THE UN AND THE GULF CRISIS, 1990-1999 (A CRITIQUE OF THE PRINCIPLE OF COLLECTIVE SECURITY)

THE UN AND THE GULF CRISIS, 1990-1999 (A CRITIQUE OF THE PRINCIPLE OF COLLECTIVE SECURITY)

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CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

1.1   Background of the study

"Emotion, not intellect, is the dynamic of history," as H. N. Brailsford has observed. Of the great ideas which have captured men's imaginations, in the modern democratic age at least, most have arisen from some urgent emotional need, not from a strictly rational analysis. This was remarkably true of the new concept of interna-tional relations that emerged from Versailles in 1919. The idea of collective security certainly did not come from the more experienced diplomats and statesmen, who were in the main quite sceptical about it. It came from journalists, moralists, popular politicians, from " the people "; it responded to a cry of protest against the intolerable existence of world war and a demand for reassurance that such wars be not permitted to happen again. This popular and unsophisticated call for the abolition of war insistently required some visible sign of a wholly new spirit. The planners of peace had to contrive some scheme to meet this demand, and they scurried about rather franti-cally trying to make reason match emotion. The League of Nations (a poetic rather than an accurate title, for nation is not a political term) was a mystical symbol born of the shattering experience of 1914-18, with little to do with logic. But it soon acquired great intellectual respectability, and the world has been struggling to make it practical ever since. It has had, indeed, a remarkable sanctity, criticism of it being almost an act of impiety in the United States. This mystical emotion came mostly from the Anglo-Saxon peoples. There was a certain enthusiasm in France, but too much method could be detected in the French madness. Italy contributed little to the League except a very curious plan which indicated how differently a "proletarian" nation, as Italy called herself, looked at the problem: the new international organization should be a device for redistributing the good things of the earth. The defeated powers did not count, and Russia was disqualified. Yet if the League be-longed primarily to Britain and America, to men like Wilson and Bryce and Smuts, all the world felt in some degree the spiritual need to assail the no longer tolerable notion that wars are inevitable. A considerable background of such thinking may be found in almost every country.' No one had in mind a super-state. Nationalism was disposal of the new international organization, while all states dis-armed; he agreed with his advisers that this was, on sober reflection, "unconstitutional and also impossible."2 Herbert Hoover had al-ready announced that the United States Government " will not agree to any program that even looks like inter-Allied control of our re-sources after peace "-this in response to a suggestion for an inter-national relief organization, and Hoover's reason was that this would not secure "proper appreciation" of American contributions. If America could not be altruistic, how much less the hate-ridden peoples of Europe. A world government, the abolition of national states, was out of the question. The war had increased nationalism almost everywhere. There was a good deal of loose talk about the evils of "selfish nationalism," but no really international spirit existed, and no one explained how you could have nationalism without it being selfish-indeed, no one recognized his own nationalism as selfish at all. Yet the people did want first assurance that war would be put in the way of elimination. It was strongly if vaguely held that something had been terribly wrong about the old system, or lack of it. A symbol of hope had to be created. Hastily constructed, the League of Nations was established with due solemnity: "The tents have been struck," said General Smuts, "and the great caravan of humanity is once again on the march." But whither it was marching was unfortunately not very clear. The League was supposed to embody some wholly new formula for rendering war obsolete. The phrase was Collective Security. It has never been a clear idea, and those who remain its enthusiastic supporters still confess that they do not know what it means.3 The League of Nations subsequently "failed," war was not prevented. That the idea behind it has nevertheless not only survived but even gained strength may be a tribute to the desperate plight of the world-faute de mieux. Or it may only be a tribute to the force of a mystique, to the astonishing ability of the modern masses to engage in slogan-thinking, and to the weakness of reason when confronted with terrible fears and earnest hopes. In any case the logical weaknesses in the idea deserve to be reviewed more often than they have.

1.2   Statement of the Problem

The Gulf crisis of 1990-1991 was, by any standards, one of the more significant international crises of the post-1945 epoch.1 It involved the mobilization of around one million armed men, the diplomatic involvement of much of the international community, and a war that, for all its limited character, was a significant case of inter-state conflict. In what follows we do not want to begin with the actual course of this war or to examine in detail specific aspects of the history, not least because the broad outline of what happened is already well known.2 I do, however, want to look at this conflict in broader perspective, and from two vantage points in particular, each pertinent to the study of international relations (IR).

First I would like, with the benefit of at least a little hindsight, to ask some questions about the significance of this war, and how, in retrospect, our evaluation of it may already have shifted. The other, more extended vantage point from which we would like to examine the war is that of the question of its implications for the study of International Relations (IR) as an academic discipline. Here we often encounter two problems, two forms of reserve. On the one hand, many people, including practitioners and general readers of the press, doubt whether there is any need for an academic discipline of IR at all, or assume that it is just commentary, with a bit of historical and moral depth, on current affairs. Those who work in the field of IR theory are forever being hectored by philistines who tell us that there is no need for concepts in such a field. But, one may ask, where were the men of reality on the night of 2 August 1990, when Saddam was occupying Kuwait? Asleep in Surrey, or about to go to sleep in Arlington, Virginia, or Bethesda, Maryland, is the answer. Our justification must be not that we can predict but that, beyond any insights we can cast on events contemporary or historical, we can bring out some of the underlying issues, analytic and moral, that are posed by international politics.

1.3   Objectives of the study

The primary objective of this study is to examine the UN and the Gulf Crisis using a critique of the principle of collective security. Specifically, our focus will as be:

a.   To determine the significance of the UN Gulf crisis.

b.  To determine the place of principle of collective security in the UN Gulf crisis.

c.   To determine the implications of the UN Gulf crisis for the study of International Relations.

1.4   Research Questions

The following are the questions which this study seeks to provide answers.

a.   What is the significance of the UN and the Gulf crisis?

b.   What role did the Principle of Collective security play in the crisis?

c.   What is the implications of the Gulf crisis for the study of International Crisis?

1.5   Significance of the study

The study seeks to establish history as to the causes and role of the UN in the Gulf crisis. The significance is to inform the reading public on some facts they probably may have less information on. Furthermore, the study is a contribution to academics.

1.7    Scope of Study

This study is intended to be detailed enough to establish the complexities between the UN and the Gulf crisis. An in-depth look at the principle of collective security is as well a top priority which this study upholds.


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