that business in Waco, or any number of hostage situations. I’m not disputing that. I’m objecting to the idea that collectively punishing an entire people for the crimes of some despot who has grabbed the levers of power is a reasonable way to manage these issues.

I’m glad you raised the issue of Waco, because it makes my point entirely. A lot of innocent people died in that incident, not because they were being "collectively punished," but because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. And that was in a battle not against a state armed with the latest weapons, but rather with a group of (mostly) poorly armed nutcases. Moreover, it’s simply not the case that civil wars tend to be less costly than international ones; I pose the American Civil War (still the costliest war in which the United States has ever been engaged) as Exhibit A.

I am sure that if there were some feasible way of capturing Saddam Hussein without invading the country, it would have been put into practice. It certainly would’ve been cheaper, in terms of both American AND Iraqi lives, and would undoubtedly have cost a lot less. Of course, even if it could be done as you say, there’s the problem of how Iraq would be governed in the absence of its leader. Either one of his sons would have taken over (which arguably would have made things worse), or the whole country would have collapsed into anarchy. At least the presence of the U.S. military as an occupying force has helped pave the way for a functioning democracy.

The issues you raise in your last post are all familiar to law enforcement officals the world over.

We have had traffic regulation for decades, but people still speed. Should we just throw up our hands?

It is akin to Sisyphus endlessly rolling his stone uphill. Just because when you capture one criminal another takes his place you should just pack it in? You’ll have to come up with something more substantial than that:-)

At it’s most basic what I’m proposing is the criminalisation of war, except in very carefully prescribed circumstances. The only thing the US loses here (along with everyone else), is the right to militarily do as it likes anywhere in the world. Nothing else changes.

It really isn’t that hard to grasp, or even articulate, but implementation is a bitch:-)

Another extract from the indispensable Mr. Hamilton.

If opposition to the national government should arise from the disorderly conduct of refractory or seditious individuals, it could be overcome by the same means which are daily employed against the same evil under the State governments. The magistracy, being equally the ministers of the law of the land, from whatever source it might emanate, would doubtless be as ready to guard the national as the local regulations from the inroads of private licentiousness. As to those partial commotions and insurrections, which sometimes disquiet society, from the intrigues of an inconsiderable faction, or from sudden or occasional illhumors that do not infect the great body of the community the general government could command more extensive resources for the suppression of disturbances of that kind than would be in the power of any single member. And as to those mortal feuds which, in certain conjunctures, spread a conflagration through a whole nation, or through a very large proportion of it, proceeding either from weighty causes of discontent given by the government or from the contagion of some violent popular paroxysm, they do not fall within any ordinary rules of calculation. When they happen, they commonly amount to revolutions and dismemberments of empire. No form of government can always either avoid or control them. It is in vain to hope to guard against events too mighty for human foresight or precaution, and it would be idle to object to a government because it could not perform impossibilities.

It’s been a while since I last read the federalist papers, so I’m going through them again. Absolutely great stuff.

Federalist No. 18 ||
The Same Subject Continued: The Insufficiency of the Present Confederation to Preserve the Union
For the Independent Journal.

Author: Alexander Hamilton and James Madison

To the People of the State of New York:

AMONG the confederacies of antiquity, the most considerable was that of the Grecian republics, associated under the Amphictyonic council. From the best accounts transmitted of this celebrated institution, it bore a very instructive analogy to the present Confederation of the American States.

The members retained the character of independent and sovereign states, and had equal votes in the federal council. This council had a general authority to propose and resolve whatever it judged necessary for the common welfare of Greece; to declare and carry on war; to decide, in the last resort, all controversies between the members; to fine the aggressing party; to employ the whole force of the confederacy against the disobedient; to admit new members. The Amphictyons were the guardians of religion, and of the immense riches belonging to the temple of Delphos, where they had the right of jurisdiction in controversies between the inhabitants and those who came to consult the oracle. As a further provision for the efficacy of the federal powers, they took an oath mutually to defend and protect the united cities, to punish the violators of this oath, and to inflict vengeance on sacrilegious despoilers of the temple.

In theory, and upon paper, this apparatus of powers seems amply sufficient for all general purposes. In several material instances, they exceed the powers enumerated in the articles of confederation. The Amphictyons had in their hands the superstition of the times, one of the principal engines by which government was then maintained; they had a declared authority to use coercion against refractory cities, and were bound by oath to exert this authority on the necessary occasions.

