OSE, Chapter 9, Note 7

The Control of International Crime

7 (1) I believe that the parallelism between the institutional problems of civil and of international peace is most important. Any international organization which has legislative, administrative and judicial institutions as well as an armed executive which is prepared to act should be as successful in upholding international peace as are the analogous institutions within the state. But it seems to me important not to expect more. We have been able to reduce crime within the states to something comparatively unimportant, but we have not been able to stamp it out entirely. Therefore we shall, for a long time to come, need a police force which is ready to strike, and which sometimes does strike. Similarly, I believe that we must be prepared for the probability that we may not be able to stamp out international crime. If we declare that our aim is to make war impossible once and for all, then we may undertake too much, with the fatal result that we may not have a force which is ready to strike when these hopes are disappointed. (The failure of the League of Nations to take action against aggressors was, at least in the case of the attack on Manchukuo, due largely to the general feeling that the League had been established in order to end all wars and not to wage them. This shows that propaganda for ending all wars is self-defeating. We must end international anarchy, and be ready to go to war against any international crime. (Cp. especially H. Mannheim, War and Crime, 1941; and A. D. Lindsay, ‘War to End War’, in Background and Issues, 1940.)
But it is also important to search for the weak spot in the analogy between civil and international peace, that is to say, for the point where the analogy breaks down. In the case of civil peace, upheld by the state, there is the individual citizen to be protected by the state. The citizen is, as it were, a ‘natural’ unit or atom (although there is a certain ‘conventional’ element even in the conditions of citizenship). On the other hand, the members or units or atoms of our international order will be states. But a state can never be a ‘natural’ unit like the citizen; there are no natural boundaries to a state. The boundaries of a state change, and can be denned only by applying the principle of a status quo; and since every status quo must refer to an arbitrarily chosen date, the determination of the boundaries of a state is purely conventional.
The attempt to find some ‘natural’ boundaries for states, and accordingly, to look upon the state as a ‘natural’ unit, leads to the principle of the national state and to the romantic fictions of nationalism, racialism, and tribalism. But this principle is not ‘natural’, and the idea that there exist natural units like nations, or linguistic or racial groups, is entirely fictitious. Here, if anywhere, we should learn from history; for since the dawn of history, men have been continually mixed, unified, broken up, and mixed again; and this cannot be undone, even if it were desirable.
There is a second point in which the analogy between civil and international peace breaks down. The state must protect the individual citizen, its units or atoms; but the international organization also must ultimately protect human individuals, and not its units or atoms, i.e. states or nations. The complete renunciation of the principle of the national state (a principle which owes its popularity solely to the fact that it appeals to tribal instincts and that it is the cheapest and surest method by which a politician who has nothing better to offer can make his way), and the recognition of the necessarily conventional demarcation of all states, together with the further insight that human individuals and not states or nations must be the ultimate concern even of international organizations, will help us to realize clearly, and to get over, the difficulties arising from the breakdown of our fundamental analogy. (Cp. also chapter 12, notes 51-64 and text, and note 2 to chapter 13.)
(2) It seems to me that the remark that human individuals must be recognized to be the ultimate concern not only of international organizations, but of all politics, international as well as ‘national’ or parochial, has important applications. We must realize that we can treat individuals fairly, even if we decide to break up the power-organization of an aggressive state or ‘nation’ to which these individuals belong. It is a widely held prejudice that the destruction and control of the military, political and even of the economic power of a state or ‘nation’ implies misery or subjugation for its individual citizens. But this prejudice is as unwarranted as it is dangerous.
It is unwarranted provided that an international organization protects the citizens of the thus weakened state against exploitation of their political and military weakness. The only damage to the individual citizen that cannot be avoided is one to his national pride; and if we assume that he was a citizen of an aggressor country, then this is a damage which will be unavoidableable in any case, provided the aggression has been warded off.
The prejudice that we cannot distinguish between the treatment of a state and of its individual citizens is also very dangerous, for when it comes to the problem of dealing with an aggressor country, it necessarily creates two factions in the victorious countries, viz., the faction of those who demand harsh treatment and those who demand leniency. As a rule, both overlook the possibility of treating a state harshly, and, at the same time, its citizens leniently.
But if this possibility is overlooked, then the following is likely to happen. Immediately after the victory the aggressor state and its citizens will be treated comparatively harshly. But the state, the power-organization, will probably not be treated as harshly as might be reasonable because of a reluctance to treat innocent individuals harshly, that is to say, because the influence of the faction for leniency will make itself felt somehow. In spite of this reluctance, it is likely that individuals will suffer beyond what they deserve. After a short time, therefore, a reaction is likely to occur in the victorious countries. Equalitarian and humanitarian tendencies are likely to strengthen the faction for leniency until the harsh policy is reversed. But this development is not only likely to give the aggressor state a chance for a new aggression; it will also provide it with the weapon of the moral indignation of one who has been wronged, while the victorious countries are likely to become afflicted with the diffidence of those who feel that they may have done wrong.
This very undesirable development must in the end lead to a new aggression. It can be avoided if, and only if, from the start, a clear distinction is made between the aggressor state (and those responsible for its acts) on the one hand, and its citizens on the other hand. Harshness towards the aggressor state, and even the radical destruction of its power apparatus, will not produce this moral reaction of humanitarian feelings in the victorious countries if it is combined with a policy of fairness towards the individual citizens.
But is it possible to break the political power of a state without injuring its citizens indiscriminately? In order to prove that this is possible I shall construct an example of a policy which breaks the political and military power of an aggressor state without violating the interests of its individual citizens.
