How Should States Who Are All Facing The Same Security Dilemma Interact With One Another?

2943 words - 12 pages

Within a society, the populace are compelled to follow rules due to being prompted by a higher authority. When these laws fail, rectifying this deficiency becomes a priority of the state; murderers are arrested, riots are suppressed, new regulations and safe checks are imposed to deter future renegades from harassing the system. These actions by the state’s sovereign power ensure that the community remains harmonious and balanced. Within the international community an individual state is unable to defer to a higher authority to demand that justice be enforced, since there is no authority higher than the state itself. The consequence of this is that independent nations are forced to rely on themselves for security within international society. These facts lead to a question that has been at the core of just war theory debates; how should states who are all facing the same security dilemma interact with one another? The various theoretical answers to this question form to two fundamentally opposed conclusions; nations will either seek to expand their individual power to facilitate their own security, or will construct an international union to ensure mutual defense. While the latter promotes an international community based upon cooperation, the former predicts perpetual conflict. In order to perform an analysis of these conflicting predictions we will turn to Thucydides, who provides a historical example of this debate within his recount of the Melian Dialogue. Within this dialogue, the powerful Athenians assert that strength alone justifies their demand for the submission of the weaker island of Melos. The Melians counter with their own plea to justice, claiming that the advancement of Athenian power and Melian autonomy are not mutually exclusive pursuits. By identifying the arguments advanced by each of these nations and comparing them with the teachings of several just war philosophers, we will be able to weigh the merits of each respective school of thought. We will arrive at the conclusion that state interaction is not an isolated event, but rather a reiterated relationship. From this, states more thorough cooperation than conflict and thus the arguments advanced by the Athenians within the dialogue should be rejected.
The negotiations within the Melian Dialogue began with the Athenians making a preemptive counter to the argument of why it would be unjust to subject Melos to servitude. They stated, “…we both know that decisions about justice are made in human discussions only when both sides are under equal compulsion; but when one side is stronger, it gets as much as it can, and the weak must accept that,” (Thucydides, page 103). Since the Athenians were the stronger nation within the negotiation they advanced the concept that justice is dependent upon interests, not morality, and that the interest of the powerful is simply to retain power. The Melians countered that being powerful does not give a nation the right to do as...

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