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Advanced Introduction to International Conflict and Security Law

Nigel D. White

Advanced Introduction to International Conflict and Security Law provides a concise and insightful guide to the key principles of international law governing peacetime security, the use of force, conflict and post-conflict situations. Nigel D. White explores the complex legal regimes that have been created to control the level of armaments, to limit the occasions when governments can use military force to mitigate the conduct of warfare and to build peace.
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5 Collective security law

Nigel D. White


Collective security is simply the idea, arguably the ideal, whereby all states will contribute, normally through an international organisation, collectively to combat aggression and threats to peace and security.1 This might be done by diplomacy, non-forcible or forcible means. Of course, in the case of aggression, the ideal breaks down, partially since at least one state will be acting in violation of international norms, which may result in a collective security response where all, or some, remaining states confront the aggression and deal with the threat, or it may lead to a response from the attacked state in self-defence, possibly joined by its allies to help it in collective self-defence.

While the formal rules of the UN Charter restrict actions in individual or collective self-defence to responses to ‘armed attacks’,2 realists and other pragmatists would argue that self-defence should not be so formally defined but should be seen in the context of protecting national interests and achieving a balance of power between states. Thus, while a formalist interpretation of the UN Charter would see the US imposition of a quarantine around Cuba in 1962, in response to the positioning of Soviet nuclear missiles, as an unjustified threat and use of force since there was no (imminent) armed attack against the US from Cuba; a more pragmatic response would view it as a proportionate response to a threat to US national interests in the context of a global Cold War between the US and the USSR.

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