The Place of Law in Collective Security

In this article the author wants to examine the place of law in our thinking about and sometimes participation in decision-making regarding international security. After the end of the Cold War, and particularly since the United Nations’ reaction to Iraq’s occupation of Kuwait in 1990-91, an academic debate concerning the possibility of collective security has arisen anew. The intention is not to take a definite view in that controversy. Instead, the author shall suggest that this debate has been framed so as to obscure the role of normative considerations, including law, in the production or construction of collective security. A theoretical-instrumental bias produces competing descriptions of the conditions of international “security,” but it fails to provide an understanding of the actual contexts of decision-making on “security.” For an internal or cultural examination of collective security, a distinctly legal approach seems not only useful, but unavoidable.