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Regime decay: conflict management and international organizations, 1945–1981

  • Ernst B. Haas (a1)

This article updates earlier work by Haas, Butterworth, and Nye on conflict management by international organizations. In addition, it seeks to answer the question of whether one can fruitfully interpret conflict management as a case of regime growth and regime decay. For this purpose I develop indicators of regime coherence and regime effectiveness, and illustrate them by subjecting the management of disputes to time-series analysis. The discussion identifies when and under what global conditions the regime began to decay. Finally, I explain that decay in terms of four mutually supportive hypotheses. In this article I thus offer a statistical history of the conflict management functions of the United Nations and the major regional organizations, and use it to probe the limits of the utility of the regime literature.

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1. Annual report of the UN Secretary-General, as quoted in the New York Times, 7 09 1982.

2. The term is borrowed from Alker, Hayward R. Jr, Bennett, James, and Medford, Dwain, “Generalized Precedent Logics for Resolving Insecurity Dilemmas,” International Interactions 7, 2 (1980), p. 166. In the tradition of research on artificial intelligence, Alker and his associates seek to determine by modeling the implicit (and possibly explicit) reflective logical procedures the member states follow in bringing about (or failing to bring about) cumulative conflictmanagement practices. Alker claims the breakpoint in UN history toward declining institutionalization occurred in the aftermath of the Congo operation (around 1963), whereas my data suggest the decline started around 1970. See the literature he cites.

3. Hayward Alker considers the conflict management organizations to be a “quasi-regime” rather than a full-fledged regime because they do not have all of these characteristics: publicness and/or positive covariation of objectives; recognized benefits; multilateral consensus on rules; substantial coherence and effectiveness; institutionalization of contextual relationships. See his A Methodology for Design Research on Interdependence Alternatives,” International Organization 31 (Winter 1977), pp. 3738. For instance, Alker considers that several Mid-East crises since 1967 were not managed by the United Nations, despite UN peacekeeping, mediation, or both, but by bilateral superpower arrangements. For me, superpower use of the United Nations itself constitutes evidence of action within the regime. No institutionalized arrangement for conflict management in any issue-area can meet Alker's prescription because he confounds the outcome of regime-development processes with behavior in the regime at a given time. For a fuller argument about the differences between systems, orders, and regimes, and my reasons for not considering the power constellations in world politics as part of the regime but of its global context, see my Words Can Hurt You,” International Organization 36 (Spring 1982), pp. 210–12.

4. See the special issue of International Organization 36 (Spring 1982), especially the introductory chapter by Stephen D. Krasner, for the justification and application of this definition to a variety of contexts.

5. Robert Jervis argues persuasively against the application of the regime concept to this issue-area. He may turn out to be right. See his Security Regimes,” International Organization 36 (Spring 1982).

6. Robert L. Butterworth, Joseph S. Nye, and I created the data set for the period 1945–70; we reported it in Haas, , Butterworth, , and Nye, , Conflict Management by International Organizations (Morristown, N.J.: General Learning Press, 1972). The definition of “dispute,” the specification of variables used in the analysis, and the coding procedures are described there and in the Appendix; I used the same definitions and procedures in this study. Data for the period 1971–78 were taken from Butterworth, Robert L., Managing Interstate Conflict (Pittsburgh: University Center for International Studies, University of Pittsburgh, 1976) and from Butterworth's unpublished manuscript, “Managing International Conflict” (1980). I am responsible for preparing data for the period since 1978 and for mistakes in coding and interpretation throughout. Disputes are credited to the five-year period during which they were first referred to the organization and are counted only once, even if they remained on the agenda during subsequent periods and even if success came about in a later period. Certain long-lived disputes were broken up according to coding rules described in Haas, Butterworth, and Nye, Conflict Management, notably those between Israel and the Arab states, the Kashmir dispute, and the situation in South Africa. Butterworth compared computations of success based on the present method with the alternative of crediting success to the period in which it actually occurred. He found that the two curves were hardly distinguishable.

