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 it failed to prevent the war. After the war, the League of Nations was replaced by the United Nations (UN) where it inherited a number of organizations and agencies from the League of Nations. Currently, the United Nations has 192 member states and is a prime example of collective security. Their main focus is to facilitate cooperation in internal law, human rights, economic development, international security, social progress, and achieve world peace with collective security throughout its 192 member states (Stromberg, 2002).
Another form of collective security is the Collective Security Treaty Organization (SCTO) as well as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). While collective security regimes are to overwhelm power onto aggressors, there are also regional collective defence regimes which are set in place to prevent threats to the peace of the region. Collective defence regimes are “collective security agreements by members of a geographical region to join together to prevent armed aggression by an expansionist state” (Kegley, 2010). Collective defence organizations include: The Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO), the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the ANZUS pact (Australia, New Zealand, and the United States), and the most commonly known North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Criticisms of Collective Security
Collective security is an “all-for-one-and-one-for-all” idea that has been around for a long time, but when in use, it proved to be somewhat problematic (Miller, 1999). The theory of collective security has been criticized by its limitations and eventual downfalls. As seen with the League of Nations, while it did bring some good and was able to settle disputes between small countries, it didn’t last very long, nor did it accomplish its primary focus, which was to prevent war.
The most popular criticism of collective security is that it’s often viewed as being naive. With collective security, members tend to only act upon defending another member’s state if it is in their own best interest. Before making a decision to take action, states usually consider the expense and potential risk involve with aiding another member within the security regime. In addition, with the collective security agreement set in place, it focuses primarily on military action right from the start and ignores any attempt to seek more peaceful solutions first, such as diplomatic and economic sanctions (Cartmell, 2010).
Another criticism of collective security is that many of the member states will join the system and not pay for its costs. Arguably, the smaller member states tend to free ride on the system rather than add any contribution to it. It’s because of this free-riding that an organization is likely to under-produce to its cause. In contrast, with organizations based on collective security (like the United Nations), it is difficult to acquire the great power states, such as America and Russia.
Conditions Which Helps Collective Security Succeed Even with the many criticisms of collective security, there are still instances for when it can succeed. Take the United Nations for example. The United Nations demonstrates collective security through its 192 member states and has been active since 1945. It actively participates in improving the development and security of states to help achieve world peace
In order for collective security to demonstrate its ability to be an effective and successful tool, there are several conditions in which needs to be met to flawlessly prove it optimal efficacy. Firstly, all threats to peace must be a common concern to everyone (Kegley, 2010). That is, if aggression on a state is ignored, then it will eventually extend onto other countries and be more difficult to stop. Therefore, an attack on any one state within the organization must be treated as an attack on all states.
Secondly, every member of the global system should join the collective security organization (Kegley, 2010). Instead of developing alliances against rival states, every state should join to a single united alliance. With this single alliance including each and every state, it is assumed that it would be strong enough to withhold world peace and put an end to war and terrorism in the world.
Thirdly, members of the organization should pledge to settle their disputes through pacific means (Kegley, 2010). Collective security requires that all members are willing to peacefully change any disputes they may have before it turns violent. Furthermore, other means of decision makers for disagreements include a judicial organ authorized to settle controversial disagreement within the organization.
Finally, if a breach of peace occurs, the organization should apply timely robust sanctions to punish the aggressor (Kegley, 2010). Members must be willing and able to assist any state that is being attacked, whether it is by public condemnation, economic boycott, or military retaliation. Prospects for Collective Security against Modern Challenges
Despite the criticisms of collective security, and its past failures and successes, it still holds prospects against modern challenges such as, terrorism, civil wars, and secessionist revolts. In the case of terrorism, it is the responsibility of the collective security organization such as the United Nations, not individual member states to determine the “rules of the game” for consistent and efficient multilateral action against terrorism (Koechler, 2002). After September 11th or 9/11, the United States in particular, began focusing more on terrorism and increasing its country’s security against and threats or terrorist entering the country. If the United States were in alliance with the United Nations through collective security, then the probability of the attacks would have been greatly lowered.
Alongside terrorism is another type of modern challenge known as civil wars, where a war breaks out between organized groups in a single state. If collective security were emplaced under the United Nations, and applied through every state, then again the probability of wars diminishes. Even with the lack of the great power within the United Nations organization, there is still a prospect for collective security in preventing most civil wars.
The existence of secessionist revolts wouldn’t be an issue if collective security was successfully imposed among every state. Secession or separative revolts are “a religious or ethnic minority’s efforts, often by violent means, to gain independent statehood by separating territory from an established sovereign state” (Kegley, 2010). They attempt to overthrow the authority of the state by withdrawing from an organization or political entity. The way collective security can come into effect is that if the secessionist revolts have no other state to turn to because the majority of states are within the collective security organization (such as the United Nations), then they don’t withstand a chance against every nation within the organization. The revolts will easily be overruled and forced not to quit the organization if a successful collective security agreement was in effect. Conclusion
Through reviewing collective security and the many implication of its theory throughout history, we can see it has the potential to be an essential tool for world peace. That being said, there are conditions that must be met for that to come in effect. Unfortunately, for it to work flawlessly it becomes too good to be true and that’s where collective security gains its reputation for its many criticisms. There are prospects for collective security against modern challenges and it stands somewhat of a chance to reduce wars and reach world peace. Every state must adapt this theory and collectively unit as a single alliance. Those states that are unprepared to form an alliance with each and every state must face the brutal fact that there will always be rivalry between nations and its people, and must understand that it will continue to lead to wars and alike. We must all put the theory of collective security to the test and strive for unification and world peace.