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The purpose of an act of armed force performed by a state—to impose its will upon another state—is sometimes designated as the “aggressive intention.” 5 The question as to whether or not an act of armed force is performed with such an intention or for this purpose must be distinguished from the question as to whether or not an act of armed force is performed deliberately, or because of negligence, error or accident. Whether or not a treaty constituting an international security organization should prohibit, and thus qualify as aggression, only acts of armed force deliberately performed, is not a particular problem of collective security but a general problem of the legal technique of international law. It is really the problem of the responsibility of the states, the question of whether responsibility based on fault or whether absolute responsibility should be established by international agreements. There is a general tendency in favor of restricting the responsibility of a state to cases of deliberate violations of international law, although other cases establishing the absolute responsibility of a state are not completely excluded.
Another general problem which is not particular to collective security but which may be considered to be relevant to it is the question of whether a state should be made responsible only for acts violating international law performed by the government, or by subordinate organs at the command, or with the authorization of the government, or also for acts performed by subordinate organs without the command or authorization of the government. If the principle is accepted that a state is to be made responsible for violations of international law committed by subordinate organs without command or authorization by the government if the act constituting the violation is performed in connection with the normal function of this organ, then such acts may also be regarded as aggression if they consist of an illegal use of armed force. A typical case is the invasion of the territory of a state by a part of the armed forces of another state undertaken by a comanding officer on his own initiative. (dd) Aggression as conduct not including the use of armed force;
indirect aggression. International security is not satisfactorily guaranteed if the ti eaty constituting the security system provides its specific sanctions as a reaction only against an actual use of armed force—that is, if it protects the members of the security organization against violations of their interests only by the use of armed force, or, what amounts to the same thing, if aggression is constituted only by the actual use of armed force. Hence, there is a tendency to extend the security system so that it protects its members against a violation of interests committed in a way other than by the actual use of armed force, and to
qualify also a conduct not constituting the actual use of armed force as aggression. The constituent treaty may prohibit as acts of aggression not only the use but also the threat of armed force-its preparation by military or economic mobilization, or even its planning or initiating. The extension of the prohibition, stipulated in the constituent treaty, to an indirect use of armed force, which is the basis of the concept of indirect aggression, is of the greatest importance. In indirect aggression a state does not use its own armed forces but operates through armed persons performing hostile acts against another state, seemingly on their own initiative. The following actions are examples of indirect aggression: the supporting by a state of the revolutionary forces fighting against the legitimate government of another state, the arming by a state of organized bands for offensive purposes against another state, the sending by a state of so-called “volunteers” to engage in hostilities against another state, the nonprevention by a neutral state of its own nationals from participating as volunteers in a civil or international war against another state (an action not forbidden by general international law), the undertaking or encouragement by a state of terrorist activities in another state or the toleration by a state of organized activities calculated to result in terrorist acts in another state.ca
An international security system may even protect the governments of the contracting states against internal aggression by providing for repressive measures to be taken either by the individual states who are members of the security organization or by a central organ against revolutionary movements within a member state not supported, directly or indirectly, by external forces. Such a system guarantees the political and economic regimes of the members of the security organization which exist at the time the security treaty is concluded. Hence, this system goes far beyond general international law which does not guarantee the internal organization of states. If the enforcement measures taken by the organs of the security organization against the insurgents are considered to be sanctions, revolution against the legitimate government constitutes not only a violation of national law but also an international delict.
Revolution understood to be internal aggression involves the use of armed force. However, an undertaking of a state may be prohibited as aggression even if the use of arms is not involved at all, as, for example, in poisoning a stream rising in a state's territory but flowing through a neighboring country, or in altering its course and thus depriving the inhabitants of the neighboring state of a vital means of subsistence, or in using life-destroying rays against the population of another state.?
If the security treaty imposes upon the contracting parties the obligation to settle their disputes by peaceful procedures, the refusal to submit a dispute to such procedures or to comply with the decision of an organ competent to bring about its peaceful settlement or with a provisional measure, e. g., a call to discontinue military operations, may constitute a conduct against which the specific sanctions of the security system are directed. In that case, such conduct may be considered to be aggression."
