Skip to content

The Globalization of Force

August 23, 2014

By Carl Teichrib

Note: If you appreciate the research work and analysis, please consider donating through PayPal (button on right) or becoming a Forcing Change subscriber.


Since the dawn of the Twentieth Century there has seemingly been no end to dreams of one-world and collective cooperation. Advocates and supporters of “world order” have been legion; from H.G. Wells and Bertrand Russell to Mikhail Gorbachev, Ted Turner, Hillary Clinton, and the current United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon. Although the visions and applications of one-world have shifted and morphed with each generation, adapting to changing political realities, the desire for internationalism has nevertheless remained. Concepts of “world citizenship,” “global governance,” and “world federalism” have impacted our thinking, politics, and culture. Indeed, the cry for “world government” has been heralded by influential personalities for more than 125 years.

Structurally speaking, “world government” requires a number of interlocking components; A world parliamentary system with the ability to make international laws, a world court and other judicial mechanisms, global enforcement powers, and a world tax or some other monetary agreement to pay for it all. Of course, nations would need to agree in giving up some of their sovereignty – or in more acceptable terms, to “pool sovereignty.” All of the above has been debated and considered by groups like the World Federalist Movement, an organization that helped birth the International Criminal Court.

Of all the differing components, the concept of a “world police” to enforce the will of the international community has been one of controversy and practicality. Controversy in that the full extent of the idea requires a global force operating under the command of an authority outside of the control of any single national government, and practical in that ad-hoc “collective security” forces and regional military coalitions have come together to meet the challenge of aggressors. The Allies of World War II is one example of a limited “world force,” and at that time, many internationalists had hopes the Allies would transform their combined national military units into a permanent arm of the “United Nations.” Such a “big idea” never saw fruition.

Nevertheless, the dream of a UN world force – and the more practical workings of regional military systems like NATO – demonstrates the longevity of the “collective security” ideal, that nations, regions, and potentially the world can “enforce peace.”

In order to grasp the depth of this idea, and how it has changed over the decades, the following article walks you through the last century and into our time period. It is important to note that this timeline only touches on a few examples, and that those given are not always the largest developments, but all point to the fact that the international community continues to seek a “collective” solution to “peace.”

Finally, this short timeline is excerpted from in-depth reports on the subject published in the online journal, Forcing Change. The full documentation can be found in select Forcing Change editions.


1910: During his Nobel Lecture, Theodore Roosevelt advocated for world federalism.

“I cannot help thinking that the Constitution of the United States, notably in the establishment of the Supreme Court and in the methods adopted for securing peace and good relations among and between the different states, offers certain valuable analogies to what should be striven for in order to secure, through the Hague courts and conferences, a species of world federation for international peace and justice.”

Roosevelt added: “Each nation must keep well prepared to defend itself until the establishment of some form of international police power…”

He noted that a combination of countries working together might be the most acceptable way of obtaining this goal, and that “the ruler or statesman” who could bring these dreams to fruition would receive “the gratitude of all mankind.”

1914 (October 18): The New York Times published an interview with the President of Columbia University, Nicholas Murray Butler, during which time Butler admits that the “international organization of the world already has progressed much farther than is ordinarily understood.”

Butler told Times readers,

“…the time will come when each nation will deposit in a world federation some portion of its sovereignty for the general good. When this happens it will be possible to establish an international executive and an international police, both devised for the especial purpose of enforcing the decisions of the international court.”

1919: In Berne, Switzerland, the Independent Labour Party held a meeting with the Socialist International on “International Socialism and World Peace.” The Berne Conference called on the League of Nations to act as a global agency for military re-structuring and world organization; “The League of Nations should abolish all standing armies, and finally bring about complete disarmament… The League of Nations should create an International Court, which, by means of mediation and arbitration, would settle all disputes…”

1924: Philanthropist Edward Bok published a collection of 20 best plans for “world peace.” Ideas included an Organization of Scientists to oversee world affairs, the advocacy of a “unity in religions,” an organization for international Free Trade, an International Criminal Court, national courts operating under world law, and the establishment of an international bureau of education.

One proposal, number 6, outlawed war through a Declaration of Interdependence; pledging allegiance to world peace, education through “universal training in world citizenship,” the establishment of a World Court of International Justice, and an “Interdependent Force of Peace Police.”

1939: The first edition of Clarence Streit’s highly influential book, Union Now, was published. As Europe found itself engulfed in Hitler’s fires, Streit’s book offered a vision for world order: a Union of Democracies.