7. The Ns in various tables will differ according to need. Comparisons between referred and nonreferred disputes will use an N of 217 or below. Some tables will use only referred disputes that involved military activity, i.e., an N of 87 for the United Nations and 51 for the regionals out of total Ns of 123 and 80 respectively. The total number of disputes referred to the United Nations and the regionals was somewhat higher. I excluded disputes in which no management action was possible since there was nothing for the organization to do short of enforcement. In other instances the parties appealed to the organization for propaganda reasons and expected no action. Examples of disputes excluded are the Eichmann abduction, the Baghdad reactor raid, and various airplane incidents pitting the United States against the USSR. There were 23 excluded disputes for the United Nations, 4 for the regionals.

8. See the Appendix for the coding procedure. Tables A through G in the Appendix show the incidence of these variables over time.

9. See the Appendix for further specifications of the dimensions of success and the scale. See Tables H, M, N in the Appendix for the success scores.

10. I find it impossible to decide whether these principles involve matters of fact, causation, or rectitude since all three seem to be expressed by the Charter's formulation if we read it in the context of the experiences and expectations of the drafters. Rectitude is obviously present. Fact and causation cannot be distinguished because the drafters were acting on the basis of what they considered to be lessons of the League of Nations and the interwar period. See Russell, Ruth B., A History of the United Nations Charter (Washington, D.C.: Brookings, 1958).

11. Zacher prefers the term “program” to “rules” because this realm not only includes injunctions of do's and dont's but also specifies the collective actions the members may take to attain the norms, thus enhancing national and joint capabilities. I have given the same meaning to rules in my Technological Self-Reliance for Latin America: The OAS Contribution,” International Organization 34 (Autumn 1980). In the current context “rules” seems more appropriate. My discussion of the UN rules relies on the Charter and neglects further rules contained in the General Assembly's and the Security Council's Rules of Procedure.

12. For a far less charitable interpretation of the coherence of these elements see Kelsen, Hans, The Law of the United Nations (New York: Praeger, 1950).

13. Discussion relies on Tables 1, 2.

14. Discussion relies on Table A in the Appendix.

15. The cases of “great” success in settling disputes: Indonesian independence, status of British Togoland, status of Cyrenaica, removal of KMT troops from Burma, West Irian, Suez war, status of British Cameroon, Thai/Cambodian border (1959–60), Congo independence, status of African High Commission Territories, status of Ifni.

Cases of “limited” success: Corfu Channel, French withdrawal from Levant, status of Namibia, Russian wives, Palestine truce (1949–56), China Sea piracy, Algerian independence, Israel borders (1957–67), Wadi Haifa, Buraimi Oasis, Laos civil war (1959–1962), Moroccan-Mauritanian border (1960–1961), Kuwait independence, Sarawak/Sabah, Tutsi restoration attempt, Panama Canal 1, Falkland Islands, Katanga exiles, Arab-Israeli confrontation (1967–173), Equatorial Guinea independence, Bahrein independence, Panama Canal 2, Chilean repression, Farakka barrage, Transkei border, South African race policies (1976-), Western Sahara war, Benin coup, Burmese refugees, Israeli raids in Lebanon (1978–1982), U.S. hostages in Iran.

16. The cases of “great” success in isolating disputes: Corfu Channel, Greek civil war, Azerbaijan, Kashmir secession, Kashmir negotiations, Korean negotiations (1951–1953), Suez war, status of British Cameroon, Sakiet raid, Lebanon/Jordan civil wars (1958), Bizerta, status of African High Commission Territories, independence of South Yemen, Cyprus civil war, status of Panama Canal, second Kashmir war, Iran expansion in Persian Gulf (1969–1975), Turkish invasion of Cyprus, Benin coup, Litani River war.

17. The cases of “great” success in stopping hostilities: Korean negotiations (1951–1953), West Irian, Congo independence, Cyprus civil war, Iran expansion in the Persian Gulf (1969–1975).

