Peace Treaties #
“To kill one man is to be guilty of a capital crime, to kill ten men is to increase the guilt ten-fold, to kill a hundred men is to increase it a hundred-fold. This the rulers of the earth all recognize and yet when it comes to the greatest crime – waging war on another state – they praise it!
It is clear they do not know it is wrong, for they record such deeds to be handed down to posterity; if they knew they were wrong, why should they wish to record them and have them handed down to posterity?
Those who recognize a small crime as such, but do not recognize the wickedness of the greatest crime of all – the waging of war on another state – but actually praise it – cannot distinguish right and wrong. So as to right or wrong, the rulers of the world are in confusion." -Mozi, China circa 470-391 B.C.
Little conceptual thinking has gone into what constitutes a Just Peace. At best it should remove any cause for the eruption of violent conflict.
The first formal peace treaty was probably made after The Persian War, in 501, after Athens had been sacked.
Against Sparta, Athens gave up its mainland possessions and confined itself to a largely maritime empire when the Spartan army retired. The arrangement was ratified by the Thirty Years’ Peace (winter 446–445).
The sack of Troy #
The sack of Troy and later of Carthage, could also fit into the category of genocide though in those times to be successful in war one needed to annihilate the enemy.
To truly celebrate victory, the enemy had to be fully vanquished so as to not be capable of rising again, so Carthage was razed and salt spread over the soil.
Book 5 of Thucydides history describes how the ambassadors of the powerful city state of Athens rebuffed the leaders of the island of Melos, who wished to remain neutral in the conflict engulfing the ancient Hellenic world.
The ambassadors told the Melians that “justice is to be found only as between equals in power. As for the rest, the strong do as they will and the weak suffer as they must”.
Some historians claim Julius Caesar could, by today’s standards, be tried as a war criminal. His brutal total massacre of the Germanic tribes in 55 BC in the Netherlands constitutes genocide as he ordered his soldiers to kill all men, women and children.
During the Civil War, General William Tecumseh Sherman, who set fire to Atlanta, believed he was entitled to do anything in pursuit of victory, because he was fighting against an enemy that had begun an unjust war.
Treaty of Westphalia #
European settlements of 1648, which brought to an end the Eighty Years’ War between Spain and the Dutch and the German phase of the Thirty Years’ War. The peace was negotiated, from 1644 and signed on January 30, 1648.
Some scholars of international relations credit the treaties with providing the foundation of the modern state system and articulating the concept of territorial sovereignty.
The nation state grew out of the Treaty of Westphalia, the war that killed about 20% of Europe’s population.
Congress of Vienna #
Congress of Vienna, assembly in 1814–15 that reorganized Europe after the Napoleonic Wars, was the most-comprehensive treaty that Europe had ever seen. Until an even greater settlement took place at Versailles after World War I, it was customary for historians to condemn the statesmen of Vienna. It was later realized how difficult their task was, as was the fact that they secured for Europe a period of peace of 100 years, which was its cardinal need.
Austria, Prussia, Russia, and Great Britain, the four powers that were chiefly instrumental in the overthrow of Napoleon, had concluded a special alliance among themselves with the Treaty of Chaumont, on March 9, 1814, a month before Napoleon’s first abdication. The subsequent treaties of peace with France, signed on May 30 not only by the “four” but also by Sweden and Portugal and on July 20 by Spain, stipulated that all former belligerents should send plenipotentiaries to a congress in Vienna. Nevertheless, the “four” still intended to reserve the real decision making for themselves.
Prince Metternich is considered the main architect of the Treaty.
Treaty of Versailles #
There can be no doubt that the harsh terms of the Treaty of Versailles were the direct cause of Hitler’s rise to power. Some delegates worked toward a fair and just peace treaty, while many merely wanted “revanche”.
Woodrow Wilson continued to fight, insisting, ‘The only principle I recognize is that of the consent of the governed.’ We’ve got to make peace on the principles laid down and accepted, or not make it at all.'
Wilson told the American commissioners: ‘Gentlemen, this is not a meeting of the Peace Commission. It is more a Council of War.'
Evidence suggests Woodrow Wilson sustained an attack of food poisoning, whether accidental or not is open to doubt.
“Then, abruptly, without warning to or discussion with any other Americans, Wilson suddenly abandoned principles he had previously insisted upon. He yielded to Clemenceau everything of significance Clemenceau wanted, virtually all of which Wilson had earlier opposed.
German reparations and that Germany accept all responsibility for starting the war. The Rhineland would be demilitarized; Germany would not be allowed to have troops within thirty miles of the east bank of the Rhine. The rich coal fields of the Saar region would be mined by France and the region would be administered by the new League of Nations for fifteen years, and then a plebiscite would determine whether the region would belong to France or Germany. The provinces of Alsace and Lorraine, which Germany had seized after the Franco-Prussian War, were moved from Germany back to France. West Prussia and Posen were given to Poland – creating the ‘Polish corridor’ that separated two parts of Germany. The German air force was eliminated, its army limited to one hundred thousand men, its colonies stripped away – but not freed, simply redistributed to other powers.
On May 7 the Germans were presented with the treaty. They complained that it violated the very principles Wilson had declared were inviolate.
Wilson left the meeting saying, ‘What abominable manners …. This is the most tactless speech I have ever heard.'
