The Universal Rule of Law versus Worldwide Liquid War: Civilization or Barbarism?

Glen T. Martin

International Conference of Chief Justices of the World, Lucknow, India, December 2012

We are gathered here, as honored guests of Dr. Jagdish Gandhi and the many fine people of CMS, Lucknow, out of concern for the world’s two billion children whose future is seriously endangered at this point in history. And we are gathered here because we share a common understanding of the significance of the rule of law and the need for enforceable world law. With your permission, ladies and gentlemen, I want to discuss the concept of the rule of law in fundamental contrast to our world situation as we find it today.

The perception that the universal rule of law lies at the heart of human civilization has been fundamental to thinkers since the time of Plato, Aristotle, and Cicero in the ancient world. Both democratic theory and the philosophy of law were born in ancient Athens of the 5th and 4th centuries BCE.  Greek and Roman Stoic philosophers understood universal law among all peoples as essential to peace, justice, and the very possibility of social living with virtue and integrity. Comparable conceptions of universal law also developed in the great civilizations of Asia, especially in China and India.[i]

By the European Enlightenment of the 18th century, democratic theory and philosophy of law emerged as systematic elaborations on the nature of legitimate government and the rule of law, both still considered as being at the heart of human civilization. For 18th century philosopher of law, Immanuel Kant, the rule of law established both the moral framework for human relationships and made possible moral decision-making among citizens. The opposite of the rule of law, Kant declared, was war.  He defined war as the immoral condition where the rule of power and violence replaces the rule of law and thereby destroys morally based human relationships.

Like many other major Western legal thinkers, Kant saw the system of sovereign nation-states as intrinsically a war-system. Other thinkers who saw it as a war system were Thomas Hobbes, Baruch Spinoza, John Locke, and G.W.F. Hegel.  Nations, Kant observed, recognize no binding laws above themselves (only the voluntary treaties that we call international law). Kant termed this war-system “savage and barbaric.”  He repudiated the war system (and thereby also the system of sovereign nation-states) as intrinsically immoral, since we are morally required to live under the rule of democratically legislated, enforceable universal laws. Kant declared that the moral imperative of human life was universal law under “a federation of free nations.” [ii]   

Many contemporary jurists and philosophers of law also see the absolute need for strengthening the rule of law worldwide, applying the due process of law to individual persons everywhere. This insight is behind the development of the International Criminal Court (ICC), which opened its doors in The Hague in 2004. Yet that court remains hamstrung by the treaty of sovereign nations that founded it, known as the Rome Statute of the Assembly of States Parties. The ICC lacks the power of mandamus, and thus it requires the voluntary cooperation of the affiliated nations for arrest, apprehension, securing witnesses, gathering of evidence, etc. As everyone here knows well, a court that lacks the power to order these things cannot be effective as a court. We need more effective global institutions if we are to ever have the rule of law on this planet. According to British philosopher of law, Errol E. Harris, “the general consensus of legal opinion is thus that there exists in principle a world community, and that to attain an effective world legal order, this community must be organized institutionally in a more unified and politically efficient manner than it is at present.”[iii]

The Constitution for the Federation of Earth proposes to organize the world institutionally on the basis of the universal rule of effective law that is at the heart of human civilization. It envisions a due process of law, applied to every human-being, that is absolutely fundamental to peace, as well as to justice, reasonable equality, and environmental integrity. Unlike the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, and unlike the UN Charter, the framers of the Constitution understood that law cannot effectively function unless a broad range of institutions are working harmoniously together within a single constitutional framework: civilian police, an effective economic system, a working administration, and democratic legislation.

Regardless of whether we work to ratify this particular constitution, it needs to serve as a concrete model and regulative ideal for what must be done if these children and young people are going to have a future on this planet. The Constitution, and the world it envisions, should be before our minds at all times. It should be studied in every educational institution. There are really no other viable options.  The Constitution is widely known, respected, and promoted by a worldwide network of persons and organizations.[iv] Without a clear vision of where we need to go, we are lost in confusion and chaos. Today, worldwide, this confusion and chaos reign and have given rise to a world disorder that is exactly the opposite of the universal rule of law: perpetual, unending “liquid war.”[v]  The war-system that Kant called savage and barbaric is getting worse, ladies and gentlemen. The rule of law in the world is becoming less and less recognized, and the threats to the future of our children ever-more overwhelming. This chaos has two main interconnected sources: global multinational corporations and imperial war-making nation-states. Allow me to describe each of these briefly.

