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Uno ade? The System of “Collective Security” in the Context of the Iraq-Kuwait-Crisis

Seminararbeit 2008 27 Seiten




2.1 Differentiation between Chapter VI and Chapter VII of the UN-Charter and the position of Security Councils within the system of collective security
2.2 Chapter I, Article 2: The prohibition of the use of force
2.3 Conflict management according to Chapter VII

3.1 Ignoring the Charter of the United Nations
3.2 A dark chapter in the history of the United Nations: US-“Mafia”Diplomacy
3.3 Resolution 678



ANNEX: Time Table


The end of the Cold War has marked the expiration of an era, in which international politics has been strongly dominated by the interest of two super-powers: United States of America and Soviet Union.[1] After forty years of its existence the hope arose that the United Nations would be able to overtake the position it was founded for.[2] Namely, as said in Chapter 1 Article 1 of the Charter of the United Nations:

“To maintain international peace and security, and to that end: to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace, and to bring about by peaceful means, and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace.”[3]

Indeed, after decades of being almost completely paralyzed the United Nations abruptly got a chance to develop from a peace promoting political organisation to an organisation capable of acting.[4] During the Cold War Security Council as the most powerful intra-body of the United Nations was disabled in its function to make use of collective measures in order to settle conflicts. Its permanent member states with their habitual usage of their right to veto made it impossible for the United Nations to implement instruments which are fixed in the system of collective security.[5] In this context, the end of the Cold-War offered a possibility to reform and to modify the collective conflict management strategies.[6] Furthermore, there was a chance to map out new strategies in order to secure international peace – multilateralism was now on the agenda.[7] As the most important and only supranational organisation which had gained such a large acceptance the chances were good for the United Nations to justify its important global role. But was this organisation able to deal with a new range of acting capacities and decision-making abilities or was its system of collective security doomed to failure?

The Iraq-Kuwait crisis and the following escalation after Iraq’s troops had invaded Kuwait was the first practical test that made it possible to prove whether the conflict regulation instruments within the system of collective security are to be seen just as a utopian construct or could be regarded as the adequate mean for multilateral conflict management. Paradoxically, the military intervention against Iraq is more than often celebrated as an implementation of collective measures in order to settle the crisis between Iraq and Kuwait.[8] Doubtless, it was the first conflict where the Security Council was able to make use of its power legalized by a decision which was based on consensus between the five superpowers[9] – none of these states made usage of their right to veto.[10]

The main focus of this paper lies on giving a critical analysis on how these conflict settlement instruments, especially those manifested in Chapter VII have been disavowed and even misused by the power-political aims of certain states. That would mean that the fundamental aim of the United Nations – maintenance of negativer Frieden[11] was antagonistic to that of some nations. In the context of the Iraq-Kuwait crisis it implicates the fact that geostrategic importance of this region has made it impossible to provide collective, multilateral measures established in UN-Conflict conflict settlement system.

Above all, the interest of United States foreign politics was to get their advantage out of the fragile inner-political situation in Soviet Union and China and have the resolutions against Iraq ratified by the Security Council. To strengthen, the Resolutions 661, 665 and 678 were greatly conceived and finally initiated by the US-representatives.[12] But did the intervention of coalition-troops from January 17th, 1991, led by the United States, really violate against the principle of collective security or was such a military involvement rather enabled by absence of necessary instruments within the United Nations?

In order to give a theoretical overview on the system of collective security, the following first part of this paper focuses particularly on its normative core elements which are established in the UN-Charter: Chapter I, Article 2, Cipher 3, 4 and 7.

Due to the Iraqi aggression against Kuwait, Chapter VII of the UN-Charter has served for the Security Council to legalize military intervention against Iraq.[13] In this connection, it is relevant to deal with Chapter VII as the only element within the Charter which authorizes the Security Council to make use of military force in case it characterizes a crisis as a threat for international peace or as a breach of peace. There from, scopes of action to protect international peace and security, but also possible barriers will be interpreted.

