Two Yale scholars adopt a fundamentally revisionist perspective on the oft-dismissed Kellogg-Briand Peace Pact of 1928, positing that the agreement “marked the beginning of the end” of war between states.
As a legal history, the book is indispensable. It traces the intellectual origins of today’s international legal order to the much-maligned Paris peace pact of 1928 ... Among the greatest strengths of The Internationalists is the authors’ acute attention to the role of individual thinkers, some long overlooked, and to the impact of happenstance — the ways, for instance, an idealist’s memo could land in a pragmatist’s hands ... It is a shame the authors don’t focus as strongly on personalities in the book’s chapters on how the law changed behavior. Instead, they turn their attention to demonstrating statistically that interstate wars resulting in lasting territorial conquest became dramatically less significant after the 1928 peace pact...Yet even accepting the finding that the nature of land claims changed after 1928, it remains far from clear that this shift in state behavior came about in some measure because of the prewar revolution in law the authors so ably describe ... The Internationalists provides a great service in illustrating the ways in which law can speak powerfully to individual decision-makers. An even greater service would be to show us more about what kind of decision-maker it takes to listen.
Genuine originality is unusual in political history. The Internationalists is an original book. There is something sweet about the fact that it is also a book written by two law professors in which most of the heroes are law professors. Sweet but significant, because one of the points of The Internationalists is that ideas matter ... Hathaway and Shapiro are lawyers, and, in making their case for the supreme explanatory power of Kellogg-Briand, they litigate themselves around some tricky historical corners ... Hathaway and Shapiro acknowledge the Israeli annexation of East Jerusalem after the Six-Day War, in 1967, but say almost nothing about the West Bank. They scarcely mention America’s two Iraq wars, and they ignore the eight-year Iran-Iraq War that preceded them, which they presumably regard as a border dispute. Part of the interest of their deeply interesting book, though, is seeing how far and in which cases you are willing to go along with them.
That is a lot of credit to give to a treaty that, until now, pretty universally has been dismissed as inconsequential. Hathaway and Shapiro deserve medals of intellectual valor for even daring to make a case that is so at odds with what almost every other expert in the field of international relations believes. But, sadly, their thesis, while backed up by many erudite, carefully footnoted pages, is not persuasive. 'There are some ideas so absurd only an intellectual could believe them,' George Orwell wrote. The notion that the Kellogg-Briand Pact was a raging success is one of them ... In short, by the end of The Internationalists, Hathaway and Shapiro are forced to acknowledge that the Kellogg-Briand Pact was not nearly as important as they claimed in the beginning.