Define “Collective Security”. How Is This Principle Articulated in the Aims of the United Nations and Has That Organisation Been Successful in Achieving Those Aims?

Topics: United Nations, United Nations Security Council, United Nations Charter Pages: 7 (2574 words) Published: November 4, 2008
When considering this idea of collective security one cannot view it as a single entity as many derived forms exist. Instead this essay will strive to consider each of these possible derivatives and analyse how this applies to the UN to uncover which one they implement. To discover if collective security is articulated in their aims the UN charter will be examined to see whether it actually does bring about a plausible form of security or whether it lacks in certain areas due to contradiction and its writing being post-war. In addition to this, modern case studies can be used to uncover if the UN has been successful is achieving the aims laid out in the charter or whether they have become dated in today’s global politics.

When trying to define this concept of collective security one would think that a clear, simple definition would exist so that upon any discussion of security issues, it would allow the people involved to have a concise understanding of the notion, thus avoiding any ambiguity and confusion. However, as if so often the case, this has been far more challenging to achieve and even ‘academics and so-called experts in legal departments and diplomatic services, are guilty of perpetrating and propagating the confusion surrounding the concept.’ The problem faced is that the term “collective security” can be easily broken down into two parts, whereby this idea of “security” can be viewed as a prevention of any form of conflict that could affect the current state of peace on any level. “Collective,” on the other hand, is seen as more than one state acting together to maintain this, through the means of agreeing and adhering to a certain set of rules. Therefore, we could draw the conclusion that the combination of both of these would lead to the understanding that collective security is ‘any multilateral arrangement or action taken in the name of defence, peace and morality.’ The difficulty faced is that beyond this point of understanding ‘many forms of collective security are possible, varying by the substance of the rules, who determines the rules, and how to enforce these rules’ and so what has spawned from a single concept of security is three varied ideas, namely pure collective security, procedural security and hegemonic collective security, each of which can be analyzed accordingly.

Pure collective security is seen as ‘an agreement among all states to protect their territorial integrity by establishing a legal obligation to punish those that start interstate wars.’ This form is seen as a legal obligation to protect the sovereignty of all states and ensures that even the most powerful do not stand as a threat to the territorial integrity of others, through the use of punishment if rules are broken. Critiquing of collective security by political theorists is no surprise, however, when realists go after this concept their focus shifts towards the idea of pure security, as they believe that ‘institutions do not have a significant independent effect on state behaviour.’ They put forward the argument that the pursuit of collective security creates a link between national and international security and so if they were to act on the belief that an attack on one equates to an attack on all it would mean damaging their own national security for a conflict that could be strategically irrelevant to them and possibly launch minor wars onto the global stage. In addition to this pure security would mean that all rule breakers would have to be punished, even if they were friends, something realists see as highly unlikely to take place as this would break ties with the countries allies and possibly lead to isolation. Now, procedural security, on the other hand, differs from pure collective security as it is seen as a political, rather than legal, obligation that ‘establishes political institutions to maintain international security, not legal institutions to enforce international law.’ The problem is that...
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