Wilson did not see international law primarily as formal, legal-binding commitments that transferred sovereignty upward to international or su- pranational authorities. International law had more of a socializing dy- namic, creating norms and expectations that states would slowly come to embrace as their own. As Thomas Knock notes: “Wilson emphasized that international law actually was ‘not made,’ as such. Rather, it was the result of organic development—‘a body of abstract principles founded upon long established custom.’”18
Wilson did not see the great liberal “project” involving a deep transfor- mation of states themselves as sovereign legal units. States would just act better, which for Wilson meant they would act in less selsh and nationalist ways. So international laws and the systems of collective security anchored in the League of Nations would provide a socializing role, gradually bring- ing states into a “community of power.”
Fourth, a stable and peaceful order must be built around this “commu- nity of power.” This was a new concept that Wilson introduced by which he essentially meant collective security, a system of peace sustained by commitments to arms control and disarmament, self-determination, and freedom of the seas. The embodiment of this notion was to be the League of Nations, or as Wilson urged in the last of his Fourteen Points: “A gen- eral association of nations must be formed under specic covenants for the purpose of affording mutual guarantees of political independence and territorial integrity to great and small states alike.” Despite the vagueness of the notion of a “community of power,” Wilson was clear that this new international creation would replace older forms of order based on the balance of power, military rivalry, and alliances. In the Wilsonian view, power and security competition would be decomposed and replaced by a community of nations.
Fifth, these conditions—democracy, trade, law, collective security— were possible because the world was moving in a progressive and modern- izing direction. A “new order of things” was emerging. The world could be made anew. The old world of autocracy, militarism, and despotism could be overturned and a new world of democracy and rule of law was over the horizon. America had a leading role to play in this progressive world-historical drama, but the forces of history were already moving the world in this direction.