18. High and very high intensity cases that the United Nations failed to manage though they were referred: Korean War (1950–1951), Soviet intervention in Hungary, status of Portuguese colonies, Cuban missile crisis, repression in South Africa (1962–1976), Yemen civil war, Portuguese Guinea, status of Rhodesia, Vietnam war, Eritrean independence, Rhodesia-Zambia border fighting, status of Timor, repression in Israeli-occupied territories, South African attacks on Angola, Rhodesia-Mozambique border fighting, invasion of Kampuchea, repression in El Salvador, Afghanistan.

19. Discussion relies on Tables H, I, J, K in the Appendix.

20. Discussion based on Table L in the Appendix.

21. Discussion based on Tables M, N in the Appendix.

22. For descriptions QT the major disputes referred to international organizations and of the methods of conflict management applied to them see Wainhouse, David W. et al. , International Peace Observation (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1966) and International Peacekeeping at the Crossroads (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1973); Gordenker, Leon, The United Nations Secretary-General and the Maintenance of Peace (New York: Columbia University Press, 1967); Zacher, Mark W., Dag Hammarskjold's United Nations (New York: Columbia University Press, 1970) and his International Conflicts and Collective Security, 1946–1977 (New York: Praeger, 1979).

23. Discussion based on Tables E, F, G in the Appendix. OAS cases are discussed in Gordon Connell-Smith, , The Inter-American System (New York: Oxford University Press, 1966); Nye, Joseph S., Peace in Parts (Boston: Little, Brown, 1971). Arab League cases are discussed in Hassouna, Hussein A., The League of Arab States and Regional Disputes (Dobbs Ferry, N.Y.: Oceana, 1975); Macdonald, Robert W., The League of Arab States (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1965). OAU cases are discussed in Woronoff, Jon, Organizing African Unity (Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow, 1970); Meyers, R. David, “Intraregional Conflict Management by the Organization of African Unity,” International Organization 28 (Summer 1974), pp. 345–76.

24. This confirms Robert Butterworth's finding. See his Organizing Collective Security: The UN Charter's Chapter VIII in Practice,” World Politics 28 (01 1976), pp. 197222. Five of the eight cases involved aspects of the confrontation between Greece and Turkey; the other three were Caribbean disputes to which the United States was a party. For additional evidence that states do not consistently coordinate policy in the United Nations with what is done in regional organizations see Haas, Ernst B. and Rowe, Edward T., “Regional Organizations in the United Nations: Is There Externalization?International Studies Quarterly 17 (03 1973).

25. See Zacher, International Conflicts. Zacher studied the same disputes as I, though using an N of 116, asking under what circumstances the United Nations managed to intervene with success. He defines success, unlike me, as the ability to halt aggression. He found that the United Nations achieves success most frequently in disputes pitting a nonaligned member against a member of a Cold War alliance (when the victim was nonaligned). Scrutiny of actual cases discloses that Zacher's instances of success are identical with the cases I identify as dominated by the issue of decolonization. Whether issue or alignment is the more powerful predictor cannot be settled without considering the additional variables I introduce.

26. Data for the left half of this table came from Junn, Robert S., “Voting in the United Nations Security Council,” International Interactions 9, 4 (1983). I thank Professor Junn and the editors of International Interactions for permission to use the data. The French and British vetoes primarily sheltered South Africa and Rhodesia during the 1970s, though they also blocked the U.S.-sponsored resolution against Israel in 1956. American vetoes blocked sanctions against South Africa in 1976 and 1980 and also sheltered Rhodesia and Israel against condemnations. Soviet vetoes were often cast to oppose resolutions that dealt with decolonization cases, demonstrating Soviet dissatisfaction with measures considered too weak. On many other occasions Soviet vetoes merely blocked Western-inspired propaganda statements and therefore lacked substantive impact. The disputes used for Table 7 are French in Levant; Greek civil war; Corfu Channel; Berlin blockade; Indonesian independence; Korean war; Palestine truce; threat to Thailand; Guatemalan civil war; Suez war; Hungarian intervention; Kashmir negotiations; Lebanon/ Jordan civil war; Zaire independence; Kuwait independence; Goa; Palestine borders; Malaysian confrontation; Bangladesh independence; Cyprus invasion; Kampuchea invasion; Sino-Vietnam border war; Namibia; attacks on Angola; Rhodesian U.D.I.; Afghanistan war; Rhodesia/Zambia; Arab-Israeli confrontation; Panama Canal 2; Yom Kippur war, Israeli-occupied territories; Mayotte secession. An additional test of the importance of the veto in blocking impact was used: whenever the blocking state was in a military and political position to frustrate the intent of the resolution by actions available to it outside the UN framework, the veto alone cannot be blamed for preventing conflict management. At best eight situations could have been dealt with more forcefully. All involved British vetoes. Had it not been for British actions to shelter the Smith government of Rhodesia and block the expulsion of South Africa from the United Nations it is possible that a coalition of Third World and communist states would have prevailed (if the United States had remained inactive). But the veto has complicated the mounting of peacekeeping operations. France and the Soviet Union have cast vetoes in certain disputes in order to challenge the Security Council's power to intervene. They have thereby contributed to the crisis over financing such operations from regular UN funds.

