ANY MILITARY STRATEGIST can tell you that it is simply impossible for Romania to have a war with Chad. Why? you ask (do not attempt to pretend that you did not ask, for Dr. Boli knows better). Because they have the same flag.


Left, Romania; right, Chad. Or vice versa.

It is simply impossible to coordinate maneuvers against an enemy whose flag is exactly the same, or so similar that the two flags are easily confused. The Confederate States discovered this principle early on in the American Civil War, though their original flag and the Union flag were much easier to distinguish than the flags of Romania and Chad. And what has been the result? During the entire time when these two countries have used this flag, there has never been a war between Romania and Chad. The similarity of flags has caused blessed peace to prevail between two nations which might otherwise have been at each other’s throats.

For similar reasons, there can never be a war between Monaco and Poland:


Left, Monaco; right, Poland.

The flags are not identical, but what general would be so presumptuous as to gamble on the ability of his troops to distinguish them in the heat of battle? Once again, the flags have preserved two great nations from a war that might have meant the ruin of both.

Again, it would be the height of folly for Luxembourg to declare war on the Netherlands:


Left, Luxembourg; right, the Netherlands.

A little fading in the sun, and the flag  of the Netherlands becomes the flag of Luxembourg. Nor would the addition of an illegible little rubber-stamp seal preserve Paraguay from ruin if it should declare war on either of those two nations:


For similar reasons, Chile can never go to war against Texas—


Left, Chile; right, Texas.

—or the Ivory Coast against Ireland—


Left, Ivory Coast; right, Ireland.

—or the United States against Malaysia—


Left, United States; right, Malaysia.

—without unspeakable confusion. Likewise, it would be foolish for the Netherlands to fight Yemen, or Luxembourg to fight Sierra Leone, if the war were fought in black and white:



The Netherlands, Yemen, Luxembourg, Sierra Leone.

Most wars in the first half of the twentieth century were fought in black and white, as documentary evidence shows, and it would be the height of folly to assume that it will not happen again.

In all these cases, peace has been preserved between potentially belligerent nations by the sheer impossibility of contemplating military action against a country with an indistinguishable flag. And this simple observation suggests a solution to the problem of world peace that, as far as Dr. Boli knows, has never been suggested before.

Dr. Boli’s proposal is as follows: Every nation may continue under its current government, ruled by whatever greedy and unstable despot it chooses to represent it on the world stage; but every nation must adopt a flag indistiguishable from those of its neighbors. Even this is a mere intermediate stage: the ultimate solution is for every country to adopt the same flag, or flags so similar that it would be impossible to tell the difference on the battlefield.

Dr. Boli is not a vexillographer (if the reader will pardon an ugly term made from Latin and Greek parts unnaturally mashed together), so he will not presume to dictate the design of that flag himself; but may he be permitted to suggest the French tricolor as a model? There are already so many tricolor flags, and so many countries whose flags consist of various combinations of blue, white, and red, that adopting a flag based on some variation of the tricolor would probably meet very little public resistance, if indeed anyone noticed the difference at all.

Dr. Boli would also like to inform the Nobel committee in Oslo that, should they wish to speak with him, he may be reached in care of this Magazine.


  1. Jared says:

    Of course, should Monaco and Poland ever dispense with such considerations and declare war anyway, raising a distress signal could be considered an act of treason.

    Besides, I’m not sure that flags and standing armies will matter in these conflicts. Not, at least, if that great military strategist Tom Lehrer was correct in his prognostications regarding future members of the nuclear club: “Luxembourg is next to go, and, who knows, maybe Monaco…”

    • Dr. Boli says:

      Is turning the flag upside-down a universal signal of distress? One asks because, if it is, it raises the horrible possibility that the French or the Italians or the Laotians or the Nigerians or the Jamaicans have been trying desperately to call for help, but no one has noticed.

      • Jared says:

        If electing Hollande isn’t a cry for help, I don’t know what is. In fact, looking at that list, I consider it entirely plausible that the aforementioned flags have ALWAYS been flown upside down, and the world simply failed to take notice.

  2. JaneC says:

    The flag of Indonesia is also similar or identical to the flag of Monaco. I doubt that Indonesia will ever go to war with either Monaco or Poland.
    Furthermore, somewhere in the range of 8-10% of humans (mostly males) are red-green color blind. To them, the flags of Italy, Peru, and Nigeria all look the same.

  3. John M says:

    Alas, I fear this theory has a fatal flaw: trademark law. At some point, Texas will claim that Chile’s flag infringes upon the Texas brand, and demand that Chile change its flag. When Chile refuses, and suggests that Texas change its flag, the fighting will begin.

  4. If Texas decided to acquire an air force for the Texas Rangers, their elite internal security forces, then their air force symbol painted on their aircraft would very likely look like this:
    Chilean Air Force Roundel

    Which, conincidentally enough, is already the Chilean Air Force Symbol.

    But I’m shocked that you did not mention the inevitability that Indonesia would be drawn into any hypothetical Poland-Monaco War, and once more, a piddling European squabble will spill over into globe-spanning conflict. And this reveals the fatal flaw in your entire scheme:

    When everyone has the same flag, the likelihood of their entering into a conflict is greatly reduced, this is true. But in the unlikely (but inevitable, given a long enough timespan) event that a conflict DOES break out, everyone else will be almost immediately drawn into the conflict bycases of mistaken identity leading to neutral parties being fired upon, who fire upon further neutral parties while attempting self-defence or punitive strikes in response, which leads to an escalating spiral of vengeance and outrage, until there is no one left with a flag to confuse for that of his neighbor.

    One would think that someone like Dr. Boli, who has lived that proverbial “long enough timespan” for an awful lot of extraordinarily unlikely things to become sad inevitabilities before his very eyes,

  5. Dr. Boli says:

    Instead, Dr. Boli has magically fixed the problem with the first one.

    It seems that will not display an SVG file, so the solution was to display the PNG version of the same image.

  6. Jared says:

    If only Dr. Boli could magically fix the problem that led Libya to think that they could just buy a bolt of green cloth and call it a flag at a time when their peers were experimenting boldly with the very best of clipart. But as flags go, I prefer that of the old Empire of Benin, which never admits any possibility of distress.

    • Dr. Boli says:

      The Benin imperial flag to which our correspondent refers is this one:
      Flag of the Benin Empire
      —which surely embodies more succinctly the implied message of every national flag than any other symbol adopted by less straightforward nations. Take that, enemies of the Oba!

  7. xj says:

    >If only Dr. Boli could magically fix the problem that led Libya to think that they could just buy a bolt of green cloth and call it a flag

    The Good Doctor’s intervention will not be required, since the Libyan National Transitional Council has now added a quite respectable collection of non-green colors to the national flag:

    (Libya’s current government is evidently cognizant of the critical importance of vexillology, since it appears to have focused on the redesign of the flag with such undivided attention that nobody can identify a single other successful reform of the public administration for which it is responsible.)

  1. […] In June, we debunked a spurious Hawthorne quotation, which was hard work, but now that the work is done the last bit of false information has been eliminated from the Internet. We then turned our attention to the matter of world peace, which we secured through confusingly similar flags. […]

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