Streit recommended a “Union of the North Atlantic,” including a “union of government and citizenship,” “a union customs-free economy,” “a union money,” and a union “postal and communications system.” This Union was to form “a nucleus world government” with a “union defence force.” As Streit wrote; “Our Union, we have seen, would be even more powerful in other respects. It would enjoy almost monopoly world control of such war essentials as rubber, nickel, iron, oil, gold and credit…”

In short time, the Union Now book turned into a campaign and an organization, Federal Union Incorporated. By 1941, Federal Union had offices in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Ireland, India, and Argentina. Later the group changed its name to the Association to Unite the Democracies, and in 2004 it became The Streit Council for a Union of Democracies. During World War II, Streit’s work influenced politicians and key personalities, including pioneers of NATO and the European Union.

1946: Speaking at Westminster College (Fulton, Missouri), former Prime Minister Winston Churchill endorsed a world force operating through the United Nations Organization (UNO).

“A world organization has already been erected for the prime purpose of preventing war, UNO, the successor of the League of Nations… I have, however, a definite and practical proposal to make for action. Courts and magistrates may be set up but they cannot function without sheriffs and constables. The United Nations Organisation must immediately begin to be equipped with an international armed force… I propose that each of the Powers and States should be invited to delegate a certain number of air squadrons to the service of the world organisation… They would not be required to act against their own nation, but in other respects they would be directed by the world organization.”

Then in 1947, speaking at Albert Hall, London, Churchill appealed for world government.

“The creation of an authoritative, all-powerful world order is the ultimate aim towards which we must strive. Unless some effective World Super-Government can be set up and brought quickly into action, the prospects for peace and human progress are dark and doubtful.”

1953: A compilation of US-based polls from 1939 to 1953 indicated that American citizens overwhelmingly supported the idea of a world body with “an international force to maintain world peace.”

                     1939    1947    1953

Yes                 46%    75%    56%

No                   39%    17%    30%

No opinion      15%      8%    14%

1958: The British Government’s White Paper on Defence stated: “The ultimate aim must be comprehensive disarmament by all nations, coupled with comprehensive inspection and control by a world authority.”

Following up on the White Paper, ten Conservative Members of Parliament published a report titled, A World Security Authority? A three-stage process was advocated to achieve total disarmament and the creation of a World Security Authority and World Police Force, complete with nuclear weapons to deter rogue nations from launching a surprise attack against the world authority.

1960: The Soviet Union proposed a three-stage world disarmament program, with Stage 3 culminating in “general and complete disarmament” of all nations. Countries could, under the Soviet plan, retain internal policing units to maintain domestic control. However, these national police units may be called to serve under the command and control of the United Nations Security Council if the need arose.

1961: In September, the US Department of State released Publication 7277, Freedom From War: The United States Program for General and Complete Disarmament in a Peaceful World.

This document essentially mirrored the Soviet three-stage general and complete disarmament program, including disbanding national forces with the exception of what’s needed for internal security. When the third stage was complete, the United Nations would be “sufficiently strong and the obligations of all states under such arrangements sufficiently far-reaching as to assure peace and the just settlement of differences in a disarmed world.”

According to Publication 7277, this meant the development of a progressively strengthened UN Peace Force. The bottom line under both the Soviet and American programs was this: Nations must diminish as the United Nations is empowered.

1962: A World Effectively Controlled by the United Nations was published by the Washington-based Institute for Defense Analysis, under contract by the US Department of State. The document outlined the creation of a UN international force of 500,000 men along with a nuclear force of 50-100 nuclear weapons. An International Court would provide the legal foundation, and the UN would have the power to tax.

1969: The United Nations Association of the USA hosted a panel on “Controlling Conflicts in the 1970s.” The panel recommended the creation of a 25,000 man United Nations stand-by force comprised of “land, sea and air units.”

1970: A congress of the World Association of World Federalists was held in Ottawa, Ontario. The WAWF, now known as the World Federalist Movement, was actively working to influence public policy toward accepting global order through an empowered United Nations. To that end, the congress recommended that a “standby UN peacekeeping force” be established.

1976: The Club of Rome, a prestigious group of world futurists, note that a strengthened UN Peace Force – placed within the context of a “democratized Security Council” – would be an important part of what they called the “new international order.” The Club of Rome also suggested that the United Nations create a World Disarmament Agency to “ensure world security.”

1982: The Independent Commission on Disarmament and Security Issues, also known as the Palme Commission after the fact that Olof Palme – former Prime Minister of Sweden – was its chairman, released its anticipated report, Common Security: A Blueprint for Survival. In analyzing the global security question, the Commission recommended the empowerment of the United Nations by granting the world body its own operational stand-by military forces. This, the report noted, would be part of a larger collective security system, including the building of regional security measures to complement the United Nations. The governments of Austria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Japan, Mexico, Nigeria, Norway, Saudi Arabia, and Sweden were the main financiers of the Commission, with extra funding coming from the Soviet Union, France, West Germany, and Great Britain.

