How to Prevent a World of Endless War

Dr. Glen T. Martin

Professor of Philosophy, Radford University

President, International Philosophers for Peace

Secretary-General, World Constitution and Parliament Association

29 October 2005


This presentation focuses on alternative futures for our planet as envisioned by forces that are attempting to comprehend and influence that future.  First, it examines the thought of the prominent sociological theory known as “World Systems Theory” and its prediction of a third world war in the relatively near future.  Second, it examines some of the background for the “Project for a New American Century,” a project of those now in power in the U.S. and its vision of the future in terms of war and conflict.   Finally, elements from these scenarios are used to analyze the most fundamental factors leading toward war and how we can work to transform our future toward one that institutionalizes the three most essential elements of peace, economic justice, and sustainability within an integrated world order.

A.   The Modern World Order and World Systems Theory

The unquestioned assumptions that we make about the world determine everything from behind the scenes. What we do not question but passively accept as “normal” can lead to catastrophes, such as our current world disorder of perpetual wars and even world wars.   Among the most fundamental institutions that determine our lives without our awareness are the global economic system and the system of sovereign nation-states.

The central institutions of the world we encounter at the dawn of the twenty-first century evolved throughout the three centuries of the Renaissance in Europe from the 15th to the 17th century.  The Renaissance gave birth to the Modern world, replacing the economic and political institutions of the Medieval world known as feudalism.  International monopoly capitalism and the system of sovereign nation-states have not operated independently but have been deeply intertwined. throughout the Modern era.[i]   Their integration has remained fundamental even while the character of the world system has evolved through the age of conquistadors to the age of Mercantilism to the age colonialism and slavery, to our own age of neocolonial forms of exploitation and domination.  Modern capitalism began in Renaissance Italy which developed for the first time a system of money-changers and deposit banking, maritime insurance, and a number of large merchant banks who financed shipments of goods between the manufacturing centers of Europe.[ii]  The system of the sovereign nation-states evolved through a series of wars and political struggles against the Medieval Holy Roman Empire until the end of the 30 years war and the signing of the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648).[iii] 

 The basic concepts of the modern world system of sovereign nation-states were implicit in this treaty.   The world was divided into political boundaries enframing sovereign nation-states.  The governments of these states reigned autonomous over the internal affairs of the country and asserted complete independence in their foreign policy, in their relations with other autonomous nation-states.  What began with the political system in Europe has now spread worldwide.   With the final decolonization of the world that took place during the 1960s and 70s, the world is now divided into approximately 191 supposedly sovereign nation-states.

World Systems Theory is a prominent sociological theory first formulated by Immanuel Wallerstein and others in the 1970s that attempts to comprehend the fundamental structures of our modern world order.  World Systems Theory traces the integration of capitalism and the system of nation-states from its earliest Renaissance forms, through the various configurations of world capital and world power centers to the present global domination by the United States.[iv]  It largely replaces Structural-functionalism and Modernization Theory in sociology, theoretical accounts of the world order prominent through the 1950s and 60s that saw poor countries as nascent or “undeveloped” rich  countries simply lacking the requisite education, infrastructure, and technology for capitalist “take-off.”[v]  Modernization Theory failed to take into account the entire world system and how it functions, the history of colonial devastation within that system, and the institutionalized systems of exploitation and domination that continue to drain the resources of the peripheral nations into the coffers of the imperial centers of capital and power.

World Systems Theory analyses the economic cycles of expansion and decline (known as Kondratieff Waves) throughout the modern period.[vi]  It also analyses the world system since the Renaissance in terms of ascending hegemony, hegemonic victory, hegemonic maturity, and hegemonic decline.   The waves and struggles for hegemony and imperial domination among the imperial nations at the core of the system account for most wars, including the two world wars.  The latest hegemon is the United States.  Wallerstein dates U.S. hegemonic ascendancy from 1897-1920, hegemonic victory between 1920 and 1945, hegemonic maturity between 1945 and 1967, and hegemonic decline beginning in 1967.[vii]

The hegemon typically far outspends its rival imperial nation-states in military spending.  Meanwhile its rival states, recognizing this hegemony, focus on economic infrastructure and development.  This eventually exhausts the economy of the hegemonic state and allows the rivals to challenge its predominance.  Another war ensures, perhaps a world war, in which a new hegemon and victor arises from the carnage. The recent catastrophe in New Orleans has made this very clear, along with the appalling statistics about the decaying infrastructure of the county, its vast slums in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles and other cities, and the immense numbers of its citizens without health care insurance, decent jobs,  or even a home.   Meanwhile China, and the other imperial countries, bide their time and develop their infrastructure.  As the hegemon faces decline and possible economic collapse, the nature of the world system itself makes another major war, possibly a world war, inevitable.

