IG’s Peace Blog

Peace and its many aspects

Peace in Parts?

A few days ago I wrote:

“As they get more and more involved in regional and international organizations (which did not exist a hundred years ago), and as globalization proceeds to get us all entwined with each other, aggressive international war (against one’s trading partners, for instance) make less and less sense (the Phantom Menace notwithstanding).”

Later I was thinking about this and that took me back to something I read in graduate school.  Several decades ago (then) Harvard Political Scientiest wrote a short book called “Peace in Parts”.   Amazon describes the book this way:

“This book addresses the issue of whether nation-states can form regional islands of peace in a turbulent international system. It carefully describes the problems and prospects in forming common markets and security communities among neighboring states.”

What I realized is that, in many respects, Nye was right, more or less, even though as I wrote in my recent post, the implications of this increasingly dense “web” of international interdependence seems to be either overlooked or downplayed in most peoples’ thinking about world affairs.   It really is the case that if you are in a (hopefully) mutually beneficial trade organization with a large number of countries in your immediate vicinity, this will increase your reasons for finding non-violent solutions to resolving conflicts.  In fact, many of these organizations have been created with such procedures.  Also,  summit meetings of international organizations provide opportunities for “quiet diplomacy”, which just means leaders, being together, can discuss all sort of things unofficially among themselves (ie during lunch), besides what is on the official agenda.    In fact, some have argued that quiet diplomacy is probably the most important contribution of the U.N., since at its meetings all sorts of people are crossing paths…people who might not normally have much to say to each other officially (who countries might not even, in certain cases, have diplomatic relations).  So, there are all sorts of positive spinoff and knock on effects.

However, there is one caveat to add.  Some have argued that regional organizations are enough to, in effect, solve the global governance “problem”; ie that nothing that looks like “world government” is necessary.  However, there are flaws in this argument.  Assuming that the goal of governance is to provide public goods like peace, order development, etc to world’s peoples… then there is no guarantee that enough resources to achieve these golas in a region can be found in that region.  You might need to to look farther afield  Also, some problems are supra-regional, and therefore require some sort of mechanism (even if just the occasional summit meeting–though that is probably not going to be enough for most serious issues) that is, for lack of a better term, global in scope.  Pollution comes to mind, as does drug trafficking, and many other more technical concerns such as regulating air lines, allocating short wave bands, creating internet technical standards, etc…in short, everything that makes our planetary society work on a day to day basis.

So, while we need good governance at the regional, national and local levels, we also need at least some minimal, but effective, governance at the global level  If you can see a way around this, please let me know 🙂

IGBarb says:  “We are Nye unto peace–in parts and as a whole 🙂 “

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February 28, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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