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In this world, nations once came together and decided that global empires are generally a bad thing for the species as a whole - since their effect on history and culture is very similar to monopoly's effects on the economy. They also act like focuses of the attention, with everybody ambitious beginning to just want to either rebel against the empire or to overthrow the emperor and rule it themselves.

So they came up with an international organization whose purpose is to keep the governments in check and prevent them from gaining a too large military or economical advantage over other countries, by force, if necessary. This organization is itself has a large military, manpower, and has a political influence on the countries, so they, theoretically, can take over the entire world with relative ease. But they stay true to their mission, only taking action to level out the playing field for everybody else (either by smacking those who got too greedy and imperialistic or by bootstrapping those who fell too far on the other side of the scale) and other than that let the governments of the world do whatever they want (both inside their countries, and to each other).

Basically, they're a geopolitical antimonopoly committee with executive power and a dash of humanitarian aid mission.

Now, the question is, what are the mechanisms that can prevent such an organization from becoming infiltrated or corrupted, and just deciding to conquer everybody themselves? At least on a timescale of one or two centuries, but preferably the more future-proofed they are, the better.

It should preferably be some logical element of the organization itself and not something immutable that itself enforces its will on the organization - like an immortal CEO, or mind-affecting magic, or something like this.

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    $\begingroup$ What is the tipping point? One could describe it as an empire now, because it has power over them all, and they can suggest that anything they don't like might lead to empire, so knock it off. $\endgroup$
    – Mary
    Commented Nov 20, 2021 at 15:06
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    $\begingroup$ What is your definition of empire? $\endgroup$
    – Otkin
    Commented Nov 20, 2021 at 18:31
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    $\begingroup$ Bureau_of_Sabotage $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 20, 2021 at 20:50
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    $\begingroup$ 'This organization can take over the entire world with relative ease.' - the US spends almost a trillion dollars a year on their military and it took them 20y to not secure the peace in a single country, for at least the third time, while having the world's first and second largest air forces. $\endgroup$
    – Mazura
    Commented Nov 21, 2021 at 1:49
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    $\begingroup$ @Mazura An argument could be made (and I personally would agree) that securing peace was not their actual goal in the whole debacle. $\endgroup$
    – Hearth
    Commented Nov 21, 2021 at 19:52

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With the structure you said, I'd say it's nearly impossible for that not to happen.

I'd propose a bit of a frame challenge.

Make them assassins

"The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure." Thomas Jefferson.

Think about it. A large planetary government is susceptible to corruption as any other government. In fact because of the larger scale they are likely to be even more corrupt.

But a small highly organized group of assassins that owns nothing, rules nothing, controls nothing... etc. is the perfect weapon to stop empires. They are still human and can be corrupted, but the unique nature of the organization would hopefully prevent that. But having nothing to their name they are unlikely to grow fat and rich, unlikely to get bribes to pass laws since they can't... etc. that even if a member wanted to blackmail someone in exchange for turning a blind eye, that won't work since anyone in the organization can get that information. I'm gonna use corruption as an umbrella term for whatever you don't like.

  • They work in small cells. Few people per state/county. Each cell has a leader.
  • They lead normal lives. They don't stay in the office all day training how to throw shuriken stars. And they don't walk around with signature cloth denoting their status. They even recruit in secret. Think intelligence agencies.
  • They are not a complete secret. But they don't go around advertising themselves. They only justify their actions to the public in say a newspaper, website or in front of parliament.
  • They have access to all the governmental stuff. Databases, budgets... etc.
  • They are well trained and well prepared. Despite having normal lives each cell member has a sort of standard training and further specialization.
  • They only need to prove corruption to their cell leader, or panel of 3, in which case a sanctioned hit is ordered. Alternatively they have to send it to higher ups.
  • They use both their access and public information to gather information then analyze this to come to a verdict.
  • You can complicate it further by having them spy on the state in general. If they suspect a governor is plotting against them then why bother trying to use governmental databases? Just spy on the person in question. Then bring the allegations to the leader or panel.
  • The unique nature of the organization, the small size, the lack of a traditional leader, the compartmentalization... etc. means that it's very difficult to infiltrate or take down or even know about them. Each cell is separate, everything is handled internally. And they only face the public in say a website or in front of parliament. This reduces public exposure and even governmental exposure.
  • Being established before government means they can outlast it. For example if a president wanted to destroy them, what can he do? He is going to use the power of the state which in theory is greater. But by the time he orders the investigation of them they would already know. Even if a cell or two are compromised they will be eradicated and reestablished, now with a clear and obvious enemy. And because they only need to justify actions internally they don't have to worry about lengthy litigation or even escape. An expert assassin gets his hit sanctioned and takes the target out.
  • Murder is not the only answer, of course, depending on the severity of the crime. But I highly recommend them using murder from time to time so that people understand the full consequences of corruption. Heck, they can sometimes do it both ways. Build a case against some entity or person, then throw it to the courts. If the court fails the person is taken out.
  • There is always risk of failure but that's the burden that they take. If an assassin fails they might get killed or captured. Sure. But again it's an oath they take to keep order.

