9.5 International Security

(This is a current page, from the Patterns of Power Edition 3 book contents.  An archived copy of this page is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition03/95.htm)

The founding of the United Nations in 1948 did not see the end of war – more than 100 wars were listed in a document entitled “ Wars Fought Since 1945 to 2010”.[1]

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

  • As Clausewitz famously wrote, “war is a mere continuation of policy by other means”.[2]
  • Rupert Smith expressed it differently:

“our confrontations and conflicts must be understood as intertwined political and military events, and only in this way can they be resolved”.[3]

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 and Russia, among others, have pursued coercive foreign policies (  This 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).

It is reasonable to try to improve the governance of international relations, 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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[1] A document entitled Wars Fought between 1945 and 2010 was available in April 2018 on the Ultimate Bible Reference Library website at http://www.ultimatebiblereferencelibrary.com/Wars_Fought_Since_1945_to_2010.pdf.

[2] This Clausewitz quotation comes from On War, Chapter 1, where it is the heading of section 24.  The whole chapter was available in April 2018 at http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/clausewitz-on-war-vol-1?q=Clausewitz#Clausewitz_1380-01_1.

[3] Rupert Smith described the interconnection of war and politics in his book The Utility of Force, (p.  372).