Based on these theoretical fundamentals, the second part intends to give an empirical analysis in which it should be proven to what extent the Iraq-Kuwait crisis can be regarded as a renaissance of usage of force and in to what extent it can be really regarded as an example of outstanding cooperation between the members of Security Council. It would go beyond the scope of this paper to analyse every Resolution which passed by the Security Council before Resolution 678 was accepted and there is no interest in going into details about military action on the field.[14] First of all it is relevant to give a short differentiation between Chapter VI and Chapter VII, because each of them suggests other strategies on how to treat a conflict.


2.1 Differentiation between Chapter VI and Chapter VII of the UN-Charter and the position of the Security Councils within the system of “collective security”

The United Nations has been designed as the permanent system of collective security.[15] The Charter of the United Nations differentiates two possible catalogues of measures how to deal with an upcoming crisis. The Security Council can act in concordance with Chapter VI (peaceful settlement of the dispute) and with Chapter VII (measures in the context of a threat to the international peace, breach of international peace and act of aggression). Furthermore, the Charter distinguishes two types of conflicts. Namely, the measures within Chapter VI comprehend the reconciliation of disputes and situations. Situations are preliminary stage of a dispute.[16]

The fact that in Chapter VII situation is defined as a pre-stage of breach of peace, threat to peace and also act of aggression, shows how complicated the estimation of a conflict can be in praxis.[17] Adequate decision demands soft-skills and precise evaluation of the information from the field. However, the Security Council acts in one’s sole discretion.[18] It is completely up to the Security Council to decide whether a conflict will be considered as breach of peace, threat to peace or as dispute and situation. However, when passing the resolution the Security Council sets such a defining of a conflict situation aside.[19] It is more than visible and it must be seen under critical point of view, what enormous responsibility the Security Council has to deal with. Every wrong decision might devastate the situation in the state and complete region. In the author’s view, it should be reconsidered when reforming the United Nations if the Security Council should still have such a dominate position.

De facto the Security Council builds the centre of this security system.[20] The Charter of the United Nations places the main responsibility for protecting international peace and security on the members of the Security Council.[21] The Security Council is functioning as the executive body and is given enormous authority in order to evaluate international and interstate processes concerning their negative effect on international stability. According to Article 25 of the UN-Charter Security Council as the only body within the United Nations disposes of competences in decision-making.[22] De jure its resolutions are binding to all member states of the United Nations. In contrast to that, resolutions of the General Assembly are not legally binding.[23] For example, although the General Assembly passed the Resolution 377 on November, 7th 1950[24], in which the absolute power of the members of the Security Council was scrutinized, practically the immense power of the Security Council is still undazzled.

To quote:

“Resolves that if the Security Council, because of lack of unanimity of the permanent members, tails to exercise its primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security in any case where there appears to be threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression, the General Assembly shall consider the matter immediately with a view to making appropriate recommendations to Members for collective measures, including in the case of a breach of the peace or act of aggression the use of armed forces when necessary, to maintain or restore international peace and security.”[25]

In my opinion, this was the very constructive attempt to tie the Security Council down to its ethic responsibility. Unfortunately, more than often the developed theory encounters difficulties when adequate measures must be designed in acute conflict-situations.

“Like many political institutions, the UN has been faced virtually throughout its existence, with a deep gulf between theory and practice, between the principles and objectives of the Charter and the political realities of our time. […] Nowhere has the gulf between theory and practice been so evident as in the primary function of United Nations, the maintenance international peace and security.”[26]

This statement given by the General Secretary of the United Nations Javier Pérez de Cuéllar (1920- ) accurately describes the need to adapt established theoretical fundamentals in the context of collective security to praxis. Furthermore, Cuéllar fortifies the necessity to neutralize the existing gap between theory and praxis. This step would make the United Nations capable of bewaring peace and international security.

Firstly, it must be clarified which possibilities and procedures but also alternatives for usages of military force are manifested in the theory. In this connection this paper focuses on Chapter I, Article 2, Ciphers 3, 4 and 7 where every member state is obliged to respect sovereignty of other states and to neglect usage of force. Due to the fact that this Article can be seen as a fundamental element of the system of collective security it is quite important to deal with.


[1] Bernd Stöver: Der Kalte Krieg. Geschichte eines radikalen Zeitalters. Bonn 2007.

[2] Sven Gareis/Johannes Varwick: Die Vereinten Nationen. Aufgaben, Instrumente und Reformen, Bonn 2002, p. 31.

