Treaty Enforcement – How and Why the Treaty Would Work
As the PEP Rationale points out, it’s clear global citizens would love to be done with wars. We’ve made global peace treaties before, notably the 1928 Kellogg-Briand Pact, which, surprisingly, remains in effect. Later, after the monstrous Second World War, we established the United Nations in the hope and with the goal of ending wars. It worked for a while, when the memories of WWII were still real to many citizens and nuclear arms agreements reduced fears of nuclear weapons.
In 2023, however, Russia, a nuclear-armed nation, invaded Ukraine. We now teeter in fear that we’re on the brink of a possible new world war involving NATO and its member, the United States of America, both of which are nuclear-armed entities. China hovers like a black cloud over the people of Taiwan, who live free under the protection of a security agreement with the USA that if they are attacked, the USA would come to their defense. We clearly need a workable treaty.
Two Problems with Previous Treaties
Enforcement - The standard reason for why previous treaties fail to prevent attacks is that they rely on voluntary compliance. None have a built-in means of enforcement. The United Nations has peacekeeping forces, but no army that can end a war once begun. We’re to trust each other to comply. The most we can do is punish with sanctions after the fact.
And human nature being what it is, relying on good faith is a wildly unrealistic hope. History demonstrates that the world can expect the rise of authoritarian or dictatorial leaders of a nation, as in Russia, who decide the benefits of treaty noncompliance outweigh any likely costs.
Moreover, for a plethora of reasons, not just ambitions of dictators, border disputes between nations will continue and new ones will arise. On a planet without unlimited resources and on which humans already occupy every patch of naturally habitable land, we already struggle over many issues (e.g. living space, water, arable land, critical metals).
The proposed PEP treaty offers a solution to the lack of enforcement that wouldn’t have been possible in previous centuries, or even recent decades. It relies on a new reality: Earth’s human population now exists as a massively intertwined global entity.
In a very real sense, what is done by one or just a few nations frequently has global ramifications. The view of Earth from space reinforces the growing sense that we are all sharing the same boat, adrift in the cosmos, and that survival of civilization requires that we make some big changes that will require cooperation—the opposite of war. So we now feel in urgent need of an agreement that will put an end to war.
The war in Ukraine is a clear example of this entwinement. Ukraine’s inability to export grain creates major food shortages elsewhere. Like an evil octopus with many tentacles, fighting that war to support a budding democracy and block the spread of authoritarianism uses up not just Ukrainian resources, but also massive resources from other nations that are needed for better things, like dealing with ocean pollution and responding to climate change.
The stupendously destructive war between Israel and Hamas displays similar negative drain on human, financial, infrastructure, and human creativity resources needed to grapple with onrushing existential threats. What an enormous waste these wars demonstrate!
Lack of Universal Cooperation - Another important cause of failure of previous treaties, besides having to rely on the obviously fallacious hope that all nations will voluntarily comply, is that, with one notable exception (the Ozone treaty), the treaties weren’t adopted by 100% of the global community. This means that a treaty breaker may be able to rely on support from nations that are not signatories.
For example, Russia’s continuation of the invasion is dependent on aid from China, India, and Iran. This means that a critical key to successfully deter aggression now and in the future is to secure a 100% treaty, a treaty signed by 100% of all nations—a fully universal treaty. As described below, the threat of swift negative response applied to a treaty breakerby the entire global communitycan realistically be expected to provide a sufficient preemptive deterrent for treaty noncompliance.
Should, however, that threat alone be insufficient, and an attack nevertheless occurs, the global community would, by treaty, be obliged to swiftly impose a series of clearly delineated, increasingly painful consequences. These would be targeted at the aggressor nation’s leadership, avoiding as much as possible its citizenry. The intent isn’t to destroy an aggressor nation or punish it after the attack, but to prevent attack in the first place.
The nature of the consequences would depend on each signatory’s ability to respond and would have to be updated regularly to fit current conditions within the world community.
The Positive Consequences of an Enforceable Treaty
Once an effective treaty is in place, over time it would assure the citizenry of all nations, including the leaders of those nations, that their country will not be attacked. Let that idea sink in. Citizens and leaders will realize that substantial amounts of their nation’s financial and human resources can be shifted to meet critical non-defense needs and can be used to advance positive goals. The ability to free up a nation’s resources for better things serves as an extremely powerful incentive for a nation to buy into the treaty, and to encourage (pressure) other nations to do so as well.
In brief, here is how a binding treaty, characterized by specified treaty obligations for all nations, would function.