Very different, nevertheless, was the experiment from the theory. The powers, like those of the present Congress, were administered by deputies appointed wholly by the cities in their political capacities; and exercised over them in the same capacities. Hence the weakness, the disorders, and finally the destruction of the confederacy. The more powerful members, instead of being kept in awe and subordination, tyrannized successively over all the rest. Athens, as we learn from Demosthenes, was the arbiter of Greece seventy-three years. The Lacedaemonians next governed it twenty-nine years; at a subsequent period, after the battle of Leuctra, the Thebans had their turn of domination.

It happened but too often, according to Plutarch, that the deputies of the strongest cities awed and corrupted those of the weaker; and that judgment went in favor of the most powerful party.

Even in the midst of defensive and dangerous wars with Persia and Macedon, the members never acted in concert, and were, more or fewer of them, eternally the dupes or the hirelings of the common enemy. The intervals of foreign war were filled up by domestic vicissitudes convulsions, and carnage.

After the conclusion of the war with Xerxes, it appears that the Lacedaemonians required that a number of the cities should be turned out of the confederacy for the unfaithful part they had acted. The Athenians, finding that the Lacedaemonians would lose fewer partisans by such a measure than themselves, and would become masters of the public deliberations, vigorously opposed and defeated the attempt. This piece of history proves at once the inefficiency of the union, the ambition and jealousy of its most powerful members, and the dependent and degraded condition of the rest. The smaller members, though entitled by the theory of their system to revolve in equal pride and majesty around the common center, had become, in fact, satellites of the orbs of primary magnitude.

Had the Greeks, says the Abbe Milot, been as wise as they were courageous, they would have been admonished by experience of the necessity of a closer union, and would have availed themselves of the peace which followed their success against the Persian arms, to establish such a reformation. Instead of this obvious policy, Athens and Sparta, inflated with the victories and the glory they had acquired, became first rivals and then enemies; and did each other infinitely more mischief than they had suffered from Xerxes. Their mutual jealousies, fears, hatreds, and injuries ended in the celebrated Peloponnesian war; which itself ended in the ruin and slavery of the Athenians who had begun it.

As a weak government, when not at war, is ever agitated by internal dissentions, so these never fail to bring on fresh calamities from abroad. The Phocians having ploughed up some consecrated ground belonging to the temple of Apollo, the Amphictyonic council, according to the superstition of the age, imposed a fine on the sacrilegious offenders. The Phocians, being abetted by Athens and Sparta, refused to submit to the decree. The Thebans, with others of the cities, undertook to maintain the authority of the Amphictyons, and to avenge the violated god. The latter, being the weaker party, invited the assistance of Philip of Macedon, who had secretly fostered the contest. Philip gladly seized the opportunity of executing the designs he had long planned against the liberties of Greece. By his intrigues and bribes he won over to his interests the popular leaders of several cities; by their influence and votes, gained admission into the Amphictyonic council; and by his arts and his arms, made himself master of the confederacy.

Such were the consequences of the fallacious principle on which this interesting establishment was founded. Had Greece, says a judicious observer on her fate, been united by a stricter confederation, and persevered in her union, she would never have worn the chains of Macedon; and might have proved a barrier to the vast projects of Rome.

The Achaean league, as it is called, was another society of Grecian republics, which supplies us with valuable instruction.

The Union here was far more intimate, and its organization much wiser, than in the preceding instance. It will accordingly appear, that though not exempt from a similar catastrophe, it by no means equally deserved it.

The cities composing this league retained their municipal jurisdiction, appointed their own officers, and enjoyed a perfect equality. The senate, in which they were represented, had the sole and exclusive right of peace and war; of sending and receiving ambassadors; of entering into treaties and alliances; of appointing a chief magistrate or praetor, as he was called, who commanded their armies, and who, with the advice and consent of ten of the senators, not only administered the government in the recess of the senate, but had a great share in its deliberations, when assembled. According to the primitive constitution, there were two praetors associated in the administration; but on trial a single one was preferred.

It appears that the cities had all the same laws and customs, the same weights and measures, and the same money. But how far this effect proceeded from the authority of the federal council is left in uncertainty. It is said only that the cities were in a manner compelled to receive the same laws and usages. When Lacedaemon was brought into the league by Philopoemen, it was attended with an abolition of the institutions and laws of Lycurgus, and an adoption of those of the Achaeans. The Amphictyonic confederacy, of which she had been a member, left her in the full exercise of her government and her legislation. This circumstance alone proves a very material difference in the genius of the two systems.

It is much to be regretted that such imperfect monuments remain of this curious political fabric. Could its interior structure and regular operation be ascertained, it is probable that more light would be thrown by it on the science of federal government, than by any of the like experiments with which we are acquainted.

