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The Political Origins of the UN Security Council's Ability to Legitimize the Use of Force

54 Pages Posted: 6 Apr 2005  

Erik Voeten

Georgetown University - Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service (SFS)

Abstract

At least since the Persian Gulf War, states have behaved "as if" it is costly to be unsuccessful in acquiring the legitimacy the UN Security Council confers on uses of force. This observation is puzzling for theories that seek the origins of modern institutional legitimacy in legalities or moral values. I argue that when governments and citizens look for an authority to legitimize the use of force, they generally do not seek an independent judgment on the appropriateness of an intervention but political reassurance about the consequences of proposed military adventures. Council decisions legitimize or delegitimize uses of force in the sense that they form widely accepted political judgments on whether uses of force transgress a limit that should be defended. These judgments become focal points in the collaboration and coordination dilemmas states face in enforcing limits to U.S. power while preserving mutually beneficial cooperation. The implications for the Council's legitimacy and theories of international legitimacy are discussed.

Keywords: United Nations, Security Council, Legitimacy

JEL Classification: K00

Suggested Citation

Voeten, Erik, The Political Origins of the UN Security Council's Ability to Legitimize the Use of Force. International Organization, Vol. 59, No. 3, 2005. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=696023

Erik Voeten (Contact Author)

Georgetown University - Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service (SFS) ( email )

Washington, DC 20057
United States

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