“With power, it is said, comes responsibility. If we are powerless to do or bring about anything, we cannot be accountable or answerable for anything.”(Sovereignty: evolution of an idea. Robert Jackson). Jackson goes on to say that governments like Canada or other minor powers are clearly not responsible for upholding international peace but rather, it is the sole responsibility of the major powers, such as the United States, to uphold world peace. There are several issues embodied in these concepts so lets start at the beginning.
Saying that “with power comes responsibility” implies that if someone has significantly less power than someone else then they are completely free of responsibility, from preventing wrongdoing or ensuring safety. This concept is equally applicable to individuals, societies, and countries. To better understand, let us examine this theory in a different scenario. If the building you are in catches fire, and some of the other residents who are incapacitated are trapped inside, and you are powerless to stop the fire, what do you do? Are you powerless and therefore leave, hoping the firefighters are able to save the poor trapped residents? No. You do what you can to save these individuals even though you are “powerless”. Canada may not have near as many troops as the U.S., but that does not negate responsibility. Supporting other nations in an attempt to fulfill one’s responsibility would be one practical and acceptable solution. Relative levels of power should change nothing but tactics.
Another major problem of this theory is the role and responsibility given the major powers. Allotting them with the specific responsibility of maintaining world peace and security can be a very dangerous proposition. Interpretations for what constitutes world peace could be very unpleasant, akin to a powerful tyrant taking it upon himself to impose “his” version of world peace on the world. There are even more possible and questionable interpretations for maintaining “security”. Under this philosophy any country with considerable power, enough to be considered a major power, becomes obligated to meddle in other countries’ affairs, enforcing its interpretation of peace and security. Under this philosophy, it is the right of the U.S. to attack and destroy any country that does not conform to a “peaceful” manner, or who disturbs its security or control. Under this philosophy, the U.S. can manipulate and conform other countries to its will under the context of keeping global “security”. This view says that the U.S has been fully justified in every war and foreign conflict in which it has engaged. The actions taken by major powers for the “greater good” are reflected in the words of Shakespeare “We are oft to blame, and this tis too much proved, that with devotion’s visage and pious actions we do sugar over the devil himself.”
In closing, one’s power or lack of power does not negate or change the nature of one’s responsibility. Having power doesn’t mean you can do whatever you want in the name of peace, and not having power does not excuse you from action.