Right now I am currently reading Danilo Zolo’s Victor’s Justice: From Nuremberg to Baghdad. I’ve only cracked at just the first chapter, but the book is so full of insights.
One interesting topic Zolo brings up is whether or not the intergovernmental organization that is the United Nations was actually designed to prevent war or to justify it. He talks extensively about how war became a criminal act such that leaders could be tried. For instance, the infamous Treaty of Versailles demanded that the Kaiser be tried for having a responsibility for the war, however Holland took him in as a refuge and said that that legal principle was wrong.
However with World War II we saw the Nuremberg Trials which was the first time that individuals were held responsible for war instead of the states/governments. I have no inherent problem with people being charged responsibility for war, but when it is applied equally and is not used as a way for the stronger nations to punish weaker nations which is exactly Zolo argues has happened.
In the Nuremberg Trials the allies picked all the judges and applied ex post facto law as in they tried people for crimes for laws that were established after they had been established. Examples being the crime of such things like ‘Crimes Against Peace’ and other vague things. Did the National Socialists do evil things? Yes. Did they get a fair trial that wasn’t politicized for world powers to have a way to differ all blame onto others without looking at what they have done? No.
Nuremberg marked the epoch of war being something where there was a ‘just’ and ‘unjust’ side. Where wars were moral crusades that were total wars. This already happened in part with advent of democracy as I have discussed early. However, it further solidified this doctrine.
It also justified war for the larger world powers. The permanent members of the UN Security Council are Russia (previously the Soviet Union), France, The United States, The United Kingdom, and China. Because these 5 countries have veto power that can end UN military intervention, when any of those countries are doing horrendous things and the UN acts to move against it in some way, they can simply veto it.
As Zolo says in the first chapter,
One might say that war has been totally ‘normalized’, both inn practice and, all the more, in the way it is being explicitly endorsed by the leading Western Powers