A government of limited powers, formed by two or more nations, generally dependent on member nations for financial support and enforcement of its decisions. The central deliberative body is composed of representatives of the national governments. In forming the Confederation, nations may bind themselves to follow the decisions of the central body in whatever limited powers they have delegated to that body. But without direct means of enforcement and taxing power, the Confederation is usually ineffective unless at least the more powerful member nations decide to assist it. Many modifications of confederate organization are possible, some of them bordering closely on federal structure. In general, however, whenever the preponderance of authority and means of enforcement in matters supposedly delegated to the supranational organization is in reality retained by the nations, especially by the more powerful ones, the organization remains confederate rather than federal in character. A confederation may arise if an alliance develops permanent policymaking and administrative organs.
The basic purpose of the confederation is to marshal preponderant strength in case of aggression by a member or a non-member nation. The military forces are organized either from contributions of armed forces of the member nations, or the separate national armies are coordinated through periodic conferences of their general staffs.
At this point, the weakness of the confederate structure burdened with the greatest responsibility of all -- the power to make war -- becomes most apparent. The confederation, dependent on its member nations both for military and financial support, is powerless to do more than criticize an act of aggression unless member governments declare war on the aggressor.
- Georgia Lloyd, Edith Wynner; E.P. Dutton and Company, Inc. (1944). Searchlight on Peace Plans: Choose Your Road to World Government.