Some websites assert that out of the 100 largest economic entities in the world, 51 are corporations.[vi] However this is calculated, corporations are clearly major players in shaping the world we live in. There are some 63,000 multinational corporations, many of them operating beyond the scope of both national and international law. In the global struggle to appropriate the resources of the Earth, especially its oil and gas resources, corporate elites often use any means, from bribery and extortion to mercenary security agents to military forces of compliant nation-states, in order to secure and increase their vast accumulations of wealth and power. The result is integral to what journalist Pepe Escobar calls “liquid war,” a worldwide Orwellian nightmare of lawlessness, injustice, murder, and corruption. Welcome to the 21st Century.[vii]

The power of corporations may be illustrated by oil and gas pipelines, today crisscrossing nearly every continent and the source of immense profits for the corporations building and controlling them. The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline largely run by British Petroleum, for example, opened in 2005 to bring oil to the West independently of Russian or Iranian control. It is 1767 kilometers long and 44 meters wide and slices the countries of Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey each in half. The pipeline agreement exempts BP and its partners from any laws of the three countries, present or future, that might interfere with their profits, including environmental or human rights laws. The pipeline is virtually a country unto itself, run as a colonial dictatorship by BP. Multinational corporations worldwide are operating under agreements that exempt them from the rule of law, often using brutal, mercenary security agents who have little respect for the people of the countries in which they operate.[viii]

The military aspect of perpetual liquid war involves the so-called war on terror. Global Research Associates of Canada argues that the so-called terrorist threat is largely an illusion created by the imperial nation-states. Whatever the case, the norm is now a perpetual policy by these states of murder and assassination any place, anytime, anywhere in the world against the perceived interests of the United States, its multinational corporations, and its allies. These policies began as top secret during the Vietnam War in the 1960s and 70s and the wars against the popular rebellions in Central America during the 1980s. Those resisting imperial domination were guerrillas who could withdraw into the cover of the civilian population when not fighting. The imperial military strategists realized that the people were supporting the guerrillas. They developed policies under the image of fish and water: the guerrillas are the fish and the civilian population is the water. To kill the fish you have to remove the water.[ix]

The results of these policies were the wiping out of entire villages in El Salvador and Guatemala by the U.S. supported military juntas of these countries. In Vietnam, carpet bombings wiped out some 2 million people, 90% of them civilians. North Vietnamese war-historian, General Giap, wrote that the policy of the Americans and their South Vietnamese puppet government was “a brutal repression and coercion machine, applying against our compatriots a fascist policy of barbarity.”[x] In Fallujah, Iraq, in November 2004, after laying siege to the city, every male between the ages of 15 and 55 was declared an enemy fighter. Women and old people who were able were allowed to leave, but most of the population could not afford to move from their homes.[xi] The entire city was wiped out, including hospitals, doctors, and medical personnel. Few were left alive after the assault.

As we have seen, during the Vietnam era the Pentagon understood that the traditional concept of sovereign nations confronting one another as warriors (as had happened in WWII) was not an effective strategy to deal with guerrilla warfare conducted by people resisting foreign economic and military domination. The military had to be trained in special ops teams that subverted “enemy” plans, assassinated persons supporting guerrillas (i.e. civilians), or kidnapped and tortured people associated with the “enemy” to extract information that could lead to further kidnapping or assassinations. They had to attack the water as well as the fish. This initially covert and top secret practice (top secret because it was dirty, barbaric, and scorned the rule of law) has been transformed after the attacks of 9/11 into official US policy, a policy that now strikes at the very heart of human civilization.  The barbaric practice that once needed to be covered up as top-secret has now become official government policy of the United States, with tremendous implications for human life on this planet.

Today, the US flies killer drones over Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, and other locations of its multiple wars. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism has calculated that the CIA drone wars in Pakistan have killed or crippled some 160 children in the past year alone. [xii] The Guardian UK reported in May 2012 that “since 2004 between 2,464 and 3,145 people have been killed by US drone attacks in Pakistan, of whom up to 828 were civilians (535 under Obama) and 175 children.”[xiii] These remotely operated death machines, in fact, are merely an extension of the US policy developed since the 1960s of targeted assassinations of suspected enemies worldwide. The due process of law has been abandoned by US foreign policy.

