The Trouble with Collective Security

Collective security as an idea and instrument of U.S. national security policy has received new life in recent years. Much of its resurgence is traceable to three sources: the collapse of the bipolar balance of power; the success of the U.S.-led coalition in the Persian Gulf war; and the philosophic preferences of the Clinton national security team for multilateral security, especially through the agency of the United Nations. U.N. peacekeeping has also been given more attention, not only because of its relationship to collective security in general but because of its increased use over the last six years in particular. Since it seems reasonable that problems in the theory will have significant effects in policy, a number of emerging concerns with respect to collective security, both theoretical and practical, need to be addressed.

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