I have no delusions that such a system is very radical and will have larger consequences or that it's perfect, few things are. But I feel that a small global group of assassins that is highly trained and possesses good resources is a good answer. Of course they do act as a boogeyman to states and politicians, holding the higher ups under a reign of terror and fear of assassination. I also think the implications and the brutality of it is quite nice. Ultimately someone will ask: Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? But that's my not problem.

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  • $\begingroup$ Such an organization has two vulnerabilities: the first is the budget. How they get their money is always open to being cut. The second is recruit training. It is almost impossible to overcome belief systems that new recruits come in with and which can corrupt the organization. There is another strength - those recruits who go through the training and do learn the values of fighting corruption, but are not part of the organization will impact the rest of society. $\endgroup$
    – David R
    Commented Nov 21, 2021 at 15:05
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    $\begingroup$ I would strongly suggest that a murder hit needs to be justified to a group of cells. The problem is that a cell is small enough that "group think" can take over. Having to make the case to disinterested other cells will help to reduce that effect. $\endgroup$
    – David R
    Commented Nov 21, 2021 at 15:07
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    $\begingroup$ The significant risk with this kind of organisation is that without lots of oversight it is very easy for a group of people with this skillset and these resources to morph into a criminal organisation. Then they take over one or more governments behind the scenes and suddenly they are perfectly positioned to make a grab for empire, secure in the knowledge that unlike all the other governments, no one is watching them. Look at how many big criminal organisations started as groups resisting a hostile occupation of their country... $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 22, 2021 at 5:01
  • $\begingroup$ @DavidR, unlike the airforce or navy those guys only need basic stuff. You don't need several billions dollars worth of money and several decades of research only to make a super ship that is relevant for few decades then goes through the cycle again when warfare changes. A bullet to an unprotected skull still kills just fine. Like Michael Corleone said: "If anything in this life is certain, if history has taught us anything, it is that you can kill anyone" It's not like spying also needs super stuff. Coding, stealing, literal spying...etc are all easily done. I already addressed corruption $\endgroup$
    – Seallussus
    Commented Nov 22, 2021 at 21:34
  • $\begingroup$ @KerrAvon2055, yes. I literally finished with stressing that point. Not sure what more to do $\endgroup$
    – Seallussus
    Commented Nov 22, 2021 at 21:35
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One of the key elements of sovereignty is a monopoly on violence.

If nations are allowed to retain their own militaries that could oppose the anti-empire organization (AEO), then by definition the AEO is not an empire.

However, if the AEO has its own military too, then it is likely inevitable that it will ban nations having militaries because the only logical reason to have one anymore is resisting the AEO to become an empire. Such a ban would ironically make the AEO itself an empire.

The only long-term solution is to prohibit the AEO from having its own military. It must instead ask the “good” nations to put down the “bad” nations. If the AEO oversteps, they simply refuse to participate.

This is pretty much how the UN works, if you ignore the obvious flaw (added to appease Stalin) that allows Permanent Members of the Security Council to veto any actions against their own empire-building. And one of the UN’s first priorities was indeed dismantling the empires that directly led to WWI and WWII, aka “decolonization”.

