9.5.4 Gaining Support for the Reforms

There are many good arguments to help politicians with gaining support for security reforms, and most of the public is already supportive.

Opinion polling suggests that UN reform would be popular.  A BBC World Service poll of 23 countries showed “nearly universal support for dramatic reforms in the United Nations”.  Many people are doubtful about the benefits of a rules-based world order, though: the fires of aggressive nationalism continue to burn brightly (

Politicians need to convince the doubters.  It means explaining that support for a rules-based world order is a policy of strength and legitimacy, and one that is conducive to peace.  It is the claim that collaborative international governance would enforce international law and prohibit unilateral interventions by single countries or coalitions.  This argument was used to justify the creation of the UN (and its predecessors), as described earlier (

Nationalists point out that this requires ceding some sovereignty, so national politicians and populations – especially in America and Russia – would need to be persuaded that this would be in their long-term interests.  For example, there is an isolationist wing in the Republican Party – as illustrated in the first debate of the 2024 election:

Vivek Ramaswamy, “a fierce Trump defender”, “took the most isolationist position on the Ukraine-Russia war, arguing that it was not a priority for the U.S. and saying he would end military aid to Ukraine.”

This position is not held by all Republicans, and the above remark “drew a sharp rebuke from Nikki Haley, a former ambassador to the United Nations”, but many Americans still need to be convinced of the need for a rules-based world order.  A powerful argument for improving international security is the connection between peace and prosperity.  An OECD report, Paying the Price of War, included the following comments:

“The global economy has been hit by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Global economic growth stalled in the second quarter of 2022, and indicators in many economies now point to an extended period of subdued growth.

The war has pushed up energy and food prices substantially, aggravating inflationary pressures at a time when the cost of living was already rising rapidly around the world.”

There is understandable scepticism about the value of a rules-based world order, in view of the UN’s failure to keep the peace in recent decades (7.4.4).  It is therefore necessary to explain what could be different in future, when gaining support for security reforms:

●  It can be argued that the current security crisis is a direct consequence of not having a rules-based world order. For the last few years, countries have been making ‘realpolitik’ decisions in the absence of effective international law, using military force to achieve their objectives (  This has been costly – both politically and financially (7.4.6) – and it is not conducive to continued security (7.4.7).

●  There are clear advantages in a system based on the rule of law. Sensitive enforcement of a legal decision, taken after a formal transparent process, enables the enforcer to avoid losing the moral high ground.  A country which had been formally appointed to act as a “sheriff” for an issue would be acting on behalf of all the countries in the world, so it would not be significantly damaged politically.  It would be less likely to be the target of adverse propaganda (7.4.3).

●  De-politicised published rules would be seen to be fairer than the current political ‘horse-trading’.

●  Resisting a properly constituted law-enforcement intervention is not the same as resisting an unauthorised military threat from another country. An authorised intervention is likely to be popular with at least some of the population in the target country, whereas unauthorised action unites the people to combat the threat (6.3.6).

●  Legally authorised interventions could avoid involving ex-colonial powers, whose presence can be a complication.

●  Each successful enforcement of the law strengthens its deterrent effect.

●  Countries would still be able to pursue unilateral agendas, but they would have to use persuasion rather than force – as envisaged in Joseph Nye’s concept of using ‘soft power’(  The pursuit of soft power is a good foreign policy for any country.  America would find that what Michael Signer referred to as “exemplarism”, in his article A City on a Hill, is a better strategy than exceptionalism and coercion.

●  Countries which supported an international rule of law would be trading an imagined autonomy for real security with dignity. This concept is compatible with a US National Defense University report, The Paradox of Power, which made “the core recommendation for the United States to offer China a framework of concepts and terms for integrated mutual restraint”.  Strengthened international law would extend the principles of such bilateral thinking into a global framework.


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This page is intended to form part of Edition 4 of the Patterns of Power series of books.  An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition04/954a.htm.