1. An international oversight watchdog body of experts, agreed upon by a 60% supermajority of treaty signatories and 60% supermajority of the UN General Assembly, would be tasked to monitor signs indicating any nation’s intentions to aggress against any other nation, such as mobilizing troops or weapons. That is, these expert watchdogs would be looking for any signs that one or more signatories is or are contemplating some form of treaty noncompliance. This early warning system, by notifying the global community that attack—physical or digital—is looking imminent, would then be responsible for triggering the level of responses to the threat which are specified by the treaty.
2. The first international response would be to send a warning to a potential aggressor/s. The warning would entail at minimum a written notification by all treaty signatories to the potential aggressor/s that their threatening behavior has been noted, and that should an attack occur, negative consequences for noncompliance, as specified by the treaty, will begin at once. The second international response would require pressure from the global community (via the United Nations) to the parties involved, that they are now required by treaty to engage in mediation and negotiations. To oversee such procedures, preselected experienced UN mediators would stand ready to serve.
3. Should the mediation process fail to lead to an agreed upon resolution and an attack nevertheless takes place, consequences for noncompliance would be immediate. At first relatively mild actions, having no effect on the attacking nation’s general population, but designed to be sufficiently harsh against the aggressor’s national leadership to halt the attack and result in withdrawal. Examples of such consequences might be to
prevent political and military leaders of the offending nation/s from travel to other countries for anything other than efforts to end the conflict;
prevent children of political and military leaders from attending school in any foreign country;
expel families of political and military leaders of the aggressor nation/s from any foreign country where they are living;
expel some diplomats of the aggressor nation/s from foreign embassies;
prevent or remove diplomats from the offending nation/s from chairing important committees in the UN,
4. Should these first global responses for noncompliance fail to result in the cessation of action and withdrawal as specified by the treaty, a series of increasingly onerous consequences, also specified by the treaty, would take place. These would begin to affect the populace, creating pressure on the leadership to halt the aggression and return to negotiations.
5. Should an aggressor mount an unanticipated surprise attack, digital or with missiles, treaty signatories would immediately retaliate by imposing higher order consequences, these being specified by the treaty.
6. To be clear, in cases where two or more nations essentially taunt each other, the warning at what appears to be the brink of war from the global community would be sent to both or all countries along with calls for negotiations. Consequences for refusal to negotiate in good faith would fall proportionately on all sides, the decision as to who is most at fault to be decided by a committee appointed by the United Nations General Assembly.
The psychology for why this treaty, geared to anticipate noncompliance and counteract an attack, would work.
In the face of unified and universal threat of immediate, negative responses by the entire global community to an attack, the overt aggression would likely not take place. Negative consequences would outweigh the benefits of attacking. But what if an aggressor calculated that the benefits would outweigh the harms, or was willing to test the global community’s resolve? First level negative consequences could very well result in a retreat into diplomacy and negotiation. Punitive actions beyond the first level likely would never need to be applied.
It’s been suggested, for example, that if the entire global community had been required by treaty to immediately apply serious consequences to Russia when it invaded Ukraine, Russia would not likely have invaded in the first place; in fact, Russian aggression continues only because some nations not only have not applied negative consequences, they provide Russia with various forms of support.
The issue of enforcement.
Regrettably, two evils are under consideration, and a choice must be made. War is clearly evil, arguably the greatest evil we perpetrate. But negative responses for noncompliance, sometimes called sanctions, will also harm aggressor/s and their people, inflicting mild harm to serious harm. Thus in the face of aggression, the global community must choose: accept the evil of war or apply appropriate negative consequences for noncompliance.
It would be a blessing if we could rely on voluntary compliance with treaties, but clearly we can’t. To keep civility and order in our social interactions, offenders in many many contexts, from childhood misbehavior to murder, are subjected to negative consequences. Surely the same must be true for the bad behavior of starting a war.
About national boundaries.
Although not a part of the treaty document, it’s understood that national boundaries will not be forever static. Two nations wanting to join to become one could do so if the citizenry so desired, and for its security the new nation would adopt and sign the universal treaty. The means for making border changes would be by mediation and negotiation, not bombs and tanks.
Similarly, if the citizenry of a nation so desired, parts of nations could decide to succeed and become their own nation, all accomplished (ideally) by entirely nonviolent means (voting, mediation, negotiation). Each would then also, as a part of the global community, sign the treaty, highly motivated to do so because protection of their nation from invasion would be assured.