When is it legitimate for nations to use force? The United States and NATO regularly employ the illegitimate use of force, using false arguments and a haze of purported altruistic justifications to justify their actions. But objective standards to legitimacy exist, and those standards are enshrined in the United Nations Charter. Smokescreen analyzes the workings and legitimacy of the United Nations Security Council, and shows how the United States and NATO governments systematically create the false perception of legitimacy for the use of force. Whenever they cannot meet the standard, they simply employ alternative norm justifications of self-defense beyond the scope of Article 51 and humanitarian intervention.
Max Weber’s definition of legitimacy, ‘legitimitätsglaube’ or the belief in legitimacy, has been widely used by social scientists. Unlike moral philosophers, social scientists favor empirical data; therefore, for them, measuring legitimacy becomes possible by measuring what people believe to be legitimate. In this framework the powerful have the ability to manipulate public opinion to create legitimacy for a particular action. Aranas argues that this is not legitimacy but merely a perception of legitimacy to justify aggression.
David Beetham maintains that Weber’s definition is a catastrophe, and in its place he offers a formula for legitimacy based on the objective criteria of legality, shared beliefs between dominant and subordinate, and consent from at least the most significant subordinate actors. Aranas contends that the United Nations Security Council, backed by the UN Charter, holds real legitimacy based on Beetham’s formula. Meanwhile, the U.S. education system and mass media largely ignore the history and principles of the United Nations. Smokescreen offers a way forward toward international peace and security, in both the interests of Western countries and humanity as a whole.
This volume on international foreign policy examines the question of political legitimacy in military intervention and explores the ways in which legitimacy, as defined by national actors, most often represents a thin veil covering vested interest and unilateral aggression. The work posits that a more rigorous definition of legitimacy, such as modeled by the United Nations as a mediating force for consensual standards, would prevent humanitarian tragedies that result from illegitimate military intervention. Aranas is an independent foreign policy scholar.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Paul F.J. Aranas is an American international affairs writer. His debut book Smokescreen: The US, NATO, and the Illegitimate Use of Force was published in 2012. Paul taught Global Politics and International Organizations at the University of Hawaii, has been invited to lecture at numerous universities and policy organizations, and founded and directed the non-profit International Law Education Group (ILEG) from 2010-2015. He holds a Ph.D (magna cum laude) in International Relations and Diplomacy from the Center for Diplomatic Strategic Studies (CEDS) in Paris, an M.A. in Diplomatic Studies from the University of Westminster, London, and a degree in Religious Studies from the University of Oregon. He resides in Oregon.