The fringe of the aggressor country, including its sea-coast and its main (not all) sources of water power, coal, and steel, could be severed from the state, and administered as an international territory, never to be returned. Harbours as well as the raw materials could be made accessible to the citizens of the state for their legitimate economic activities, without imposing any economic disadvantages on them, on the condition that they invite international commissions to control the proper use of these facilities. Any use which may help to build up a new war potential is forbidden, and if there is reason for suspicion that the internationalized facilities and raw materials may be so used, their use has at once to be stopped. It then rests with the suspect party to invite and to facilitate a thorough investigation, and to offer satisfactory guarantees for a proper use of its resources.
Such a procedure would not eliminate the possibility of a new attack but it would force the aggressor state to make its attack on the internationalized territories previous to building up a new war potential. Thus such an attack would be hopeless provided the other countries have retained and developed their war potential. Faced with this situation the former aggressor state would be forced to change its attitude radically, and adopt one of co-operation. It would be forced to invite the international control of its industry and to facilitate the investigation of the international controlling authority (instead of obstructing them) because only such an attitude would guarantee its use of the facilities needed by its industries; and such a development would be likely to take place without any further interference with the internal politics of the state.
The danger that the internationalization of these facilities might be misused for the purpose of exploiting or of humiliating the population of the defeated country can be counter-acted by international legal measures that provide for courts of appeal, etc.
This example shows that it is not impossible to treat a state harshly and its citizens leniently.
* (I have left parts (1) and (2) of this note exactly as they were written in 1942. Only in part (3), which is non-topical, have I made an addition, after the first two paragraphs.) *
(3) But is such an engineering approach towards the problem of peace scientific? Many will contend, I am sure, that a truly scientific attitude towards the problems of war and peace must be different. They will say that we must first study the causes of war. We must study the forces that lead to war, and also those that may lead to peace. It has been recently claimed, for instance, that ‘lasting peace’ can come only if we consider fully the ‘underlying dynamic forces’ in society that may produce war or peace. In order to find out these forces, we must, of course, study history. In other words, we must approach the problem of peace by a historicist method, and not by a technological method. This, it is claimed, is the only scientific approach.
The historicist may, with the help of history, show that the causes of war can be found in the clash of economic interests; or in the clash of classes; or of ideologies, for instance, freedom versus tyranny; or in the clash of races, or of nations, or of imperialisms, or of militarist systems; or in hate; or in fear; or in envy; or in the wish to take revenge; or in all these things together, and in countless others. And he will thereby show that the task of removing these causes is extremely difficult. And he will show that there is no point in constructing an international organization, as long as we have not removed the causes of war, for instance the economic causes, etc.
Similarly, psychologism may argue that the causes of war are to be found in ‘human nature’, or, more specifically, in its aggressiveness, and that the way to peace is that of preparing for other outlets for aggression. (The reading of thrillers has been suggested in all seriousness—in spite of the fact that some of our late dictators were addicted to them.)
I do not think that these methods of dealing with this important problem are very promising. And I do not believe, more especially, in the plausible argument that in order to establish peace we must ascertain the cause or the causes of war.
Admittedly, there are cases where the method of searching for the causes of some evil, and of removing them, may be successful. If I feel a pain in my foot I may find that it is caused by a pebble and remove it. But we must not generalize from this. The method of removing pebbles does not even cover all cases of pains in my foot. In some such cases I may not find ‘the cause’; and in others I may be unable to remove it.
In general, the method of removing causes of some undesirable event is applicable only if we know a short list of necessary conditions (i.e. a list of conditions such that the event in question never happens except if one at least of the conditions on the list is present) and if all of these conditions can be controlled, or, more precisely, prevented. (It may be remarked that necessary conditions are hardly what one describes by the vague term ‘causes’; they are, rather, what are usually called ‘contributing causes’; as a rule, where we speak of ‘causes’ we mean a set of sufficient conditions.) But I do not think that we can hope to construct such a list of the necessary conditions of war. Wars have broken out under the most varying circumstances. Wars are not simple phenomena, such as, perhaps, thunderstorms. There is no reason to believe that by calling a vast variety of phenomena ‘wars’, we ensure that they are all ‘caused’ in the same way.
All this shows that the apparently unprejudiced and convincingly scientific approach, the study of the ‘causes of war’, is, in fact, not only prejudiced, but also liable to bar the way to a reasonable solution; it is, in fact, pseudo-scientific.
How far should we get if, instead of introducing laws and a police force, we approached the problem of criminality ‘scientifically’, i.e. by trying to find out what precisely are the causes of crime? I do not imply that we cannot here or there discover important factors contributing to crime or to war, and that we cannot avert much harm in this way; but this can well be done after we have got crime under control, i.e. after we have introduced our police force. On the other hand, the study of economic, psychological, hereditary, moral, etc., ‘causes’ of crime, and the attempt to remove these causes, would hardly have led us to find out that a police force (which does not remove the cause) can bring crime under control. Quite apart from the vagueness of such phrases as ‘the cause of war’, the whole approach is anything but scientific. It is as if one insisted that it is unscientific to wear an overcoat when it is cold; and that we should rather study the causes of cold weather, and remove them. Or, perhaps, that lubricating is unscientific, since we should rather find out the causes of friction and remove them. This latter example shows, I believe, the absurdity of the apparently scientific criticism; for just as lubrication certainly reduces the ‘causes’ of friction, so an international police force (or another armed body of this kind) may reduce an important ‘cause’ of war, namely the hope of ‘getting away with it’.