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Digital Subscriptions > Prospect Magazine > November 2017 > Books in brief

Books in brief

The Internationalists—and their Plan to Outlaw War

by Oona A Hathaway and Scott J Shapiro (Allen Lane, £30)

War became illegal in 1928 under the Kellogg–Briand, signed by the US, Germany and France. Given the 20th century’s subsequent bloody history, this might surprise you, as it did some observers at the time. Signed with a foot-long golden fountain pen, the Pact was mocked as “the international equivalent of an air kiss.” Ridicule has since been replaced with indifference. But this new book by Oona Hathaway and Scott Shapiro argues the Pact is “among the most transformative events of human history.”

Before 1928, “might was right.” When Plenty Horses shot Lieutenant Ned Casey, in 1891, he walked free from court having proved that the Sioux were at war with the US. The Pact replaced this “licence to kill” with a demand to co-operate. It made the world more peaceful by requiring states to seek alternatives to conflict, such as economic sanctions, and it encouraged free trade: the lure of conquest was reduced if a state no longer required huge territories to gain access to markets.

But wars still happen; in the absence of conquest, weak states are allowed to survive and may become failed states, vulnerable to civil war and terrorism. The authors conclude with a passionate argument against Donald Trump’s brand of populism and protectionism: free trade and global co-operation have kept wars at bay.

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In Prospect’s November issue: Joris Luyendijk and Stuart Ward try to uncover the way Britain is perceived by Europe and the rest of the world. Luyendijk—who lived in Britain for six years before recently moving back to his native Netherlands—explains that the Brexit vote has shown Europe that Britain needs time alone to find its identity again, while Ward—a native Australian—argues that its Britain’s imperial backstory that stops it from truly understanding what the world thinks of it. Elsewhere in the issue Jeffrey Lewis argues that US foreign policy has helped North Korea develop the nuclear bomb and we explore the effect that the Palestinian museum near Ramallah is having on the creation of a national identity. Also in this issue: Sameer Rahim profiles Armando Iannucci, Joseph Stiglitz on Britain’s tricky political situation.