9.5 International Security

The founding of the United Nations in 1948 did not see the end of war: the Ultimate Bible Reference Library web-page, Wars Fought between 1945 and 2010, listed more than 100.

An armed conflict can be seen as the outcome of a political failure:

● As Clausewitz famously wrote, in his book On War, “war is a mere continuation of policy by other means”. [Volume 1, Section 24].

● Rupert Smith expressed it differently, in his book The Utility of Force: “our confrontations and conflicts must be understood as intertwined political and military events, and only in this way can they be resolved”. [p. 372]

The only way to avoid war, or to end a war that has started, is to resolve the underlying political problem.  Better governance is needed.  Contemporary international relations largely rest upon an uneasy balance of power between countries pursuing their own interests – and there will be continued friction between them as long as they jostle with each other for position.  America, China and Russia have pursued coercive foreign policies and there is an increasing danger of them falling into the Thucydides trap: starting a war because of mutual fear, as described earlier (

The use of military force has been costly – both politically and financially ( – and it is not conducive to continued security (7.4.7).  It has become increasingly apparent that the UN is powerless in practice and is unable to intervene in any country that enjoys the protection of a major power, as in the examples of Israel and Syria being protected by the vetoes of America and Russia respectively (7.4.4).

There are great benefits in supporting a rules-based international order (  As Suzanne Nossel wrote recently, The World Still Needs the UN: “Building Global Governance From Scratch Is a Fool’s Errand”.  It is reasonable to try to reform the UN rather than replace it, as described below:

● The UN is the most credible option available (9.5.1).

● It needs to become rules-based, to give it more legitimacy (9.5.2).

● The leaders of the major powers would all have to agree a new UN Constitution, to implement the reforms (9.5.3).

● They could easily persuade most people, in their own countries and others, to support such a system (9.5.4).



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This is a current page, updated since publication of Patterns of Power Edition 3a.  An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition03/95b.htm