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  • $\begingroup$ In many cultures, that's impractical because the man on the spot has to be able to deploy force as needed. $\endgroup$
    – Mary
    Commented Nov 20, 2021 at 22:48
  • $\begingroup$ @Mary A monopoly on violence doesn't preclude self defense. The idea here is that you can't deploy violence for any reason you see fit. Even people who claim self defense may be investigated and charged with a crime, even if they are not found criminally liable later. $\endgroup$
    – Machavity
    Commented Nov 21, 2021 at 17:38
  • $\begingroup$ @Mary “monopoly on violence” is a term of art that means the sovereign decides who is allowed to use violence and when; it doesn’t imply violence is limited to state actors. $\endgroup$
    – StephenS
    Commented Nov 30, 2021 at 14:36
  • $\begingroup$ In many cultures, that is impractical unless delegated to such an extent that it becomes meaningless $\endgroup$
    – Mary
    Commented Dec 1, 2021 at 0:33
  • $\begingroup$ @Mary It is literally how every country in history has worked, including whichever one you live in now. $\endgroup$
    – StephenS
    Commented Dec 1, 2021 at 0:52
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Democracy

The global empire preventers would work well as a democracy. It is not autonomous. It is landless and funded and staffed by all countries. If someone tried to use the global military to establish an empire favoring one nation, the other participating nations would prevent it.

Another consequence of democracy is that the empire preventers (they need a new name) are bureaucratic and inefficient. It takes them a long time to do anything. That prevents things from happening fast. Good things happen slowly but more importantly bad things (like turning into an empire or dictatorship) also happen slowly and there is time to intervene once the direction of things is noted. Inertia can be a valuable quality in something that is very powerful.

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    $\begingroup$ Two obvious pitfalls are that nations can still form alliances. For example all the Africans nations banding together due to climate change and all the Europeans banding together to secure their high-tech industry. Secondly and this can be tied to the first one whilst inefficient might help with that point it is also an amazing way to ensure a problem like say a global pandemics or immigration crisis makes the organization highly unpopular. The EU is currently very much unraveling itself; Brexit, the East-West culture divide, the Immigration and economical crisis causing a North-South divide. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 21, 2021 at 20:54
  • $\begingroup$ @TheShadowOfZama - if this institution is ill suited to handle problems like pandemics, do not task it with handling those crises. Different associations of political entities can take on those challenges. Different entities might still make war with each other. If you blow up my "nuclear reactor" that does not mean you are adding me to your putative empire. It means we are enemies. A hammer is not a bad tool because it cannot turn a screw. The fact that the empire preventers do not do a bunch of other stuff is ok. They are empire preventers! $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Commented Nov 21, 2021 at 21:07
  • $\begingroup$ Chaos is a ladder stuff like climate change and pandemics are events that will weaken certain nations more severely than others or one alliance more than another. Who's going to be willing to pay the budget of the organization because one nation is undergoing severe desertiification and can't pay their share? If the organization is reliant on others paying for it then it will only exist so long as those others are willing or can pay for its existence. Who's going to explain to the citzens of nation Y they have to pay more whilst in a financial crisis because nation X can't pay no more. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 22, 2021 at 18:48
  • $\begingroup$ @TheShadowOfZama - Poor nations who cannot pay the empire prevention group are in no position to take on their neighbors in a bid for empire. They are too poor. Nations who are rich and mighty could try for empire and these will be the nations compelled to pay, because a refusal to pay could be the first step towards empire. The empire prevention group will be who is going to explain to nation Y because that is its job. $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Commented Nov 22, 2021 at 23:32
  • $\begingroup$ Congrats now the Empire prevention group has become an empire. The moment you can force someone to pay you, your making them pay taxes and who collects legitimate taxes? A government. The UN ain't a government because for the time being nations like the USA, Russia and China can easily say no as China and India recently showed with the cllimate agreement and participation is still optional (Taiwan ain't in the UN for example). What exactly is the difference between your empire prevention group and the Mongols collecting tribute? Empires can have a pretty hands-off approach to ruling. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 23, 2021 at 21:36
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First of all, if you are going to write something like this, you need to read the definitive master work on the subject, Asimov's original Foundation trilogy. Specific to your question is the third book in the series, titled The Second Foundation. Through out this series, the gross economic policy theory which is supported by the Foundations are a little different than what you are proposing, but the fundamental concept and underlying goal is the same; prosperity and survival for as many as possible.

To answer your question, what you need is a second, clandestine and in some ways even more powerful organization which lacks the outward facing tools of power (military, economic strength, technological advantage) but possesses an inward facing power which can humble the first organization from within. This secret power doesn't even have to be real. It just has to be feared by the leaders of the first organization who know with absolute certainty that the sword of Damocles towers above their heads, ready to strike should they step out of line.