Yet they had not reminded Wilson and the world that he had once said:
a lasting peace could be achieved only by – ‘‘A peace without victory.'
Wilson also told Baker, ‘If I were a German, I think I should never sign it.'
It is of course impossible to say what Wilson would have done had he not become sick. Perhaps he would have made the concessions anyway, trading every principle away to save his League of Nations.
Historians with virtual unanimity agree that the harshness toward Germany of the Paris peace treaty helped create the economic hardship, nationalistic reaction, and political chaos that fostered the rise of Adolf Hitler.
It did not require hindsight to see the dangers. They were obvious at the time. John Maynard Keynes quit Paris calling Wilson ‘the greatest fraud on earth.’ ‘We are at the dead season of our fortunes …. Never in the lifetime of men now living has the universal element in the soul of man burnt so dimly.’
Herbert Hoover believed that the treaty would tear down all Europe, and said so.
Treaties of Nanking 1842 & 1862 #
The treaty between Britain and China that ended the First Opium War. The first Unequal Treaty, it ceded Hong Kong to Britain, broke the Chinese monopoly on trade, and opened the treaty ports of Xiamen (Amoy), Guangzhou (Canton), Fuzhou (Foochow), Ningbo (Ningpo), and Shanghai to foreign trade. Further treaties extended trade and residence privileges to other nations and set up the framework for Western economic expansion in China.
World War II #
The horrors of the Second World War inspired two major declarations of faith:
• the United Nations Charter (1945)
• the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948).
Both emerged in the brief, politically temperate interlude between the last months of battle and the beginning of the cold war. As with most declarations of faith, their adherents—first and foremost, governments—have frequently failed to live up to them, but practically all governments say they accept the basic code of conduct these declarations expound.
Governments and people, especially in peaceful times, may grow disillusioned with the United Nations; horrendous atrocities may sometimes make a mockery of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; but these two documents set standards for a tolerable society on this planet. The continuing effort to achieve and maintain those standards is the frontier between civilization and barbarism.
Both declarations certainly made sense to people who had just been through six years of world war. With more than forty-five million killed and unimaginable ruin and misery, who could object to the words
We the peoples of the United Nations determined…to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind…to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom….
Recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.
To show they’re serious about protecting people’s human rights, governments must ensure access to real complaint processes. Unenforceable rights lead to corruption. For people whose rights are violated, it’s critical that something is done about it to deter reoccurrences.
Ben Ferencz believes “war makes murderers out of otherwise decent people” and has spent his life working to deter war and war crimes.
The Nuremberg Trials #
The Nuremberg trials after World War II were historic – the first international war crimes tribunals ever held. Hitler’s top lieutenants were prosecuted first.
Then a series of subsequent trials were mounted against other Nazi leaders, including 22 SS officers responsible for killing more than a million people – not in concentration camps – but in towns and villages across Eastern Europe.
Their trial was held before an International Military Tribunal (IMT) in Nuremberg, Germany. Judges from the Allied powers—Great Britain, France, the Soviet Union, and the United States—presided over the hearing of 22 major Nazi criminals.
Subsequently, the United States held 12 additional trials in Nuremberg of high-level officials of the German government, military, and SS as well as medical professionals and leading industrialists. The crimes charged before the Nuremberg courts were crimes against peace, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and conspiracy to commit any of the foregoing crimes.
The defendants generally acknowledged that the crimes they were accused of occurred but denied that they were responsible, as they were following orders from a higher authority.
Soviets and Nuremburg #
The Soviets were not just part of the prosecution team at Nuremberg; they were instrumental in defining the crimes of which the Nazi leaders were accused.
Geneva Conventions #
All’s fair in love, war and politics? You be the judge.
The First Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded in Armies in the Field, held on 22 August 1864, is the first of four treaties of the Geneva Conventions.
It defines “the basis on which rest the rules of international law for the protection of the victims of armed conflicts."
It essentially catered “for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded in Armies in the Field”.
After the first treaty was adopted in 1864, it was significantly revised and replaced in 1906, 1929, and finally 1949. It is inextricably linked to the International Committee of the Red Cross, which is both the instigator for the inception and enforcer of the articles in these conventions.
What is acceptable and what is prohibited in armed conflict? These form the foundation of international humanitarian law and provide a framework setting out the rules of engagement.
In 1968, Eleanor Roosevelt was posthumously awarded the UN Human Rights Prize and in 1998, the United Nations Association of the USA inaugurated the Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights Award.
Inspirational quotes from Eleanor:
A good leader inspires people to have confidence in the leader. A great leader inspires people to have confidence in themselves.
Since the 1983 Beirut barracks bombings, a caveat has been added to American rules of engagement to state that all personnel have an inherent right of self-defense.
George W. Bush simply renamed Enemy Prisoners of War – as “illegal combatants”
John Paul Stevens, followed up in 2006 with an epoch-making opinion in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, which clarified that—at the very least—the Geneva Conventions Common Article 3 applied to the war on terror. And because that article requires:
trial of detainees by a “regularly constituted court, affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples,” the military commissions Bush had planned since 2001 were inadequate.
The decision implied that whatever global struggle the US wanted to wage against terrorism would have to be conducted under the applicable international law—because nothing less than the war’s legitimacy depended on it.
The problem is that these lofty ideals can not be enforced. The fact that the West has violated most of them in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan gives us little moral authority to impose them on others.