Actually the Cakkavatti ideal has been very important in the history of SE Asia and many kings have tried to model themselves on the example of Asoka. But real life is never quite the same as an ideal, as you can see from the quotes below:
I found one good text on the subject of Buddhism and War:http://home.earthlink.net/~brelief1/bud_war.html
Recently I have been reading about the Buddhist history and how king Asoka in India for the first time used Buddhism as a kind of "national ideology" in order to govern the country and keep it under control and in peace. However, he first had to defeat some of his enemies and kill many people in the process. He also had to use punishment against those who were working against him. So it seems that there is a paradox in the very concept of a "dhammaraja" or Righteous King, and one cannot completely avoid using violence in that kind of position.
Do you know the Temiya Jataka? It is the story of a prince who reflected on the law of kamma and decided to pretend that he was disabled, so that we would not have to take on the role of a king, because he was afraid of the bad kamma that he would get from sentencing people to death, etc. This Jataka story is very interesting because it is the opposite of the Cakkavatti-raja ideal (the Wheel-turning king) which is mentioned in some Suttas. I guess one tries to make a "heaven on earth" whereas the other acknowledges the real dangers of Samsara and shows the way out.
The duties of a universal emperor (cakkavatti-vatta), D.III.61
1. Rule by righteousness
2. Prevention of wrongdoing in the Kingdom
3. Distribution of wealth to the poor
4. Seeking advice from sages, aspiring to greater virtue
* * * * *The Buddha's Lion’s Roar about violence and peace
The Cakkavatti-Sihanada (the Lion’s Roar on the Turning of the Wheel) Sutta addresses the relationship between criminal justice and social justice, especially the connection between poverty and violence. In accordance with the usual Buddhist approach to remedying problems,(5) the way to control crime naturally follows from the correct understanding the causes of crime, and this sutta considers those causes. The Buddha tells the story of a righteous monarch in the distant past who initially venerated and relied upon the dhamma, as his sage advised: “Let no crime prevail in your kingdom, and to those who are in need, give property.” Later, however, he began to rule according to his own ideas, which meant that the people did not prosper as well as before. Although maintaining public order, he did not give property to the needy, with the result that an increasing number of people became poor. Due to poverty, one man took what was not given and was arrested; when the king asked him why he stole, the man said he had nothing to live on. So the king gave him some property, saying that it would be enough to carry on a business and support his family.
Exactly the same thing happened to another man, and when other people heard about this, they too decided to steal so that they would be treated the same way. Then the king realized that if he continued to give property to such men, theft would continue to increase. So he decided to get tough on the next thief: “I had better make an end of him, finish him off once for all, and cut his head off.” And he did.
At this point in the story, one might expect a moralistic parable about the importance of deterring crime, but it turns in exactly the opposite direction:
Hearing about this, people thought: ‘Now let us get sharp swords made for us, and then we can take from anybody what is not given, we will make an end of them, finish them off once and for all and cut off their heads.’ So, having procured some sharp swords, they launched murderous assaults on villages, towns and cities, and went in for highway-robbery, killing their victims by cutting off their heads.
Thus, from the not giving of property to the needy, poverty became rife, from the growth of poverty, the taking of what was not given increased, from the increase of theft, the use of weapons increased, from the increased use of weapons, the taking of life increased. (Digha Nikaya iii 67–68, in The Long Discourses of the Buddha, 399–400)
As if all that were not enough, this leads in turn to deliberate lying, speaking evil of another, adultery, harsh speech and idle chatter, covetousness and hatred, false opinions, incest, excessive greed, and—evidently the last straw—lack of respect for one’s parents, for ascetics, and for the head of one’s clan. The result—obviously meant to apply to our own situation today—is that people’s lifespan and beauty decrease, but those who abstain from such practices will increase in lifespan and beauty.(6)
In spite of some fanciful elements, this myth has important implications for our understanding of crime and punishment. The first point is that poverty is presented as the root cause of immoral behavior, such as theft, violence, falsehood, and so forth. Unlike what we might expect from a supposedly world-denying religion, the Buddhist solution has nothing to do with accepting one’s “poverty karma.” The problem begins when the king does not give property to the needy—that is, when the state neglects its responsibility to maintain what we now call distributive justice. According to this influential sutta, crime, violence, and immorality cannot be separated from broader questions about the justice or injustice of the social order. Much the same point is made in the Ku?adanta Sutta, in which a chaplain tells a king that there is much lawlessness and civil disorder in his kingdom, making property insecure. The king is advised to deal with this not by taxation, nor by attempting to suppress it forcibly, but by improving the people’s lot directly:
Suppose Your Majesty were to think: ‘I will get rid of this plague of robbers by executions and imprisonment, or by confiscation, threats and banishment,’ the plague would not be properly ended. … To those in the kingdom who are engaged in cultivating crops and raising cattle, let Your Majesty distribute grain and fodder; to those in trade, give capital; to those in government service assign proper living wages. Then these people, being intent on their own occupations, will not harm the kingdom. Your Majesty’s revenues will be great, the land will be tranquil and not beset by thieves, and the people, with joy in their hearts, will play with their children, and will dwell in open houses.(7)
We may be inclined to view this as an outmoded perspective from an ancient culture that never experienced the benefits of capitalism’s “invisible hand,” but it raises some sharp questions about a state’s economic responsibilities to its own people. The basic point of both of these suttas is that the problem of crime should not be addressed apart from its economic and social context. The solution is not to “crack down” harshly with severe punishments, but to provide for people’s basic needs. “The aim would be, not to create a society in which people in general were afraid to break the law, but one in which they could live sufficiently rewarding lives without doing so” (Wright 7). We prefer to throw our money at “wars on crime,” although the results suggest what the king belatedly realized, that such wars no one wins.
That brings us to the second point of the Lion’s Roar Sutta, its understanding of violence, and its causes. Instead of solving the problem, the king’s violent attempt at deterrence sets off an explosion of violence that leads to social collapse. The sutta emphasizes this by using exactly the same words to present both the king’s intentions and the intentions of the people who decide to become criminals. If punishment is sometimes a mirror-image of the crime (something that retributists propose), in this case the crime is a mirror-image of the punishment. Psychologically, the latter makes as much sense as the former. The state’s violence reinforces the belief that violence works. When the state uses violence against those who do things that it does not permit, we should not be surprised when some of its citizens feel entitled to do the same. Such retributive violence “tends to confirm the outlook and life experiences of many offenders. Wrongs must be repaid by wrong and those who offend deserve vengeance. Many crimes are committed by people ‘punishing’ their family, the neighbors, their acquaintances. … Apparently the message some potential offenders receive is not that killing is wrong, but that those who wrong us deserve to die” (Pepinsky 301, Zehr 77). The emphasis on nonviolence within so much of the Buddhist tradition is not because of some otherworldly preoccupations; it is based upon the psychological insight that violence breeds violence. This is a clear example, if anything is, of the maxim that our means cannot be divorced from our ends. There is no way to peace; peace itself is the way. If the state is not exempt from this truth, we must find some way to incorporate it into our judicial systems.
Note 5: The Cakkavatti-Sihanada Sutta has been tampered with, in Gombrich’s opinion, but the Theravadin tradition does not doubt it. Its “humane theory, which ascribes the origin of crime to economic conditions rather than to vice, is not typical of Indian thinking on such matters, which tends to conspiracy theories. Buddhism tends to find its causes for human events in human psychology. … My personal feeling, which is no more than a guess, is that this idea is so bold and original that it is probably the Buddha’s” (Gombrich, Theravada Buddhism, 83).
Read the whole Sutta at http://www.basicbuddhism.org/index.cfm?GPID=29
Quoted from http://www.buddhistethics.org/7/loy001.html