The second organization should have methods for flexing its fictional muscles within view of the first organization. A infiltrated spy within the first foundation holding a humble office like filing clerk, who has the ability and responsibility to modify military reports, to add sightings of powerful but neutral military assets who waited at the edge of sensor range then left peacefully without incident. If those sightings come from a ship that subsequently didn't survive a later conflict, all the better. Just an unnoticed but ominous report, hidden in the official files, waiting to be discovered by a future first organization leader with imperial ambitions.

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You are asking an impossibility. The problem is not organizational structure, but people. It is estimated that 1% of the human population are psychopaths who will seek out positions of power. Once they get that power, they will use it to remain in power and will destroy any organizational restraints that might exist. They will kill their rivals (Stalin), arrest others, and try to make a civil war (Jefferson Davis 1860). Look at what happened to the Roman church when the Pope had absolute power.

Let me give some Lord Acton quotes: "Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority; still more when you superadd the tendency of the certainty of corruption by authority." "Liberty consists in the division of power. Absolutism, in concentration of power." https://www.acton.org/research/lord-acton-quote-archive

The only way to prevent one person from gaining that much power is to not have that much power in one position. This is the genius of the American Constitution: separation of powers. In other words, when a power hungry person has been elected president, he is constrained by the Supreme Court and Congress. Even so, we are constantly struggling with this and working to have new ways to balance power (such as on the internet).

So, when you want to prevent empires, the only way is to have a number of smaller countries who when ganged together, can defeat the attempts at empire. Even that is doomed to failure because of the element of luck that will give a lot of wealth to one country for a while. Wealth and empire is always short term. (See Spain, England, Mongol, etc.)

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    $\begingroup$ "Don't just add it -- superadd it!" Lord Action. $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Commented Nov 20, 2021 at 19:14
  • $\begingroup$ Is the American Constitution special in separating Legislative, Executive and Judicial powers? $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Commented Nov 20, 2021 at 19:16
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    $\begingroup$ @Daron At the time it was written, it was special in Western governance. It did borrow from the Iroquois Federation Constitution which had a separation of powers also. $\endgroup$
    – David R
    Commented Nov 21, 2021 at 14:52
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    $\begingroup$ @DavidR Wikipedia credits the separation-of-power ideas in early American colonies to Calvin's influence rather than that of native Americans (though they might have had similar setups, and Europeans might have studied those systems). Today's typical division into legislative, executive, and judicative branches is commonly attributed to John Locke and Montesquieu; older models typically had only two powers. $\endgroup$
    – toolforger
    Commented Nov 22, 2021 at 8:22
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    $\begingroup$ @toolforger I agree that the intellectual identification would be credited to European thinkers. I can't help but think that 150 years of watching the neighbors live that way had to have had an influence emotionally and help nudge the framers to consider the system to be very viable when the European powers rejected those concepts. $\endgroup$
    – David R
    Commented Nov 22, 2021 at 15:31
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Q: "what are the mechanisms that can prevent such an organization from becoming infiltrated or corrupted, and just deciding to conquer everybody themselves?"

Let a Court decide about the interventions

Suppose your anti-Empire organization was formed in a voluntary treaty, between countries, everyone has agreed upon things. You could form some independent body, like a Court of Intervention, to assert if certain measures comply with the treaty text.

Let it be passive

The organization only acts on request. It will research complaints by countries intimidated by big neighbours with imperial aspirations. Also, it should research complaints by peoples who are denied independent territory. Experts should assert the validity of these complaints. There should be some legal standing for actually requesting intervention, the organization itself cannot decide on intervention on its own.

The army serves a treaty between partners, not the organization

The large army should only be an instrument to enforce the treaty, it does not serve the organization itself. This army should be 99% deterrrence: The size of the army is to make sure that countries with war aspirations will stay reluctant to actually apply force.

When allowed and agreed upon by the Court, defensive and preventive military action is taken, keeping the rogue country from e.g. moving troops outside its borders, or executing air raids.

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This organization is itself has a large military, manpower, and has a political influence on the countries, so they, theoretically, can take over the entire world with relative ease.

Manpower, military force, and political capital don't just come from nowhere.

I see two ways this organization can exist as described:

  1. They have their own territory, with their own local population. In this case, they aren't actually "an international organization"; They're just another country.
  2. They get their troops, funds, food, equipment, etc. from contributions pooled by the international community. In this case, they're going to have a hard time taking over the world if most countries decide to just stop funding and arming them.

So really, it's hard to see how they could become an empire.

