- The Internationalists: How a Radical Plan to Outlaw War Remade the World by Oona A. Hathaway and Scott J. Shapiro
Some works of history—Howard Zinn's People's History of the United States comes to mind—manage to take the well-known facts of an era and recast them in a new light that dramatically changes their meaning. The effect is something like suddenly seeing a black and white historical photograph rendered in color. Though not as [End Page 423] earthshaking as Zinn's work, The Internationalists, by Oona Hathaway and Scott Shapiro, creates the same feeling by giving an international history of the last several hundred years through the lens of the 1928 Paris Peace Pact, also known as the Kellogg-Briand Pact.
For most students of modern history, the Kellogg-Briand Pact is a moment of well-meaning, high-minded idealism rendered tragically ironic by the horrific wars that followed it. Hathaway and Shapiro, however, argue that the pact represents a turning point in international law that has profoundly shaped the world since it was enacted. To make this case, they recount many episodes in European and world history, beginning with Grotius' formulation of what Hathaway and Shapiro call the "Old World Order," which made war a legal and necessary extension of politics, and ending with what they call the "New World Order" of today, which outlaws aggressive war, and uses economic sanctions to maintain international order.
Through a series of highly readable profiles of major and minor figures like Grotius, Frank Kellogg, Robert Jackson, Hersch Lauterpacht, and Hans Kelsen, as well as skillfully sketched vignettes of Perry's opening of Japan, the writing of the Kellogg-Briand Pact, and the Nuremberg Tribunal, the book presents both an intellectual history of the New World Order, and a global legal/political/military overview of the twentieth century. It is here that the book offers a dramatic new perspective, for as it rehearses the familiar narratives of Japanese imperialism or the rise of the Third Reich, it makes a persuasive case that the reactions of the League of Nations, as well as the major powers such as Great Britain and the United States were in line with an assertion of the New World Order. This comes into sharpest focus in the chapter on the Nuremberg Tribunal, in which Hathaway and Shapiro make a powerful case that the entire trial was about the Old World Order versus the New, thus casting the familiar events in a new light.
The Internationalists ends with a forceful defense of the New World Order against the threats that currently surround it, including Donald Trump, Brexit, ethnic nationalism, and Russia. The final [End Page 424] chapter casts ISIS as an ideological rejection of the New World Order. Beyond specific events, the authors use the Correlates of War database of territorial changes between 1812 and 2014 to make a convincing case that the number of permanent territorial conquests in the world has plummeted since the 1928 Peace Pact.
Overall, the book is powerful in its argument, intriguing in its vision, and eminently enjoyable as a narrative. This is not to say that it is without shortcomings. The authors largely ignore the connections between the New World Order and classical liberalism, and so it does not do a very good job of explaining where the ideas of the New World Order came from, and why they emerged when they did. There are also a few factual errors, such as the assertion that Schleicher, not von Papen, engineered Hitler's appointment to the chancellorship of Germany. In the end, however, these are quibbles about a powerful and fascinating book.
PAUL SCHUE teaches history at Northland College, in Ashland, Wisconsin. His work has appeared in Sexing Political Culture in the History of France, France and Its Spaces of War: Experience, Memory, Image, and various academic journals.