Tuesday, 13 October 2009

The Three Musketeers and Collective Security

One for all, and all for one (latin: un pour tous, tous pour un; also inverted to All for one, and one for all) is a motto traditionally associated with the titular heroes of the novel The Three Musketeers written by Alexandre Dumas, père, first published in 1844. In the novel, it was the motto of a group of French musketeers named AthosPorthosAramis and d'Artagnan who stayed loyal to each other through thick and thin.

This is essentially what collective security in International Relations is all about. When a number of nations get together under the umbrella of an International Organisation such as the United Nations, this applies when an assault on any one of the members means an assault to all its members.

Tomorrow, I'll be discussing just this subject with colleagues at the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy. Liberalists on one end of the table and Realists on the other ... another age old debate about unipolarity, the balance of power, the bad boy of the West i.e. Captain America and sorry to bring it up again ... Should the US and it's allies invaded Iraq in 2003? All I ask is a penny for every page that has been written on this and I could retire in sheer luxury for the rest of my life.

Kofi Annan, the former UN Secretary General, is someone I admire. It might sound shallow and wholly unintellectual for me to admit that a good part of the reason for this is that he's virtually my neighbour. Unfortunately it's not what you're thinking ... I don't live in a UN owned mansion on Sutton Place in an exclusive suburb in Manhattan's East Side and fortunately for Kofi, he doesn't live in a 1950's semi-detached home in North West London. We're neighbours because I'm Nigerian and he is Ghanaian, two heavyweight West African countries, only separated only by two little strips of land called Benin and Togo.

Well it only made sense then, I found out what Kofi thought about all of this collective security business, and what better place to look than his famous report in 2004 "A more secure world: Our shared responsibility - Report of the Secretary-Generals's High Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change". I am about to perform a magic trick so please pay attention. The report is a 99 page report and I am going to sum up what it says about collective security and the use of force in 6 phrases. Legality, Legitimacy, Seriousness of Threat, Proper Purpose, Last resort, Proportional Means and Balance of Consequences. Liberals would probably answer 'No' on all counts and the Realists would say 'Yes'. That's my act done. Good night.

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