2002 December 17 Tuesday
Mark T. Clark says Collective Security Does Not Work

Collective security can work for a single nation because it has a process to reach a decision about when to defend its own interests. As Mark T. Clark (any relation to General Mark Clark of WWII fame?) argues, it took the US to make a unilateral decision to do something about Bosnia before the killing stopped. That was right in Europe, it is a small place, and still the Europeans couldn't bring themselves to decide to do something about it. Any group of nations sufficiently large in number is not going to come to consensus until a security threat has reached disastrous proportions.

But collective security has never worked in history, neither under the League of Nations, nor since the creation of the United Nations. It has not worked, nor can it work, because it ignores fundamental political realities.

The first reality is that nations pursue their own interests. During the peak of the Bosnia crisis, Germany supported Croatia, Russia supported Serbia, and the Muslim world supported Bosnia proper. Most members of the U.N. stayed out of the conflict because it didn't concern them, despite the theory of collective responsibility. And because there has never been any universal agreement on the culpability and punishment of those who breach the peace, there never has been any uniform response. That is the second political reality. The third is a bit more complicated.

Implied in the theory of collective security is the notion of unanimity or consensus. That is, because in theory every member of the collective pre-commits to maintaining peace, the organization should act in concert. However, because of conflicting national interests and disagreements about aggression, a strong dose of unilateral leadership is required to get the collective to act. This unilateralism necessary to kick start collective action is the bane of the collectivists. Just ask Jimmy Carter.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2002 December 17 07:56 PM  UN, International Institutions

Smart Manda said at November 7, 2003 5:21 AM:

I`m still in the process of analysis the position that you take.Please send me more notes on this.I`m currently pursuing MSc in Internation Relations.

Thanks in advance.

S Manda

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