Skip to main content Accessibility help

Idealist Internationalism and the Security Dilemma

  • John H. Herz


The heartbreaking plight in which a bipolarized and atom bomb-blessed world finds itself today is but the extreme manifestation of a dilemma with which human societies have had to grapple since the dawn of history. For it stems from a fundamental social constellation, one where a plurality of otherwise interconnected groups constitute ultimate units of political life, that is, where groups live alongside each other without being organized into a higher unity.

Wherever such anarchic society has existed—and it has existed in most periods of known history on some level—there has arisen what may be called the ‘security dilemma’ of men, or groups, or their leaders. Groups or individuals living in such a constellation must be, and usually are, concerned about their security from being attacked, subjected, dominated, or annihilated by other groups and individuals. Striving to attain security from such attack, they are driven to acquire more and more power in order to escape the impact of the power of others. This, in turn, renders the others more insecure and compels them to prepare for the worst. Since none can ever feel entirely secure in such a world of competing units, power competition ensues, and the vicious circle of security and power accumulation is on.



Hide All

1 Niebuhr, Reinhold, The Children of Light and the Children of Darkness: A Vindication of Democracy and a Critique of Its Traditional Defense, New York, Scribner, 1944.

2 The following, under I through VII, condenses a chapter of a larger manuscript, entitled “Political Realism and Political Idealism, A Study in Theories and Realities.”

3 See Ideen zur Philosophie der Geschichte der Menschheit, Riga and Leipzig, 1784, Book IX, Chapter IV.

4 Bernanos, Georges, Journal d'un curé de campagne, Paris, 1936, p. 300.

5 The Duties of Man, New York, Everyman's Library, Dutton, 1907 p. 52.

6 Ibid., p. 55.

7 Maistre, Joseph de, Considérations sur la France, Lyon, 1843, p. 88.

8 Sorel, Albert, L'Europe et la révòlution française, Paris, 1889, Vol. II, p. 109.

9 July 10, 1791, quoted in Laurent, F., Histoire du droit des gens, Paris, 1868, Vol. XV, p. 24.

10 November 11, 1792, quoted in Sorel, , op. cit., Vol. III, p. 165.

11 March 10, 1793, ibid., p. 344.

12 November 7, 1792, ibid., Vol. II, p. 214.

13 Isnard, quoted in Laurent, , op. cit., p. 82.

14 Quoted in Laurent, , op. cit., p. 174.

15 Kersaint, January 1, 1793, quoted in Sorel, , op. cit., Vol. III, p. 244.

16 Baraillon, January 13, 1793, quoted in Mathiez, Albert, La révolution et les étrangers, Paris, 1918, p. 88.

17 Quoted in Laurent, , op cit., p. 268.

18 See Dyke, Vernou, “The Responsibility of States for International Propaganda,” American Journal of International Law, Vol. XXXIV, (Jan. 1940), p. 61.

19 Basdevant, Jules, La révolution française et le droit de la guerre continentale, Paris, 1901, p. 164.

20 Sorel, , op. cit., Vol. III, p. 431.

21 Ibid., Vol. V, p. 66.

22 Laurent, , op. cit., p. 308.

23 Ibid., p. 467.

24 Resolution adopted by the Congress of the Second International at Stuttgart, 1907; see Lorwin, Lewis L., Labor and Internationalism, New York, Macmillan, 1929, pp. 91 ff.

25 Nowhere, perhaps, has the tragic situation confronting internationalists during those days been more poignantly portrayed than in Martin du Gard's Les Thxbaults.

26 See Lenin, V. I., Selected Works, London, 1936, Vol. VI, pp. 17f., 230, 288, 297.

27 Resolution on “The Present Situation and the War,” adopted by the Sixth Party Congress. I owe this and the following references to Ossip K. Flechtheim, who kindly made available to me a manuscript entitled “The Struggle of Bolshevism for World Dominion.”

28 Cf. resolution of the Central Committee of the Party of October 23. 1917.

29 Quoted in Flechtheim MS cited above.

31 Text in International Conciliation, No. 371, June 1941, pp. 585 ff.

32 Niebuhr, Reinhold, “The Myth of World Government,” Nation, March 16, 1946.

33 Niemeyer, Gerhard, Law Without Force, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1941.

34 Salutati, quoted by Gilbert, Felix in his chapter “Machiavelli,” in Makers of Modem Strategy, ed. by Earle, Edward M., Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1943, p. 21.

35 From Joel Barlow's “Columbiad,” as quoted in Kohn, Hans, The Idea of Nationalism, New York, Macmillan, 1944, p. 299.

36 From addresses in 1842 and 1846, quoted in Lorwin, , op. cit., pp. 21 f.

37 Graham, Frank D., “Economics and Peace,” in The Second Chance: America and the Peace, ed. by Whitton, John B., Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1944, p. 126.

38 While liberal economic theory has tended to play down the economic factor, Marxist criticism of “finance capitalism” and imperialism has tended to overlook the power factor. Both are realistic in their critique but reveal the harmonistic tendencies of their general doctrines by their respective de-emphasis. Cf., e.g., the writings of Staley, Eugene, notably his War and the Private Investor, New York, Doubleday, 1935, and Hallgarten's, Wolfgang book Forkriegsimperialismus, Paris, 1935.

39 Hayek, Friedrich A., The Road to Serfdom, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1944, p. 221.

40 Mises, Ludwig von, Omnipotent Government: The Rise of the Total State and Total War, New Haven, Yale University Press, 1944, p. 5.

41 Laski, Harold J., Reflections on the Revolution of Our Time, New York, Viking, 1943, p. 245.

42 Thus Moshe Piyade, of the Yugoslav Politbureau, complains: “They have betrayed socialism … They accuse us of meddling in their internal affairs, but they have brought back their diplomacy … to the line that existed in Russia before the October Revolution … We have learned that even the great principles of Socialism and international Socialist solidarity can become business phrases in the mouths of Socialist statesmen. We have learned that behind the phrases of Socialist internationalism there can be hidden the most selfish interests of the great powers toward the small.” (From a speech made July 7, 1949, as reported in New York Times, July 9, 1949.)

43 Aristotle, Politics, Book II, Chapter 7, with regard to the theories of Phaleas the Chalcedonian.

44 Gasset, Jose Ortega y, The Revolt of the Masses, London, 1932, p. 83.

45 Huxley, Thomas H., Evolution and Ethics and Other Essays, New York, Appleton, 1896, pp. 81 ff.


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed