There is nothing sets the character of a nation in a higher or lower light with others, than the faithfully fulfilling, or perfidiously breaking of treaties.

—Thomas Paine. The American Crisis, May 31, 1782.

Defense treaties

It is not a case of the encirclement of Germany but of the encirclement of the potential aggressor. If we are the aggressors, let us be encircled and brought to reason by the pressure of other countries. If France is the aggressor, let her be restrained in the same way; and if it be Germany, let Germany take the measures meted out to her by countries who submit themselves to the law which they are prepared to take a share in enforcing. The first thing we ought to do is to make these pacts of mutual aid and assistance.

—Winston Churchill. Speech to the House of Commons, March 26, 1936.

Mutual defense treaties take the guesswork out of a potential aggressor’s calculations. Thus the surest way to prevent war is for free countries to pledge to come to each other’s aid if attacked. They are sacred covenants—being the national equivalent of minding someone else’s children; you must treat your allies as your own people and be prepared to sacrifice everything to keep them safe. The abandonment of Czechoslovakia by France at the Munich Conference, in breach of her treaty obligations, is the prime example of what not to do. It was the national equivalent of throwing another person’s child to the wolves in order to effect your own escape.

Standing ultimatums

A country will avoid many wars if it holds clearly defined principles, pronounces them in advance, and always adheres to them. On the other hand, weakness, inconstancy, ambiguity, compromise and vacillation encourage aggression. Thus the principles of a nation’s foreign policy should be laid down before a crisis arises, in the same way laws are laid down in advance of crimes being committed. Foreign policy should be formulated into standing ultimatums, approved by referendum and proclaimed to the world at large.

Ratification by each generation

We may consider each generation as a distinct nation, with a right, by the will of its majority, to bind themselves, but none to bind the succeeding generation.

—Thomas Jefferson. Letter to John Wayles Eppes, June 24, 1813.

Committing a people to go to war, or to forswear the use of a particular weapon, is such a grave decision, touching on the very survival of the people, that they must make the decision for themselves rather than have it made for them by their forebears or politicians. Accordingly, all treaties and ultimatums should be made by referendum and should lapse unless ratified by referendum every twenty years.


We should reflect that it was not the United Nations, or the World Bank, let alone the European Community, which overthrew communism. It was a united West, under American leadership, enjoying the support of brave dissident patriots in the lands of the Eastern bloc.

—Margaret Thatcher. Speech at a Congress of the New Atlantic Initiative, Prague, May 11, 1996.

NATO succeeded in containing the Soviet Union. It remains the best instrument for guaranteeing peace. The more countries that are added to it, the more effective it will be in this role in the future. However, membership must be restricted to those countries which are committed to self-determination of other peoples. Thus Russia should not be allowed to join and Turkey should be evicted.

Despite its successful history, the terms of the NATO treaty are deficient. There is no actual obligation for any nation to do anything when another member is attacked. Each party is enjoined to take only that action which “it deems necessary”—which expressly need not include armed force. This mattered little when the armed forces of the United States were the main component of the alliance’s forces. However in the future, for NATO’s offensive capability to continue to deter, the forces of other member nations will need to be added. Thus the NATO treaty needs to be given teeth. It must list contingencies and what must be done if those contingencies arise. Specifically, if a member’s territory is invaded, then all members should be obligated to immediately declare war on the invader and not make a separate peace until the occupied territory has been liberated. The NATO treaty should pledge that in the event of an unprovoked nuclear attack on any member state, the nuclear-armed members will respond with a more destructive nuclear attack on the enemy.

It is the duty of every government to maintain a credible defense capability. The people of the United States clearly understand this, but smaller countries unfairly bask beneath the shield of the United States military and do not pull their weight. In particular, defense spending in the socialist countries of Western Europe has plummeted well below their fair share. This increasingly makes the alliance a one-sided bargain, whereby the United States is taxing its citizens to pay for the security of Europe. This is unfair to the people of the United States and unwise of the Europeans. In order to rectify this imbalance, the NATO treaty should impose minimum defensive capabilities on its members.

Illegitimate topics for treaties

Self-government is a right of the individual and is exercised through democracy. It is impossible for this power to be alienated by politicians. Those treaties such as the European Convention on Human Rights—which purport to bind how nations rule their own citizens—are blatant infringements of national sovereignty. The use of such treaties to further domestic socialist agendas represents an illegitimate attempt by a socialist legislature to entrench its dogma by denying its own people the right of self-government on the question in the future. It is void under the natural law, because the sovereign power of the people cannot be alienated.

This article is an extract from the book ‘Principles of Good Government’ by Matthew Bransgrove