27. I considered 20 judgments and advisory opinions of the Court that dealt with disputes also on the political agenda of the United Nations. They break down as follows with respect to implementation: 8 cases declared moot, jurisdiction or standing of complainant declined, withdrawn, pending; in 3 cases, judgment implemented; in 9 cases, judgment not implemented. The implemented judgments are the Haya de la Torre asylum, Honduras-Nicaraguan border, and the Temple of Preah Vihear cases. The nonimplemented judgments are in these cases: Corfu Channel, first Southwest Africa, Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, Portuguese colonies in India, UN peacekeeping expenses, third Southwest Africa, Icelandic fisheries, Western Sahara, Iranian hostages. No decision rendered since 1962 has been implemented. Until then the number of implemented and nonimplemented judgments was about the same in each five-year period. The four advisory opinions used were really proxy adversary cases.

28. Columns 1 and 2 derived from Tables H, I, J in the Appendix. Success for the United Nations is here denned as total cases in which some or great success was scored per era (irrespective of the amount of success as scaled elsewhere in this study) divided by total cases per era.

29. My discussion of hegemony follows the conceptualization of Krasner, Stephen D., “American Policy and Global Economic Stability,” in Avery, William P. and Rapkin, David P., eds., America in a Changing World Political Economy (New York: Longman, 1982). Robert Keohane's “Hegemonic Leadership and U.S. Foreign Economic Policy in the Long Decade of the 1950s,” in ibid., argues that the decline of U.S. hegemony occurred faster than it should have if structural variables alone are considered to be responsible (as they are in my Table 9). He holds misguided short-term interests foisted on the U.S. government by private interests (oil companies and multinational banks) responsible for the rapid erosion of hegemony after 1965 because the American economic decline is associated with oil-import and capital-export policies followed since 1945.

30. For the data dealing with General Assembly voting, see Rowe, Edward T., “The United States, the United Nations, and the Cold War,” International Organization 25 (Winter 1971), p. 78. Professor Rowe kindly supplied me with the entries for General Assembly sessions since 1965. Confirming time-series data can be found in Richardson, Neil R. and Kegley, Charles W. Jr, “Trade Dependence and Foreign Policy Compliance,” International Studies Quarterly 24 (06 1980). Data dealing with UN action or inaction favored and opposed by the United States are taken from Table P in the Appendix.

31. Data through 1971 taken from Wainhouse et al., International Peacekeeping at the Crossroads, pp. 535–36; data since 1971 collected from the annual reports of the UN Board of Auditors. I thank Professor M. J. Peterson for pointing me to this source.

32. The figure and discussion are based on Table O in the Appendix.

33. Interviews with 125 high officials of the UN Secretariat and high-level members of permanent delegations to the United Nations suggest that peace is valued less highly as a UN objective than social justice and economic welfare, ranking ahead only of environmental protection. Moreover, the relative indifference to peace covaries with age: the younger are less concerned with peace. See Sylvester, Christine, “UN Elites: Perspective on Peace,” Journal of Peace Research 17, 4 (1980), pp. 305–24.

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