But the nature of the current world system does more than this.  For this system has spawned what are commonly known as “global crises” that are beyond the scope of any nation-state or group of nation-states to address. The system of so-called “sovereign” nation-states integrated with global monopoly capitalism in today’s world is a chaotic system in which every nation promotes its own interests at the expense of the others and, ultimately, at the expense of the world as a whole.  This is manifested in global warming, global pollution, ozone depletion, global militarism, global population explosion, global resource depletion, ever-expanding global poverty, and immense global sickness, disease, and misery for the majority of humanity.[viii]

As this notable gathering of economic experts knows, the assumptions one makes about money determine all the consequences that follow.  Exactly the same principle is true of the world order.  Unless we transcend the unquestioned assumptions of both monopoly capitalism and the nation-state system, we will not survive much longer on this planet.

B.   The Project for the New American Century and its Historical Background

According to the assumptions behind the system of so-called “sovereign” nation-states, the early expanding European and North American nations were required to treat inhabited regions of the world that they “discovered” or encountered as sovereign nations like themselves.  Hence, they could not be conquered outright but had to be respected as having autonomy over their internal affairs and independence in their “foreign policy.”   This was also true of the early United States which treated the Indian tribes living west of its official national boundary as “sovereign” nations with which the U.S. government entered into treaties.[ix]

However, like all ascending hegemons, the U.S. coveted the resources, land, and power brought through expansion.   In the 1820s and 30s Supreme Court Justice John Marshall and others developed the “Marshall Doctrine” which asserted that, while Indian nations were “sovereign,” the U.S. possessed “superior sovereignty.”   Superior sovereignty meant that the Indians had to abide by their treaty agreements with the U.S. but the U.S. was not bound by its treaty agreements.  It could break its agreements as its self-interest dictated.[x]

Armed with the doctrine of “superior sovereignty” the ascending hegemon pillaged the lands of the indigenous peoples of America and effected a genocide in which, by the turn of the century, only an estimated two percent of the original indigenous population of America were still living.  Ninety -eight percent of the original indigenous population of North America had been exterminated.[xi]

Superior sovereignty continues to be the doctrine of U.S. foreign policy as it invades or overthrows countries at will but denies any other nation the right to interfere with its “homeland security.”   In the case of U.S. versus Curtiss-Wright Export Corp. in1936, the U.S. Supreme Court gave the U.S. president “total power over foreign policy, including the right to ignore the Constitution.”  The protections that applied to  U.S. citizens prior to the implementation of the recent Patriot Act did not apply to U.S. foreign policy actions. In its foreign policy, the U.S. can violate the rights of others with impunity, as can any other sovereign nation-state.  The rule of genuine law does not apply beyond the borders of the sovereign state.[xii]

However, the modern nation-state system did not only function around agreed upon international principles (today misnamed as “international law”), the system itself encouraged operation under the Machiavellian principles of power politics in which the powerful used both ideology and military force to maintain and extend their power and domination.  Then top secret Policy Planning Study 23, written in 1948 by George Kennan (later U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union) reflects these world system conclusions explicitly.  “The U.S. has 50% of the world’s wealth,” Kennan wrote, “and only 5% of its population.”  In its top secret foreign policy, it must act to “maintain this position of disparity” by operating from “straight power concepts.”  What presidents and governments say publicly is pure ideology designed to placate the idealism of a naive population.  The realities of foreign policy, as with any sovereign nation-state, must be “straight power concepts.”[xiii]

The criminal junta now ruling in Washington, DC. (I use these terms advisedly and carefully: see David Ray Griffin, The New Pearl Harbor) could not have come to power but for these immense social forces, products of the system of sovereign nation-states, that drive nations toward hegemony and domination and attracts a criminal element to leadership in these nations.    Nations insist that their citizens obey the law but they are unwilling to recognize any law above themselves, claiming to be “sovereign.”   To be a nation-state is intrinsically to be a “rogue state.”  It is a refusal to recognize any law above itself.

