The Atlantic

When the World Outlawed War

“The postwar consensus is under greater assault today than it has been in seven decades.”
Source: George Rinhart / Getty

In 1928, the leaders of 15 countries committed to renouncing war as a tool for resolving international disputes. They enshrined this commitment in the Kellogg-Briand Pact (sometimes referred to as the Paris Peace Pact) and were later joined by 47 other countries. But war, of course, continued, and the pact is generally remembered as a well-meaning but ineffectual fantasy—when it is remembered at all.  

Now, Yale law professors Oona Hathaway and Scott Shapiro, the authors of The Internationalists: How a Radical Plan to Outlaw War Remade the World, seek to reinterpret the pact’s historical significance. Their book argues that it’s because war was made illegal in 1928 that nations rarely go to war with each other anymore (though wars within states are another matter).

Critics have with this noting that the pact is far from the only explanation for the decline in wars between states. What about the aversion to conflict brought about by the horrors of World War I and World War II? Or the development of nuclear weapons as a tool of deterrence? Or the rise of the United States as the dominant world power? Or the increasing economic interdependence between

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