Should All War Be Illegal?

What is interesting about NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) is article 5:

The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognised by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area. Any such armed attack and all measures taken as a result thereof shall immediately be reported to the Security Council. Such measures shall be terminated when the Security Council has taken the measures necessary to restore and maintain international peace and security.

This, essentially, makes any country that is part of NATO impossible to invade, because the attacking country would be going to war with 30 countries simultaneously: Albania, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Montenegro, Netherlands, North Macedonia, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States.

This is especially beneficial for the smaller countries, who could be at threat of invasion because of their small size and limited military potential compared to larger countries. So, Article 5 enables smaller countries to “borrow” the military threat and power of larger countries, at least on paper.

Of course, this is all theoretical. Article 5 has only been invoked once, and that was in the aftermath of the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States. But, it would be interesting to consider if the US would go to war if someone invaded Latvia, a country that most US citizens would probably struggle to locate on a world map.

However, it is interesting to consider if the United Nations had a similar treaty for all countries in the world, where it is impossible to attack one country without going to war against the entire world, and this would also have to cover “defensive” wars for any reasons. So, one nation’s soldiers and tanks and planes cannot go and attack another country, for any reason.

This would significantly alter the payoffs of even a potentially limited war.

One problem, of course, is that any such setup in the United Nations system would require approval by the Security Council. The permanent members (China, France, United Kingdom, United States, and Russia) have veto powers, and they would likely use these to block any usage of an article-5-like provision in the United Nations system.

This does not mean that something similar would not work, but perhaps it does hint that the structure or inner workings of the Security Council may need to change in the future. The problem, of course, is that we do not want the United Nations to break up in the same way that the League of Nations did, and this means that there does need to be some level of negations with the most powerful countries, because they could conceivably leave, thus destabilising the entire UN system.

The main benefit of the UN is that, for the first time in recorded history, there is a world forum for all countries to use as a platform for discussions and conversation.

And let’s not forget that conversation is the only rational alternative to violence that we have.

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