9.5.4 Gaining Support for the Reforms

(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/edition03/954.htm)

Collaborative international governance would enforce international law and prohibit unilateral interventions by single countries or coalitions.  This requires ceding some sovereignty, so national politicians and populations – especially in America – would need to be persuaded that this would be in their long-term interests.

There are many political arguments to make this case:

  • Sensitive enforcementof a legal decision, taken after a formal transparent process, enables the enforcer to avoid losing the moral high ground.
  • 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).
  • It would be able to avoid involving ex-colonial powers, whose presence can be a complication.
  • Each successful enforcement of the law strengthens its deterrent effect.
  • 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).
  • 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; even America would find that what has been referred to as “exemplarism” is a better strategy than exceptionalism and coercion.[1]

Countries which supported an international rule of law would be trading an imagined autonomy for real security with dignity.  There is already popular support for a rules-based world order (

This concept is compatible with a report by the US National Defense University which made “the core recommendation for the United States to offer China a framework of concepts and terms for integrated mutual restraint”.[2]  Strengthened international law would extend the principles of such bilateral thinking into a global framework.


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[1] Michael Signer used the term “exemplarism” in an article entitled A City on a Hill, which was published in Democracy journal in summer 2006 and which was available in April 2018 at http://democracyjournal.org/magazine/1/a-city-on-a-hill/.

[2] The National Defense University report The Paradox of Power, which argued for America and China’s mutual restraint, was published in 2011; it was available in April 2018 at http://inss.ndu.edu/Portals/68/Documents/Books/paradox-of-power.pdf.