1985: The World Federalists of Canada submitted a paper to the Special Joint Committee on Canada’s International Relations, calling for a “Common Security Alternative.” Recommendations to guide Canada’s foreign policy included commitments to world federalism. In the vein of common security, the World Federalists proposed the creation of an International Criminal Court and the development of a UN force “made up of individuals recruited directly to the UN.”

1992: UN Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, introduced An Agenda For Peace, a global call for common security with the recommendation that the UN be equipped with “peace-enforcement units.” Then, in 1995, he updated his Agenda with a call to create a UN rapid reaction force – a “strategic reserve” for the UN Security Council. This strategic reserve would be comprised on national military units, stationed in their respective home countries, but in a state of readiness to serve the United Nations upon demand.

1995: The Government of Canada finalized a major study titled Towards a Rapid Reaction Capability for the United Nations. In it the government recommended that a UN rapid-reaction military force, operational headquarters and basing, and satellite intelligence-gathering system be placed under the command of the UN Secretary-General. Ideas on how to pay for this rapid reaction force included a tax on international currency transfers and a special surcharge on airline tickets. Recognizing the sweeping nature of their global security concept, the report reminded its readers that “today’s idealism may readily become tomorrow’s realism.”

1996: Seven nations – Austria, Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland and Sweden – founded the United Nations Standby High Readiness Brigade (SHIRBRIG), a multinational security organ working closely with the UN Secretariat. In December of that year, SHIRBRIG became operational and was headquartered in Denmark. However, the agreed upon command structure didn’t fulfill the dream of a UN-exclusive force. While it technically functioned under the United Nations, its use still required the consent of the participating national governments. Nevertheless, SHIRBRIG did see deployment during peacekeeping and humanitarian operations in Eritrea and the Ivory Coast (2000), Liberia (2003), and Sudan (2004-2005). It also worked closely with the African Union in developing the continent-wide African Standby Force.

In 2009 SHIRBRIG was dismantled, due in large part to participating governments seeking influence and positions within NATO and newly-formed European Union Battlegroups.

2000: In 2000, US Congressman Jim McGovern introduced H.R. 4453, The United Nations Rapid Deployment Police and Security Force Act. Although it didn’t create waves in Congress, it nevertheless became a rallying cry for World Federalists and other international-minded policy groups. The next year, McGovern introduced H.R. 938, a bill to allow the United Nations a functioning 6,000-man volunteer force under the direction of the UN Security Council.

2001: The United Nations-supported International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS) released its report, The Responsibility to Protect. The direction given by ICISS launched a new global security doctrine: that if a nation cannot secure the safety of its own people, then the international community has the responsibility to overstep national sovereignty and intervene in the domestic crisis. Responsibility to Protect, also known as R2P, was the context under which NATO launched its military strikes in Libya to support the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. R2P as a context for potential intervention in Syria, and more recently in Nigeria and Iraq, has been considered.

2002: A transnational Working Group for a UN Emergency Peace Service was launched. Supported by the Ford Foundation and Simons Foundation, and organizations like the World Federalist Movement, this group met over the years to contemplate the possibility of a new security organ for the United Nations: a 15,000-man force dubbed the UN Emergency Peace Service. The UNEPS, if achieved, would be a permanent military arm of the UN Security Council and operate under UN command, have its own headquarters and regional bases, and be used in conjunction with existing UN peacekeepers and regional security forces. It would be a rapid reaction unit with the ability to deploy in a short time and have global reach, and it would be used in Responsibility to Protect missions.

In 2011 the Working Group released its final report, recommending that the UNEPS advocacy process continue and expand.

2007: Recognizing that previous UN rapid reaction projects and enhanced peacekeeping have historically been mired in bureaucratic red tape, high costs, and have suffered from lack of interest by major players like the United States, the Peace Operations Institute published a white paper on an alternative approach. Instead of a “supranational army under UN jurisdiction,” the focus should be on outsourcing rapid reaction muscle through private security companies. In other words, the UN Security Council should consider hiring private military contractors and integrating these elements into United Nations military and peacekeeping operations.

2014: With this year marking the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide, and with tensions currently mounting in so many parts of the world, there has been a renewed interest in a variety of collective security ideas and capabilities; UN rapid reaction units, European Union battlegroups, African Union military forces, the role of NATO, and the use of Responsibility to Protect. Furthermore, in Russia and China there has been much posturing around their own regional security groups, the Collective Security Treaty Organization – and the ongoing development of its own rapid reaction force, and China’s Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

Indeed, wars and rumours of war have marked our modern era. And as humanity cries for peace amidst the turmoil and strife of our times, the world seeks its own “collective security” solutions.

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: