Collective Security

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Introduction

Collective security has been both supported and criticised as a method of preventing the outbreak of war. It’s an idea that has been around for centuries but it wasn’t until post World War I when it was truly utilized. Throughout my paper I will discuss in further detail what is meant by collective security and how the theory of collective security has been implemented. I will discuss the criticisms of collective security and what conditions help it succeed. I will go into additional detail upon the prospects of collective security with modern challenges such as terrorism, civil wars, and secessionist revolts.

What is Collective Security?

Collective security originated from former President of the United States of America Woodrow Wilson (Krause, 2004), and is defined as “a security regime agreed to by the great power that set rules for keeping peace, guided by the principle that an act of aggression by any state will be met by a collective response from the rest” (Kegley, 2010). In other words, a security system is created in which each state within the system develops a security agreement to collectively respond to attacks or threats to their peace.

The theory of collective security is intended to protect the security and maintain peace through an organization of sovereign states by entering an agreement that will prohibit them from attacking one another. When joining the “alliance”, states agree to, and must rise in defence if one of their member states is attacked. With this theory, it is believed that it will serve better to have a multilateral agreement rather than a large, confusing set of bilateral treaties. According to Inis Claude (1956):

“The twentieth-century hope that international organizations might serve to prevent war, or, failing that, to defend states subjected to armed attack in defiance of organized efforts to maintain the peace, has been epitomized in the concept of collective security. . . .

Collective security can be described as resting upon the proposition that war can be prevented by the deterrent effect of overwhelming power upon states which are too rational to invite certain defeat.”  (Boyd, 2007)

Using the Theory of Collective Security
The first recognizable form of collective security began with the formation of the League of Nations established at the Paris Peace Conference right after World War I in 1919 (Veatch, 2011). The League of Nations (LON) was built on the single goal to bring world peace and to insure that war never broke out again. After the chaos from the Treaty of Versailles, the League of Nations was looked at by many to bring stability to the world. Sixty-three states eventually became members of the League of Nations, including Canada, but excluding the United States of America and Germany.

The League of Nations had various successes and settled many disputes. Some of their successes have been: the dispute of the Aaland Island in 1921, and whether or not it belonged to Finland or Sweden, the Upper Silesia riot in 1921, and whether or not it was part of Germany or Poland, the conflict of Memel port in 1923, and it belonging to Lithuania, the rescue of Turkey in 1923, and the Greek invasion over Bulgaria in 1925 (Trueman, 2010). Along with its successes came many failures. A prime example of the League of Nations’ failure with collective security is that of the Manchurian Crisis. When Japan occupied part of China, - which was a member of the League of Nations – they were ordered to withdraw from the invasion and failure to do to would have resorted to penalties. Japan responded by simply withdrawing the League of Nations two years later.

Many limitations were associated with the League of Nations such that any state could withdraw from the agreement (in which many did), and that they couldn’t control the great powers (howstuffworks, 2008). Eventually, the League of Nations came to an end during the outbreak of World War II when...
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