The document called “Project for the New American Century”[xiv] (the manifesto followed by Bush, Cheny, Rumsfeld and others now in power) is simply the latest manifestation of this tendency in the basic assumptions of the U.S. from its very beginnings.  The document explicitly calls for increased militarization of the country to ensure military preeminence anywhere on the planet and to extend its already extensive network of military bases worldwide.[xv]  The document states that this means usurping the power of the United Nations and securing a global hegemony while preventing any military rivals from emerging.  The document explicitly states that the U.S. military is to be used to extend the U.S. empire worldwide.  It calls this an “American peace,” build on the foundation of “unquestioned US military preeminence.”[xvi]  The document calls for expansion of the U.S. nuclear weapons programs designed to create first use types of weapons.  It calls for the militarization of space and the prevention of any other nation from launching weapons into space.  A related Pentagon document from 1996 (formerly top secret) entitled “Vision 20/20,” names outer space the “ultimate high ground” from which the entire world can be controlled and dominated.  The Pentagon intends to reach this horrific goal by the year 2020.

Like every other hegemon in history from the Greek and Roman empires to the Dutch, French, Portugese, Spanish, and British empires, the U.S. believes it can stave off its own decline and solidify its totalitarian control over the entire planet.  This plan embodied in the Project for the New American Century document is not simply a product of the criminal minds of Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney, and others.  It is the ultimate consequence of assumptions about world order that were institutionalized during the Renaissance and whose implacable consequences we are now reaping worldwide. We cannot prevent either World War III or the global nightmare of totalitarianism without moving to a higher level of existence, without adopting a new planetary paradigm and new foundational assumptions.

C.    Preventing World War III Through Changing the Modern World’s Basic Assumptions

World System Theory argues that periodic wars, including world wars, are an intrinsic feature of the world system.   Discussion with the Russian Ambassador to Sri Lanka in January of this year confirmed for me that the Russians, a nation with many nuclear weapons, are very concerned with U.S. global domination.  China as a possible threat to this domination is mentioned several times in the Project for the New American Century manifesto.   As the horrific U.S. experience in Iraq shows, people will fight to the death to defend their homelands against foreign military domination.  If the U.S. succeeds in militarizing space, nations will be all the more ready to use their weapons of mass destruction to defend themselves.  But before the U.S. has succeeded in this diabolical project, it is likely that World War III will begin.

Genuine democracy cannot be restored or created within the United States because the very structure of the nation-state system means a large anti-democratic military and security apparatus and economic rivalry with other nations both of which militate against a just and equitable global system and prevent genuine democracy within nations.   The structure of the nation-state system in which there is no such thing as genuine law beyond national borders requires a Machiavellian political realism in foreign policy and the promotion of national interests at the expense of other nations and the world as a whole.   For even if the U.S. had a well-intentioned government in power, the fact that other nations act in a Machiavellian way forces the same response upon the U.S.  The fact that China has aspirations to empire forces the same response upon the U.S.

The possibility of democracy is gone forever in Canada and the U.K. as well, since these countries are integrating militarily with the United States, highjacking the people’s desire for peace into the network of a system of military domination.  Similarly, the corporations that have highjacked the governments of these countries, dictating the governments of these countries to created “free trade agreements” have immense power to prevent democracy from ever being realized.  David Korton in When Corporations Rule the World, Michael Chossodovsky in The Globalization of Poverty and J.W. Smith in Economic Democracy – The Political Struggle of the Twenty-First Century all show that corporations use the nation-state system to their own advantage, using the first -world military to crush breaks for freedom in the periphery, while at the same time escaping the laws of their home nation-states through off-shore accounts, global financial sleight-of-hand accounting, and economically blackmailing nation-states for economic concessions. Meanwhile immense corporations, who practically run the governments of some countries, invest hundreds of billions of dollars in production of weapons-systems and the militarization of the world.

Under the present world system, it is unlikely that World War III can be prevented, and World War III will almost certainly include extensive use of weapons of mass destruction and the possible end of the human race.  Nevertheless, there are grounds for hope.  Consciousness that our global crises are beyond the capacity of nation-states to address has risen rapidly in the past 50 years.  Consciousness that we live on a tiny space-ship planet with one encompassing ecosystem has risen rapidly during this same period.  Consciousness that the system of “sovereign” nation-states is a failed system is on the rise.   There are many movements of world citizens working for a new planetary paradigm and new world order based on principles of equity, justice, freedom, and non-violence embodied in democratic world government and the rule of enforceable world law.

The most practical and far-seeing of these movements, the Earth Federation Movement, advocates democratic world government under the Constitution for the Federation of Earth.   The Earth Constitution was created in four Constituent Assemblies of world citizens meeting and working over the 23 year period from 1968 to 1991.   During this period the successive drafts of the Constitution were repeatedly distributed for comment to all national governments and U.N. ambassadors as well as worldwide to citizens.  The Constitution has been translated into 22 languages. 

