Paying to avoid war

Suppose a costly, unnecessary war is about to be waged by a western Democracy. Also suppose the reason for the war is corruption (i.e. the leader in power figures he can enrich himself and his friends by waging this war).

With superb organization, planning and foresight, is it possible to prevent the war by bribing the corrupt leader directly? Suppose every citizen who is against the war contributes $50, and over $1 billion dollars is raised.

Could the ransom legally be paid to the corrupt leader and would it ensure the country does not go to war?

I suppose it would depend exactly on that country’s laws, especially on it’s bribery laws. If bribery is generally legal, then this probably would be legal. If bribery was illegal, then this probably would be illegal. But it’s impossible to tell without looking at the individual country, and it’s laws.

18 USC 201 says, “Whoever directly or indirectly, corruptly gives, offers or promises anything of value to any public official … with intent… to influence any official act; … shall be fined under this title or not more than three times the monetary equivalent of the thing of value, whichever is greater, or imprisoned for not more than fifteen years, or both, and may be disqualified from holding any office of honor, trust, or profit under the United States.”

In the US, at least, I think the case would be airtight: if such a plan were carried out, everyone who contributed broke the law, and the President would deserve to be impeached and tried for accepting such a bribe. (For purposes of brevity I excluded the part of the law about public officials accepting bribes, but it goes along the same lines as the quoted part.)

Dang, that ruins a perfectly good plan. I don’t suppose there’s any other legal ways to use $1 billion to prevent war?

Sure…set up a public interest/lobbying group with the money, and have the group take out ads, mobilize people, and convince the public/politicians that war would be bad.

Besides the illegality of it, you might want to consider that it is just plain a bad idea.

If some leader is so messed up he’d accept a payoff to avoid war (and I think that personal profit being a real motive for war in a modern democratic society is nothing short of ridiculous), then surely he’d be capable of pretending to want war for personal profit, thereby extorting a billion or more from well-meaning people. If we ever went down the path of bribery being a substitute for war, I think the latter scenario would be much more common than the former.

Once you pay Danegeld, you never get rid of the Dane.

On the other end, someone depraved enough to start a war for personal gain would almost certainly have no problem with taking your billion dollars, then starting the war anyway, and getting even richer off of that.

You could pay over time.

Actually, I recall that before the infamous battle of Galipoli, there was a plan in Britain to simply pay the Sultan of Turkey for passage through the Bosphorus.

As far as 18 USC 201 goes, “public official” is defined as follows:

So a foreign dictator would not seem to be covered.

It also appears that the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act does not apply:

So he collects until he’s ready to start the war, then just pockets however much you’ve paid, and starts with the killin’. For that matter, if we’re talking about a person willing to slaughter tens of thousands of people (or more) just to line his pockets, without regard to what the electorate thinks (this scenario does presuppose that the population will be sufficiently opposed to the war that they’ll raise a* billion* dollars to stop it) then there’s really no reason for said leader not to take the anti-war folks money at gunpoint. The OP assumes that a sociopath in charge of an army is someone who can be bartered or rationed with. He is not. He’s a sociopath, and he has an army. He’s going to do whatever the hell he wants.

That’s quite different than what the OP is talking about.

You could pay him over 50 years.

The bigger problem is that the world is full of psychopathic warlords and dictators who would all demand a piece of the action.


Considering how unlikely it would be for a person to achieve this much political power before the age of forty or so, I doubt this would be a very attractive proposition. And again, given the scenario, there’s still the “kill them and take their money, then go to war anyway” problem to be dealt with.

I think the OP was talking about citizens of a nation bribing their own government, not other governments, so I don’t think this would be too much of a concern.

Ok, here’s a revised plan. We raise a $1 billion to stop unnecessary war in a Western democracy. The entire sum is invested and an incentive prize is created from the interest or dividends. If it were invested into a safe money market fund, it would earn about $50 million each year.

When a current leader leaves office (i.e. the President is not re-elected), he is compensated from the prize fund if no war was waged under his administration. Otherwise, the prize is forfeited and the monies reinvested.

For an 8 year term, there’s about $400 million earned. To keep up with inflation, etc. perhaps not all $400M is paid out. I’m sure $100M is plenty of incentive.

Would this new plan work?

We pay Egypt a couple billion every year.
Anyone know what one of the pay offs of this is ?

Damn. I just finished a book on the Dark Ages in England, and I was going to post that. I can just add that the bribe gets bigger every year, and it didn’t work out too well for Ethelred the Unready.

I like the fund idea.

However, and I know this is not going to be popular and in no way is a statement about current events, war is sometimes necessary. To have a disincentive could open up bad possibilities. That needs to be considered.

I’m curious why you’re so attached to this idea. Do you really think that modern-day elected leaders of democratic countries starting wars for personal profit is a serious and/or common problem?

I misread the thread title as “partying to avoid war.”

I’m all for it, by the way.