Chicago Journal of International Law


This Article will not review the evidence for either of these theses. Instead, it will take by assumption that the second, the rise of new powers, is strongly true. And it will take by assumption that the first, American decline, is at least weakly, and gradually becoming, true. The question is what follows from those assumptions, with respect to the interactions of three institutions-the US, the UN, and the UN Security Council. The Article is partly predictive of what the likely consequences of such changes will be-global security and the UN in a "multipolar world," a world of rising new powers in competition with each other and with the US-with special emphasis on the role of the Security Council. It is also partly policy advice to the US government on how it should understand and address such possible-and in the case of rising powers, currently occurring- changes in the world security order with an emphasis on key institutions under international law. It is, in other words, an Article in unabashed futurism. The argument begins with a statement of UN collective security as traditionally understood under the history of the UN Charter. It draws a distinction, however, between collective security understood as "mutual assistance" and collective security understood as "collective altruism," and points out the differences in the long-discussed collective action-failure problems that arise in each. The discussion then turns to ask why, given the propensity of such collective action-failures, the UN collective security system does not simply break down and go the way of the League of Nations and other such efforts. The suggested answer is that a constituency of key players does not rely on UN collective security and need not worry for themselves about the promise, or lack thereof, of collective security. These players, starting with North Atlantic Treaty Organization ("NATO") members, rely upon the US's post-World War II role, which guarantees the security of a wide array of countries in a cascade of stronger-to-weaker ways, starting with NATO at the "top." Even countries that do not directly benefit from the NATO-style US security guarantee nonetheless benefit from the security provided by the US, including, for example, the freedom of the seas.6 The argument then walks through the range of countries that do not benefit strongly from the US security guarantee, and the way in which UN collective security is, really, their only option. [CONT]