It creates a world parliament to pass world laws and all the organs of government to enforce those laws, from the world judiciary to the world police.  It includes two bills of rights, one of political rights and another of economic, social, and environmental rights for every person on Earth. It includes provisions  for the careful and systematic demilitarization of all nations.  And it includes one important article that specifies the conditions for its official ratification by the people and nations of Earth.[xvii]

Democratic world government under the Earth Constitution transforms the underlying assumptions of the current world order structured around “sovereign” nation-states and monopoly capitalism.  Under the old world order there is little hope either for global prosperity, a sustainable, environmentally friendly economy, nor to avoid endless war and possibly World War III.  Only by changing the irrational and illogical premises of the current world system can we hope to avoid the consequences implicit in those premises. 

Enforceable, democratically legislated world law, under an Earth Constitution premised on the good of all and the principle of unity-in-diversity changes the premises of the world order from fragmentation to integrated wholeness.  World War III is avoided by moving to a new level of existence, a new level of consciousness in which we realize that all our problems on this planet are interrelated and interdependent.  They cannot be solved from within the nation-states themselves.  The only solution open to us is an institutionalized and enforceable global system under a Constitution for the Federation of Earth.

The Earth Federation Movement isnot just a pious ideal.  Under Article 19 of the Earth Constitution we have been building the infrastructure of democratic world government.  We have held eight Provisional World Parliaments, the Ninth is scheduled for February 2006 in Tripoli, Libya.  We have passed a number of provisional world economic legislative acts that create one world currency called “Earth Currency,” that give the World Government the sole power to create money, that follow the Henry George principles of transforming absolute titles to land and nature’s wealth to conditional titles.  We have tied the value of the Earth Currency to a world-wide basket of basic commodities and to one hour of work.   And we have passed laws creating a World Disarmament Agency and promoting sustainable local and regional economies. 

With the ratification of the Earth Constitution, corporations will no longer rule the world but the people of Earth and their elected representatives in the World Parliament. Imperial governments will no longer dominate the Earth because their leaders will be subject to world law and every nation will be demilitarized.   Economic transformation of the world order requires simultaneous political transformation of the world order.   Today we have economic globalization without democratic political globalization.   To globalize democracy is to recognize the sovereignty of the entire people of Earth and institutionalize their power under the Earth Constitution to legislate for the good of every citizen of Earth.   The war system, so basic to monopoly capitalism and sovereign nation-states, will be abolished forever from the Earth.


[i].  J.W. Smith, Economic Democracy: The Political Struggle of the Twenty-First Century, Sun City, AZ: Institute for Economic Democracy Press, 2005.

[ii]. Stewart C. Easton, The Western Heritage – from the earliest times to the present, Second Edition, New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1966, pp. 332-337.

[iii].Daniel Philpott, Revolutions in Sovereignty: How Ideas Shaped Modern International Relations, Princeton: Princeton U. Press, 2001, Chapter 5.

[iv]. Terry Boswell and Christopher Chase-Dunn, The Spiral of Capitalism and Socialism: Toward Global Democracy, Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2000, Chapter One.


[v]. Thomas Richard Shannon, An Introduction to the World-System Perspective, San Francisco: Westview Press, 1989, pp. 2-8.

vi.  Ibid, pp. 116-120.

vii.   Ibid, p. 121.

[viii]. Glen T. Martin, Millennium Dawn: The Philosophy of Planetary Crisis and Human Liberation, Sun City, AZ: Institute for Economic Democracy Press, 2005, Chapter One, and World Revolution Through World Law – Basic Documents of the Emerging Earth Federation, Sun City, AZ: Institute for Economic Democracy Press, 2005, Chapter Three.

[ix]. Ward Churchill, “Perversions of Justice: A Native American Examination of the Doctrine of U.S. Rights to Occupancy in North America” in James P. Sterba, Social and Political Philosophy, Third Edition, New York: Wadsworth, 2003, pp. 272-280.

[x]. Ibid., pp. 274-276

[xi]. Ibid, p. 277.

[xii]. Howard Zinn, Declarations of Independence: Cross-examining American Ideology, New York: Harper-Collins Publishers, 1990, pp. 124-125.

[xiii]. Noam Chomsky, What Uncle Sam Really Wants, Tucson, AZ: Odonian Press, 1992, pp. 9-11.

[xiv]. On the worldwide web at

[xv]. Chalmers Johnson, The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic, New York, Henry Hold & Company, 2004.

[xvi]., p.4.

[xvii]. World Revolution Through World Law: Basic Documents of the Emerging Earth Federation, Sun City, AZ: Institute for Economic Democracy Press, 2005, Chapter Five.