A recent article by Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, details the universal subversion of the rule of law that was revealed in the thousands of US diplomatic cables allegedly released by Bradley Manning to Wikileaks more than two years ago. Assange writes that “the United States’ War on Terror has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives, inflamed sectarian violence, and made a mockery of international law. Victims and their families struggle to have their stories acknowledged, and the U.S.’ systematic avoidance of accountability for war crimes implicitly denies their right to be considered human beings.” He goes on to show how the leaked cables reveal the protection of private mercenary killings by such private firms as Blackwater, the US blocking of efforts by governments like Spain and Germany to prosecute US forces who have murdered or tortured their citizens, the US training and support for brutal security organizations like the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) of Bangladesh, the KOPASSUS of Indonesia, or the human rights-violating military of Columbia. They also show the US spying on UN ambassadors and officials from other nations and attempting to subvert the development of global environmental laws, for example, at the UN environmental summit in Copenhagen in December 2009. [xiv]

The great difference of the 21st century is that the US policies of drone and death-squad assassinations are no longer top-secret clandestine operations. Under the Bush and Obama administrations, they have become official US foreign policy (with the complicity of US allies like Great Britain). These administrations have even removed the right of habeas corpus from American citizens, claiming that anyone anywhere can be designated by them as an “enemy combatant” and disappeared—without charges, without warning, without rights to due process of law. These policies attack the very conception of the rule of law at the heart of human civilization. They reveal a world descended into the global chaos of perpetual liquid war.

In the view of many thinkers, including my own writings, there are two broad dimensions to being a morally decent human being—compassion, and affirmation of the rule of law in human relationships. The universal rule of law, as Kant argued, establishes both the moral framework for human relationships and makes possible moral decision-making among citizens. Both compassion and the rule of law must be universal in scope. Our compassion should involve the ability to feel the suffering of human beings everywhere in every race and culture. The Buddhist concept of karuna, like the Christian concept of agape, points to the universality of the moral requirement to cultivate universal compassion. Our affirmation of the rule of law, on the other hand, should be based on the insight that there can be no real justice on Earth without the rule of law universally and equitably legislated and applied.

As jurists, thinkers, and world citizens, we are limited in our ability to promote universal compassion, for this means attempting to change the human heart itself. But we are empowered by our juristic and educational roles to advance the rule of universal law on Earth. The law does not require a change in the human heart as compassion does. The law can be created and administered. Yet if it is good law, if it is universal like the Constitution for the Federation of Earth, it can also be effective in promoting a change in the human heart in the long run. Universal law can first bring people to tolerance, mitigating racism, sexism, ethnocentrism, and other such bigotries.  After a while, it can bring people to mutual understanding and respect, and finally, perhaps, we can grow to universal compassion.

The Earth Constitution, therefore,serves as both a concrete model and a regulative ideal for the kind of future we want for our children. It is the beacon of light that can guide humanity to a civilized and humane future under the universal rule of law, establishing universal moral relationships among human beings. The Constitution itself represents a living embodiment and transformative force for a civilized, just, and peaceful world system. It needs to be taught, studied, and discussed in every educational venue.

Dear friends and colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to leave you with these questions: How can each of us similarly make our lives a living embodiment and transformative force on behalf of the universal rule of law? Can we establish a connection between our personal moral aspirations and the concrete reality of the Earth Constitution?  Can we help humankind transcend its present confusion and chaos, and the barbarism and lawlessness endless liquid war, by providing a specific focus for the future in the form of the Earth Constitution?

(Glen T. Martin is Professor of Philosophy at Radford University in Virginia and President of the World Constitution and Parliament Association. He is author or editor of eight books on global crises and the rule of law.)


[i] Martin, Glen T. (2008). Ascent to Freedom: Practical and Philosophical Foundations of Democratic World Law. Pamplin, VA: Institute for Economic Democracy Press, Chaps. 4.  Cf. Cicero (1999). On the Commonwealth and On the Laws. J.E.G. Zetzel, ed. Cambridge University Press, pp.113 & 126.

[ii] Martin, Ibid. Chaps. 4-6.  Cf. Immanuel Kant’s Perpetual Peace (1795).

[iii] Harris, Errol E. (1966). Annihilation and Utopia: The Principles of International Politics. London: George Allen & Unwin LTD.

[iv] The Constitution can be found at the Institute on World Problems (IOWP) website:  It is promoted by the World Constitution and Parliament Association (WCPA, in cooperation with the IOWP.  Additional relevant sites are,,, and

[v] Escobar, Pepe (2006). Globalistan: How the Globalized World Is Dissolving Into Liquid War. Ann Arbor, MI: Nimble Books LLC.


[vii] Ibid. Escobar.

[viii] Ibid. pp. 42ff.

[ix] Nelson-Pallmeyer (1989). War Against the Poor: Low-intensity Conflict and the Christian Faith. Orbis Books, pp. 1-14. Pepe Escobar also traces this policy in the Vietnam War and Iraq, for example, in the destruction of Fallujah (Globalistan, pp. 121-23).

[x] Escobar, Ibid. p. 116.

[xi] Ibid, pp. 120-123.



[xiv] Assange, Jullian, “Two Years of Cablegate as Bradley Manning Testifies,” 01 December 12,