One important fact seems to be witnessed by all the historians who take notice of Achaean affairs. It is, that as well after the renovation of the league by Aratus, as before its dissolution by the arts of Macedon, there was infinitely more of moderation and justice in the administration of its government, and less of violence and sedition in the people, than were to be found in any of the cities exercising SINGLY all the prerogatives of sovereignty. The Abbe Mably, in his observations on Greece, says that the popular government, which was so tempestuous elsewhere, caused no disorders in the members of the Achaean republic, BECAUSE IT WAS THERE TEMPERED BY THE GENERAL AUTHORITY AND LAWS OF THE CONFEDERACY.

We are not to conclude too hastily, however, that faction did not, in a certain degree, agitate the particular cities; much less that a due subordination and harmony reigned in the general system. The contrary is sufficiently displayed in the vicissitudes and fate of the republic.

Whilst the Amphictyonic confederacy remained, that of the Achaeans, which comprehended the less important cities only, made little figure on the theatre of Greece. When the former became a victim to Macedon, the latter was spared by the policy of Philip and Alexander. Under the successors of these princes, however, a different policy prevailed. The arts of division were practiced among the Achaeans. Each city was seduced into a separate interest; the union was dissolved. Some of the cities fell under the tyranny of Macedonian garrisons; others under that of usurpers springing out of their own confusions. Shame and oppression erelong awaken their love of liberty. A few cities reunited. Their example was followed by others, as opportunities were found of cutting off their tyrants. The league soon embraced almost the whole Peloponnesus. Macedon saw its progress; but was hindered by internal dissensions from stopping it. All Greece caught the enthusiasm and seemed ready to unite in one confederacy, when the jealousy and envy in Sparta and Athens, of the rising glory of the Achaeans, threw a fatal damp on the enterprise. The dread of the Macedonian power induced the league to court the alliance of the Kings of Egypt and Syria, who, as successors of Alexander, were rivals of the king of Macedon. This policy was defeated by Cleomenes, king of Sparta, who was led by his ambition to make an unprovoked attack on his neighbors, the Achaeans, and who, as an enemy to Macedon, had interest enough with the Egyptian and Syrian princes to effect a breach of their engagements with the league.

The Achaeans were now reduced to the dilemma of submitting to Cleomenes, or of supplicating the aid of Macedon, its former oppressor. The latter expedient was adopted. The contests of the Greeks always afforded a pleasing opportunity to that powerful neighbor of intermeddling in their affairs. A Macedonian army quickly appeared. Cleomenes was vanquished. The Achaeans soon experienced, as often happens, that a victorious and powerful ally is but another name for a master. All that their most abject compliances could obtain from him was a toleration of the exercise of their laws. Philip, who was now on the throne of Macedon, soon provoked by his tyrannies, fresh combinations among the Greeks. The Achaeans, though weakenened by internal dissensions and by the revolt of Messene, one of its members, being joined by the AEtolians and Athenians, erected the standard of opposition. Finding themselves, though thus supported, unequal to the undertaking, they once more had recourse to the dangerous expedient of introducing the succor of foreign arms. The Romans, to whom the invitation was made, eagerly embraced it. Philip was conquered; Macedon subdued. A new crisis ensued to the league. Dissensions broke out among it members. These the Romans fostered. Callicrates and other popular leaders became mercenary instruments for inveigling their countrymen. The more effectually to nourish discord and disorder the Romans had, to the astonishment of those who confided in their sincerity, already proclaimed universal liberty [1] throughout Greece. With the same insidious views, they now seduced the members from the league, by representing to their pride the violation it committed on their sovereignty. By these arts this union, the last hope of Greece, the last hope of ancient liberty, was torn into pieces; and such imbecility and distraction introduced, that the arms of Rome found little difficulty in completing the ruin which their arts had commenced. The Achaeans were cut to pieces, and Achaia loaded with chains, under which it is groaning at this hour.

I have thought it not superfluous to give the outlines of this important portion of history; both because it teaches more than one lesson, and because, as a supplement to the outlines of the Achaean constitution, it emphatically illustrates the tendency of federal bodies rather to anarchy among the members, than to tyranny in the head.


Just for the record: John Moser in his earlier comment is talking about UN in reference to Wilson. I feel compelled to make a note that there was no UN during Wilson’s presidency. The name of the international organization was League of Nations.
UN was created after WW2 and FDR was a great proponent of it. UN replaced L of N but obviously was/has been more powerful that its predecessor.

It is a pet peeve of mine to make sure that people understand that L of N are UN are not the same thing. I just don’t want your readrship to think that Woodrow Wilson started UN.

Thank you; I mistyped.

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