“The Law of Nations Shall be Founded on a Federation of Free States.” Thus did the great German philosopher Immanuel Kant lay down the foundations of his plan for a “perpetual peace”. No part of the world has embraced his idealism more completely than post-second world war Europe. Yet is this great dream now dead?
The British diplomat Robert Cooper argued brilliantly that we can divide the world into the “pre-modern”, by which he meant the parts where anarchy reigns, the “modern”, by which he meant the world of nation “states”, and the “post-modern”, by which he meant Europe’s effort to create a federation of states, as Kant had called for. Cooper argues that “what came to an end in 1989 was not just the Cold War or even, in a formal sense, the Second World War . . . What came to an end in Europe (but perhaps only in Europe) were the political systems of three centuries: the balance of power and the imperial urge.”