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The "Protectors" are divided into orders and kept in secured towns across all of the individual nations. The order will need their host nations' permission to leave on a mission but can also refuse to go, so they are not a national military.

The orders are divided into individual functions, such as doctors, teachers, cavalry, infantry, engineers. So no one order can have a large influence alone, and to mobilize effectively would take a long time.

They do not keep their own supplies and are only given what is necessary for a mission by another organisation the "keepers". The Guards are very specialised, and rely on the Keepers. For example, cooks, supply chains, horse trainers. But the keepers get their supplies from volunteer nations.

And last, all communication between all orders of Guards, Keepers or National leaders must be open to all parties, so there are no back channels.

Under my barriers, to form an empire, the Guards would need to be let out of their secured locations. Arrange a way to supply their mission while they organise their forces. And either do that without any prior communication or with all of the nations knowing what is going to happen.

I think the biggest risk would be while on a campaign to bring down a growing empire, to announce their plans and see who will join and hope it includes an alliance with a nation able to supply you.

Doing their job is relatively simple, but to rebel would require many people to mutiny at once.

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You should read the book "Why Nations Fail"

The word "empire" means many things. In this context, I think you mean "empire" as some kind of centralized, authoritarian tyranny. Right? On the other hand, some people would say that an empire is any nation that exploits other nations (e.g Victorian England or modern day USA). But I assume you do not mean that, right?

According to WNF, the key to preventing authoritarian tyranny is to distribute the keys to power. A tyrant can only maintain control if she can bribe or otherwise motivate the keys. In a small African state the keys might be a couple of factory owners, the head of the military, and the media. One person can conceivably devise how to keep them all motivated. In the USA tyranny (so far) is averted because the keys are too many for one person to bribe. With AI however, this may soon change.

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Perhaps unifying as a planet is necessary as an organization, and practically, given that efforts are concentrated on politics at a larger scale, between planets, and intergalactically.

Thus, it is self-defeating to create a military to accommodate conflict between countries, or to even engage in this conflict in the first place. It makes the planet vulnerable to attack from other worlds. Rather, military efforts are focused on a larger scale, for governing between worlds, galaxies, etc.

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As many other participants mentioned, your artificial universe is, say, 99,999999% improbable. The key question is, if there were such organisation, what would be THEIR reason to do all that "empire-leveling" stuff? Why would they not want to become ultimate empire themselves?

If you propose an organisation of altruistic zealots, who's goal is peace and prosperity of humanity, even then the idea of leveling economic and military (which is a derivative of economic by the way) might of other countries seems absurd.

First of all, monopolisation of world economy is not an evil mistake, it is a logical and historical consequence of humanity's productivity constantly rising, thus causing revolutionary change in society formation. You may want to read more in "The Capital" by K.Marx or "Imperialism as the Highest Stage of Capitalism" by V.Lenin

So, according to all that the only plausible picture I can imagine is this one: USSR in alternative universe has not collapsed and took over the world. The whole world is socialistic, private property is prohibited and the power is in hands of World Soviet. but of course there might be (and will be) former capitalists and their supporters that dream of restoring the previous social formation. They will be rebelling and capturing some local regions all over the earth. The World Soviet will probably not choose to nuke them to ashes or eliminate completely with any other military tech, because Soviets are not mad, they don't need such bad PR. So they will try to control those multiple midget capitalistic countries, so that they don't cause much loss to themselves or anybody around. That could be a reasonable plot.

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  • $\begingroup$ In that alternative universe, the leaders of the October Revolution would not have tried to recreate the Tsar and would not have had a Stalin. In our universe, the USSR concentrated too much power in one person. $\endgroup$
    – David R
    Commented Nov 22, 2021 at 15:16
  • $\begingroup$ Well, seems You have little-to-none understanding of what was USSR and how it worked, otherwise you wouldn't write such bullshit. Anyway I was not going to insult one's capitalistic prejudices, I just proposed an alternative universe with humanity-wide communistic formation (like Star-Trek universe for example), it would surely NOT be USSR exactly. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 23, 2021 at 10:37
  • $\begingroup$ I bow to your superior knowledge and acknowledge that I was looking at what Khrushchev said about Stalin. $\endgroup$
    – David R
    Commented Nov 23, 2021 at 19:53
  • $\begingroup$ thank you, sir! You appeal to Khruschev words, which means, you believe one particular soviet leader but not the others. Why? Why this one? Seems very logical. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 25, 2021 at 16:25

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