I studied international politics, both in my undergrad and my graduate studies. We were less concerned with international relations (diplomacy and the inner workings of the state in global affairs) as we were with international studies, which is differentiated from international relations because we examine how states behave in a system of anarchy. The billiard ball model of international politics might help you understand. Imagine a billiard table. Each ball is a state (a country). The states are opaque. We can’t see their inner workings. But we can see the states bouncing around against each other. I also like to use the analogy of aliens hovering over the earth, watching us squabble. They can see our wars, but they can’t zoom in on Washington DC or any other capital city. The realist theories (as they are called) of international relations give us some insight into how states naturally behave. I’m not going to get into the theories (you can look that stuff up yourself if you’re so inclined), but I will get into a natural consequence of realist theory: There is no higher authority than the state. (Actually, it’s less of a consequence as it is part of the definition of anarchy).
That is, when conflicts occur in the international system, states cannot call on a global police force to punish other states that wronged them. There is no UN army that has authority to use force against aggressive states or to mitigate anarchy. Any state can do whatever it wants without fear of going to jail. It’s the classic line, who you gonna call, but without Dan Aykroyd showing up in a Ghostbusters costume.
I was trying to explain this approach to someone once, and they retorted back, “There is a higher authority than the state. It’s called god!” While this is not an intellectually honest answer, it did get my mind working a bit. That is, what if all states were to assume that god exists and actively engages in global affairs? This is a tall order, but we can imagine states believing this, at least for the sake of a hypothetical discussion.
In this case, states would not assume that anarchy exists. They would assume that all disputes can be settled by appealing to a divine supernatural agency for guidance. Here, there is the assumption of a global police force. I’m not certain of the mechanics of it, but I’d imagine each state involved in a dispute would send their top religious leaders to the top of a tall mountain to pray to god on behalf of the interests of their respective states. And then they’d wait for god’s answer.
Unfortunately for them, god’s not going to respond. He never has, and, judging by the past, he never will. If god were to interact with our global affairs don’t you think — in the words of Eddie Izzard — “don’t you think he would have flicked Hitler’s head off?”
We can imagine that because states — in this hypothetical situation — assume that god exists and is concerned with global affairs, state leaders would be reluctant to act against their enemy states while they believed that god was contemplating the issue. In this situation, we might see protracted periods of global peace. They might not last forever because new conflicts would arise.
To be completely honest, all of this is rubbish and highly unlikely. I should address an issue that I’m certain would be brought up in retort to this hypothesis, and I must cede to this logic. State leaders have, throughout history, assumed that god not only exists, and he not only is concerned with international affairs, but that he is always on their side. George W. Bush infamously said that god told him to invade Iraq. This exemplifies the weakness of my argument.
In other words, religious people must acknowledge that religious beliefs still cause wars, even today. Belief that god is on your side is a strong motivator to go all Joshua in the Old Testament on people you don’t like, especially if they have a different religion. Unfortunately, everyone thinks god’s on their side. With this in mind, it’s difficult to use my hypothesis. We can only use it in hypothetical situations because no one is willing to cede to the idea that god is an impartial ruler. Their narcissistic belief that god “blesses” the USA or any other country is ultimately what makes my hypothesis totally irrelevant.
You know what actually leads to global peace? Nuclear fucking weapons.