ad hoc multilateralism
Edwin M. Smith
For centuries, diplomats, politicians, generals, scholars, and philosophers have struggled with the same question: can those with sufficient power to preserve order be trusted to do so in a just manner? In his account of the Melian Dialogue, Thucydides implied that justice would only emerge at the sufferance of the powerful.1 Hobbes suggested that the existence of order was possible only with submission to the most powerful authority: the Leviathan.2 The pursuit of a just and peaceful world has always seemed idealistic and impractical to many.
The decadesofcarnage that engulfed Europe at the end of the sixteenth century and the first half of the seventeenth century caused the monarchs of the region to seek more peaceful means of conducting their relations. The result of their efforts, the Peace of Westphalia, led to the creation of some of the founding documents of the contemporary state system. One of those documents, the Treaty of Osnabrück of October 1648, provided for an arrangement of mutual commitments very similar to the modern notion of collective security.3 That treaty's provision foreshadowed a concept of international relations that would intrigue influential international leaders and thinkers for centuries.
By the dawn of the twenty-first century, there was a good deal of international experience in using multilateral forces for collective purposes; but national leaders still resisted surrendering control of national military forces to external authorities. Indeed, in 2001, the international
1 Thucydides, The Peloponnesian Wars (Penguin Classics, Harmondsworth, 1982), book V,
2 See Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1991),
3 “… all and every one of those concern'd in this Transaction shall be oblig'd to join the
injur'd Party, and assist him with Counsel and Force to repel the Injury, being first
advertis'd by the injur'd that gentle Means and Justice prevail'd nothing, but without
prejudice, nevertheless, to every one's Jurisdiction, and the Administration of Justice
conformable to the Laws of each Prince and State”: Wilhelm G. Grewe (ed.), Sources
Relating to the History of the Law of Nations (Berlin, W. de Gruyter, 1988).