There are a few rivalries which define the world we live in: cats vs dogs, butter vs oil, realists vs liberals. This last dispute has been for many years the engine propelling international relations to the forefront of political and ideological debates. The question whether relations between countries are inherently anarchic or mutual trust is possible has a philosophical quality to it which can easily overshadow the very concrete consequences such beliefs could have in dealing with opaque adversaries such as the USSR. With the end of the Cold War and the death of thinkers from both sides, foreign policy research seemed to have moved on to new topics, at least until the publication of The Internationalists reignited the debate. The authors, an expert in international law and a political philosopher, explore how the development of multilateral institutions and of common legislature on war may have contributed to transform interational conflict from being the norm into what seems to be a vestige of the last century. To do so it starts from the signing of the Kellogg-Briand Pact, a 1928 accord tragically remembered as an attempt to outlaw war – a proposition which was ignored less than 3 years later when Japan invaded Manchuria, challenging the postwar status quo and starting the string of events which would culminate in World War II. The Internationalists doesn’t however try to be a chronicle of failed agreements, but rather a summary of the ideas and beliefs serving as the foundations of liberal thought. Under the current circumstances this doesn’t certainly solve the controversies surrounding internationalism, but it reopens a debate which was badly needed and was yet at risk of being sidelined by younger politics enthusiasts.
The Internationalists: And Their Plan to Outlaw War, by Oona Hathaway and Scott Shapiro. 608 pages.