One case of aggression in which the use of armed force is not involved is so-called ideological aggression. It consists of hostile propaganda organized or permitted by one state against another. It is supposed to be an appeal to the inhabitants of the other state. It may be disseminated by the press or by radio broadcasts, which may be controlled by the government, or be effected by the dispatch of pamphlets and the like. The propaganda may consist of imparting information or ideas or in discrediting a government. If it violates the honor of another state or if its evident purpose is to instigate a revolutionary movement, it is illegal under general international law.8
It has been suggested that any intervention in the internal or external affairs of another state should be prohibited as aggression in the treaty constituting an international security organization by ha ng attached to it the specific sanctions of the security system. It has also been suggested that there is no reason why this security system should not be extended to include protection against all violations of international law, as it existed at the time the treaty constituting the security organization came into force. As has been pointed out, the security treaty may prohibit a conduct, which was not illegal under international law prior to its coming into force. Provided the bellum justum principle is not considered to be part of general international law, this is the case with respect to the most essential element of any security system: the prohibition of war. It is certainly the case if the international security organization tries to protect its members against so-called economic aggression.' Economic aggression has been defined as the conduct of a state which deprives another state of the economic resources derived from the fair practice of international trade or which endangers its basic economy. Such conduct does not involve the use of armed force and may be in complete conformity with international law as it existed prior to the treaty prohibiting it as aggression. There can be little doubt that such a security treaty establishes a remarkable restriction on the freedom of action of the contracting parties and confers extraordinary power on the organ
competent to decide in a concrete case whether or not an act of economic aggression has been committed.
If the treaty constituting the international security system places under the specific sanctions of this system not only the violations of the particular obligations stipulated by this treaty but also all violations of general international law, the concept of aggression and the concept of international illegality may coincide. It may then be advisable to distinguish not only between direct and indirect, but also between major and minor aggression. A major aggression is a violation of international law constituted by an enforcement action involving the use of armed force, while a minor aggression means any other violation which may also be characterized as an enforcement action, in that it is taken against the will of the state which is the victim of the action, although this action does not involve the use of armed force.
(ee) The defintion of aggression.
It follows from the foregoing considerations, that the concept of aggression may be defined in different ways, and that the definition depends on what kind of conduct the treaty constituting an international security system does or should prohibit by attaching to it the specific sanctions of this system. Hence, it is quite understandable that the definition of aggression plays an important part in the discussion of the problem of international security, for defining aggression amounts to determining the scope of the security system de lege lata or de lege ferenda. De lege lata, from the point of view of an established law, that is a treaty concluded for the purpose of granting collective security to the contracting parties, it is a theoretical problem, the problem of describing by a general formula the acts which the treaty prohibits by attaching to them the specific sanctions of the security system. However, the treaty itself may contain such a formula which would then have the character of a legal definition, just as a penal code may contain a definition of theft. De lege ferenda, from the point of view of a law to be established—that is, of a treaty to be concluded—the definition of aggression is a practical-political, legislative problem, the problem of determining the conduct of states which should be prohibited, and especially of determining the conditions under which the use of armed force should be forbidden and under what exceptional conditions it should be permitted. However, strange as it may seem, the question concerned is usually formulated as whether or not aggression should be defined.10 The representatives of many governments and some outstanding writers advocate the opinion that aggression should not be defined, that a definition is not desirable and is even dangerous, and that even if it should be defined
the task is almost overwhelmingly difficult. There is also a school of thought which maintains that aggresion cannot be defined, that it is a concept which by its very nature is not susceptible of definition. There is even a doctrine which holds that it is both possible and desirable to eliminate the problem of aggression from the organization of international security altogether. However, the opposite views have also been defended that the problem of aggression cannot be avoided, and that aggression can and should be defined. It has also been held that it can be defined but should not be because no politically satisfactory definition could be achieved, or that even if such a definition could be achieved it would be superfluous, or that aggression can and should be defined although the difficulties of defining it should not be ignored. (ff) The attempt to eliminate the problem of aggression.
The view that it is both possible and desirable to eliminate the problem of aggression is advocated by those who suggest directing the collective measures to be provided by the treaty constituting an international security organization not against the state guilty of an act of aggression but against any state which has resorted, or is about to resort, to war or to the use of armed force, without deciding the question of which state is the actual or potential aggressor. They contend that a security system should react against the fact of war as such and not against a specific act of aggression committed by only one state. The advantage of such a method is that it would avoid the violation of national honor inevitably involved in stigmatizing a state as an aggressor.12 This doctrine can easily be refuted. The problem of aggression cannot be avoided within a system of international security.
If the member states of an international security organization are obliged to apply only economic sanctions, as was the case under the Covenant of the League of Nations, the equal application of these sanctions to both states involved in a war may result in the defeat of the economically weaker state by the economically stronger state, which would be less affected by these sanctions. If one state is not economically superior to the other, and hence both are affected equally by economic sanctions, the militarily weaker state would be defeated. Hence, if an economically or militarily weaker state were the victim of an aggression, such a system is just the contrary of a security system. It affords no protection against aggression and does not have the effect of stopping or preventing war.
It may be that within a system of international security, for one reason or another, it is not possible to determine the aggressor. Then it
may be inevitable to direct repressive measures against both states,