The UK Parliament has recently voted for military strikes against the Islamic State in Iraq. Other countries have recently had similar votes, such as Canada and Turkey. Barack Obama has called on more countries to sign up.
However, I would argue that this is the wrong way to go about things. Decisions for international military action need to be made internationally. For individual countries to decide whether they should go to war in another country is a recipe for disaster.
The most prominent recent case was in 2003 when America, the UK and other countries decided to invade Iraq, despite the protests and the many claims that it was an illegal war. However, this will remain a problem if individual national parliaments can decide to have a vote on whether they are going to go to war with another country.
But this problem need not exist. We have the United Nations Security Council – an international body that can make international military decisions. It’s not an ideal solution in its current state, with its arguably unbalanced and outdated five permanent members of just China, France, Russia, USA, and UK – this permanent membership stems from the result of World War II! So while it is not really fit for purpose in its current state, it is still better than countries making their own unilateral decisions.
International military action needs international control and coordination. Countries that meet certain standards (based on factors such as stability and democracy) would sign up to a body (whether a vastly improved Security Council or something else), with no arbitrary hierarchy where some countries have elevated status, and this body would make decisions independently of the individual countries’ governments or parliaments. All legal international military action would be decided by this body. Signed-up countries would contribute resources including soldiers. So while countries would have their own armies, in an international conflict, they would be considered to be an international army under international control. This would save every country from individually having the same debate over whether military action is desirable.
This would also enable us to get rid of individual countries’ nuclear weapons. For example, there is simply no need for the UK to have its expensive Trident system all on its own. If there really needs to be a nuclear deterrent, then it can be shared among all cooperating nations. This way, the cost would be spread, and the total amount of nuclear weaponry could be reduced.
An improved international body would mean that military action would be one step further removed from domestic politicians, who might be looking at irrelevant factors such as how action might affect the next election or their own legacy. It would also mean that military action would not take place simply because the nations that happen to have the most military power decide that it should. Military power does not equal sound military judgement.