[3] Charter of the United Nations, seen at:

[4] Of course there have been great achievements along the way. During the desolate Cold War years there was the management of decolonisation, which can be legitimately characterised as the largest scale redress of human right history; the invention of peace-keeping as a wholly new means of conflict management; the giant strides made by UN agencies in feeding the starving, sheltering the dispossessed and immunising against disease. See: Rameth Thakur: The United Nations, Peace and Security. From Collective Security to the Responsibility to Protect. Cambridge 2006, p. xi.

[5] N.D. White: The United Nations and the maintenance of international peace. Manchester 1990, p. 7ff.

[6] Jan Christian Hildenbrand: Zur Krisenreaktionsfähigkeit der Friedenstruppen der VN. Notwendigkeiten, Konzepte und Perspektiven ihrer Verbesserung. Baden-Baden 2001, p. 15.

[7] Cf. Gareis/Varwick (2007), p. 31.

[8] Cf. Gareis/Varwick (2007), p. 127

[9] Five permament members of the Security Council were United States of America, Soviet Union, Great Britain, China and France.

[10] Günther Hellmann: Der Krieg um Kuwait: Katalysator einer „neuen Weltordnung“ oder Vorbote neuer Konflikte?, in: Aus Politik und Zeitgeschichte. Beilage zur Wochenzeitung Das Parlament B 7-8/91, Bonn 1991, p. 16.

[11] Term negativer Frieden has been firstly invited in Peace-Studies discourse by Johan Galtung. It implies on state of peace without existence of military force.

[12] Norman Paech: Die Rolle der UNO und des Sicherheitsrates im Irakkonflikt. In: Aus Politik und Zeitgeschichte, Bonn 2003, p. 35ff.

[13] Ursula Heinz/Christiane Philipp/Rüdiger Wolfrum: Zweiter Golfkrieg: Anwendungsfall von Kapitel VII der UN-Charta, in: Vereinte Nationen 4/1991, Baden/Baden 1991, p. 121ff.

[14] For closer analysis of Second Gulf War see: Bernd W. Kubbig (edt.): Brandherd Irak. US-Hegemonieanspruch, die UNO und die Rolle Europas. Frankfurt a. Main 2003.

[15] Martina Haedrich: Die UNO auf dem Weg zum Gewaltmonopol? – Völkerrechtliche Aspekte, in: Konfliktsteuerung durch Vereinte Nationen und KSZE, Berthold Meyer/Bernhard Moltmann (edt.), Frankfurt a. Main 1994, p. 44.

[16] Michael Schäfer: Die Funktionsfähigkeit des Sicherheitsmechanismus der Vereinten Nationen. Berlin 1981, p. 30.

[17] Ibid. P. 31ff.

[18] Karl-Ulrich Meyn: Das Konzept der Kollektiven Sicherheit. In: Klaus-Dieter Schwarz (edt.): Sicherheitspolitik und militärische Sicherheit. Bad Honnef 1981, p.117.

[19] Cf.: Schäfer (1981), p. 31f.

[20] Cf. Gareis/Varwick (2007), p. 44f.

[21] Ibid. p. 45.

[22] Ibid. p. 45.

[23] Sven-Mullon Rutter: “Peace keeping” und “Peace-making” – angemessene Unterscheidungen wichtiger Instrumente im UN-System der kollektiven Sicherheit, Hamburg 2003, seen at:

[24] The Uniting for Peace Resolution was designed, ironically, by the United States, for conditions in which one or more members of the Permanent Five on the Security Council (United States, Britain, France, Soviet Union and China), which enjoy veto rights over any issue, are themselves the aggressors, and can use their veto to subvert any attempt by the Security Council to end the aggression.

[25] United Nations Documents. Resolution 377, seen at:

[26] Javier Pérez de Cuéllar: Foreword by the Secretary-General. In : The Blue Helmets: A review of United Nations Peece-keeping. Edt.: United Nations. New York 1985. S. V.


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Security” Iraq-Kuwait-Crisis United Nations Collective Security



Titel: Uno ade? The System of “Collective Security” in the Context of the Iraq-Kuwait-Crisis