How can we survive in the future if anyone gets access to powerful capabilities that can destroy the humankind? We must improve our capacity of self-limitation, including collective self-limitation. In practice, we need global security forces who prevent threats globally and without obsolete constraints like state borders or diplomatic immunity.
Several national security services already play the role of global police by disabling (potentially) dangerous actors abroad from time to time. In addition, free countries sometimes exercise pressure on ‘bad guys’ and their supporters by applying sanctions on them (e.g. on the basis of Magnitsky act). Yet the effectiveness and coverage of such measures are quite limited. For example, dictators who caused deaths of thousands or even millions sometimes continue committing grave crimes against humanity for decades, while enjoying mostly free and luxurious lives for themselves.
Kim Jong Un is one of such examples. Like his ancestors, he continues torturing the population of North Korea, through repressions and famines that regularly happen under his rule. A possibility of assassinating Kim has been discussed in the USA and South Korea. The latter even created a special military unit for that. However, international law is against such practices: it calls to respect the principle of non-intervention. If South Korea kills Kim Jong Un, the head of another state, it may constitute a legally ‘justified’ reason for North Korea to retaliate with all its military power and cause many more casualties.
Such formal approach in international law does not reflect common sense: Kim Jong Un (i) was never democratically elected to represent North Korea, (ii) he is oppressing and de facto killing millions in North Korea, which normally would be a crime that should be stopped as soon as possible. Furthermore, he controls weapons of mass destruction that can be used against other nations. If Kim uses these weapons, there be no ways to ‘restore justice’: people and nature will not return from the dead even if Kim sits in prison infinitely.
If our world is global and interconnected, why do we turn a blind eye on the threats hiding behind imaginary borders and statuses? Respect for the rules from the XVIII century (the principle of non-intervention was formulated in 1758 (Dubary 2014)) does not help victims in the XXI century. Why should anyone be above the law – in this case, above the universal moral law ‘do not kill’?
We probably want to keep the principle of non-intervention by and large, because it is just another name for freedom of states. Yet, in the name of collective survival, we shall allow exceptions from it, e.g. by conferring the right to intervene to a trusted security service – global police (hereinafter referred to as GP).
One or several free countries, e.g. NATO members, can institutionalize the new police. It would be ideal if all countries of the world would join the initiative, but, obviously, the governments of some non-free countries will take GP as a direct threat to their officials.
Aim and Mandate of Global Police
The GP’s overarching aim shall be to help humankind survive. Based on the worldview that freedom is a most important pre-requisite for this aim, the GP’s more specific mandate shall be protecting human rights as defined by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The UDHR is arguably considered as the ‘foundation of international human rights law’ (The United Nations 2020).
The rationale behind UDHR as corresponding to the GP’s overarching aim is that (a) the right to live is one of the human rights, (b) ensuring that human rights are respected also implies that minimum conditions are provided for people to take care of themselves and, ultimately, to survive in the long term. Compared to the overarching aim, protecting human rights is more suitable as GP’s mandate because human rights are defined in more detail.
Protecting rights of nature (other animate beings than humans) can arguably be included into the GP’s mandate. More and more countries recognize that nature (animals, rivers, landscapes etc) also have rights. Technically speaking, GP does not need to recognize rights of nature in order to protect them effectively because nature is an environment in which people live. If someone damages nature, they damage (the interests of) humans and deteriorate the possibilities for survival of the current and/or future human generations. Hence, GP can intervene in such cases even if their mandate is protecting human rights only.
Furthermore, the following needs to be considered:
Getting control over massive force without legitimate reasons (e.g. not as part of one’s professional activities) shall be considered a crime. This is not something totally new: for example, acquiring weapons is a crime in many countries, even if the weapons are not used. The rationale is the same: it is better to prevent than to cure.
Massive force can be defined as a possibility to use any resources, with which one can cause damage to more than one person per second. If someone has a knife or a gun, it is not ‘massive force’. If someone has a nuclear rocket, a dangerous bioweapon, or even access to classified knowledge how to obtain such resources, it is can be considered ‘massive force’, and then it matters how access to it is obtained: in legitimate or non-legitimate ways.
Legitimate is very difficult to define, considering the diversity of laws in the countries and territories. However, modern technologies allow identifying patterns of behaviour and comparing among them or with the past ones. GP shall analyse deviations and decide in each case what should be undertaken: prevention, further investigation, or no action.
2. Comprehensiveness: support to ‘bad guys’ should be penalized as well.
‘Bad guys’ do not exist in vacuum – they often rely on others: ideological supporters, employees, business partners, without whom ‘bad guys’ would not be so powerful. Hence, support to ‘bad guys’ should also be penalized.
Helping someone get (or keep) control over force without legitimate reasons, makes one an accomplice. For example, doing ‘business as usual’ with known ‘bad guys’ shall also be considered a sort of support to them. Such approach is similar to the one used in some international sanctions: e.g. sectoral sanctions against those cooperating with Iran.
A possibility to penalize the supporters of the ‘bad guys’ is particularly important when GP assumes that direct action on ‘bad guys’ may cause more damage than without it, or if direct action is temporarily impossible for some other reasons. In such cases GP may begin by working with the supporters and, thus, by weakening the targeted ‘bad guys’. For example, the current governments of Russia and China were not democratically elected, i.e. they cannot be seen as legitimate holders of massive force, but they are well-protected with their military force. Coping with them is likely to require pressure on their global networks: from rogue countries and tax heavens to corporations based in the free countries and connected to these illegitimate governments.
3. Prevalence of global over local.
As explained above, GP must intervene in the matters that have been considered ‘internal’ or ‘sovereign’ before. Local institutions may have already failed to cope with these matters, or they may be on the side of ‘bad guys’. Therefore, GP shall act independently where necessary, without prior approval from the local authorities. In practice, all options are possible: from tight cooperation between GP and local institutions to a conflict between GP and them.
A good question can be asked about the scope of the GP work: shall GP intervene if some local actors may already be working on the same problem? Ideally, this question shall be answered from the perspective of risk management, depending on: (a) the probability that local institutions fail to solve the problem without GP, (b) availability of GP resources, (c) time to possible damage, (d) volume of possible damage.
4. Strength, moral and material: transparent court + support from founding states.
To ensure the transparency of GP operations, a special court shall be established. It shall investigate and try individuals, as well as consider cases against GP. It can be similar to the International Criminal Court (ICC): a transparent and reputable one, but hopefully also a faster one. The ICC is functionally suitable, yet it is improbable that most of the ICC founding states agree on such an expansion of its functions.
As for material strength, GP can only be as powerful as its founders. It is, therefore, desirable that free countries would support GP where necessary with diverse means, e.g. economic measures, scientific and technological knowledge, military support etc.
Dubary, C. A. (2014) A Refresher on the Principle of Non-Intervention. International Judicial Monitor. < http://www.judicialmonitor.org/archive_spring2014/generalprinciples.html#:~:text=The%20non%2Dintervention%20rule%20is,sovereignty%20possessed%20by%20each%20nation. >, retrieved 16.07.2020.
Freedom House (2020) Global Freedom Status. Freedom House. < https://freedomhouse.org/explore-the-map?type=fiw&year=2020 >, retrieved 16.07.2020.
United Nations (2020) History of the Document. The United Nations. < https://www.un.org/en/sections/universal-declaration/history-document/index.html >, retrieved 16.07.2020.