Why can’t we build a world at peace?

The world today remains at war. Wars in the Americas, Africa, Asia, Europe.

Everywhere there are people, there is war.

Interesting, then, that the law rejects war, and calls for peace.

There is the Kellogg-Briand Pact, for example. In the 1920s, a powerful anti-war movement in the U.S. and Europe applied pressure on governments to adopt this international treaty, which outlaws war.

The treaty requires countries to “condemn recourse to war for the solution of international controversies, and renounce it, as an instrument of national policy in their relations with one another.”

It also requires countries to resolve “all disputes or conflicts of whatever nature or of whatever origin they may be” through “pacific means.”

The United States was and remains a signatory to the treaty.

There is also the Charter of the United Nations. Article 4(2) of the Charter requires countries to “refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.

There is a well-recognized and understood legal obligation for countries of the world to preserve the global peace, call the “jus cogens norm against aggression,” which a court can apply, if it wants.

If the law requires countries to keep the peace and abandon war, why do we have so much difficulty building peace? Why do we stick with war?

War is profitable: People make a lot of money off of war. Those people can fund politicians or distribute propaganda that support and sustain war efforts everywhere.

War brings false glory: War makes people feel good. They see their “team” destroying the other “team,” and it brings a false sense of reflected glory.

War is an old habit, and old habits die hard: War has been around for a long time. Old habits are tough to break. People’s imaginations have a hard time thinking about what a world without war might look like.

These are tough challenges. To get over them, we will need leadership.

We will need people who understand the legal framework, which outlaws war.

We will need people who can effectively mobilize to unhook societies from the habits, profits, and false glories of war, and point them to something else.

We will need people who can build a positive vision of the future that does not involve unbridled war-making, and who can imagine a globe that is truly at peace.

But it is possible. The law is on the side of peace. So should we all be.