Collective Security and Coercion
The idea of collective action among states to preserve peace or punish aggression is as old as the state system itself. Some attempts at collective security have been formalized as interstate alliances; others have been ad hoc coalitions. It can be prudent to fight with allies, despite the increased difficulty of coordinating military plans and policy guidance among multiple players. The United States' war in Vietnam suffered for lack of moral influence in part because important American allies shunned, or opposed, the effort. In contrast, U.S. efforts against Iraq in 1990 and 1991 acquired additional legitimacy due to UN and allied support, including the support of key Arab and Islamic countries.
This chapter discusses the relationship between collective security and coercive military strategy. It begins by explaining the theory of collective security; continues with a consideration of crisis management and collective security; and concludes with an examination of collective security and conflict limitation or termination. At each stage of the discussion, this chapter focuses on the ways in which past concepts of collective security have become irrelevant or endangered by dimensional changes in the principal sources of conflict since 1945. International institutions and great powers have long designed their peace-support mechanisms for a world in which most wars are between states, and the most important wars are among great powers. That assumption became less and less tenable as the Cold War grew older; in the post-Cold War world, it has been deflated entirely. Further, new technology for warfare may make possible the instigation and termination of "virtual" or real conflicts at nearly the speed of light.