What is Security - lecture 3-10-16 (IRD 2101)


International Security Studies has moved away from its initial concentration on military issues and national security. It has taken on a much wider range of referent objects for security, still with the state in a strong position, but now with much more space for individual human beings (human security), non-human things and entities (aspects of environmental security), and social structures (the world economy, collective identities of various sorts). This broadening of subject matter

has in turn put pressure on the concept of security. In the early days after the Second World War, the new concept of national security was intended to broaden thinking away from the tradition of war and national defence. But although the concept of security survived as the core idea of ISS,

its wider implications were quickly lost in the urgency to deal with the burgeoning military confrontation between the US and the Soviet Union. It was not until the 1970s, when nuclear paralysis and the onset of the oil crisis opened the way that economic issues began again to appear independently on the security agenda...      Buzan & Hansen, 2009





Clearly this quote points to the idea - concept - of 'Security' be in the words of W B Gallie in 1956 an 'essentially contested concept' - that is to say, a concept over which much ink is spilt - argued about - as to its 'essential meaning' and context.



So…Is there one main context for IR approaches to Security...or has a wide range of senses of security, beyond the military idea, been incorporated and been addressed by IR, both at the academic level as well as by political agents and agencies.




Questions of security and order are enduring, but changing interrelations at the global level from transnationalism to interdependence have expanded the set of enduring issues to include prosperity and growth and, increasingly, rights and freedoms. This evolution has been punctuated by important events including world wars, decolonization, the oil crisis, the end of the cold war, and the attacks of 11 September.



Let us take the list of  events: ‘decolonization, the oil crisis, the end of the cold war, and the attacks of 11 September;


Q: How do these several kinds of events link to newer kinds of (post-national) security issues.




NOW.(quick group tasks we did not actually get round to doing!)


Q: List all the types of Security you can think of



Q: Indicate what links there might be between them...and when/when they are perhaps independent of each other.



Q: how do they pertain/might become/have  become relevant to an International agendum?






Three aspects of a paradigm change in the idea of 'Security v defence i.e. military to protect 'our' borders/nation......



A. Security rather than defence or war as its key concept




Wolfers offered a classic definition of security as an 'ambiguous symbol'. In laying out the ability of security policy to subordinate all other interests to those of the nation, Wolfers stressed the rhetorical and political force that ‘security’ entailed despite having very little intrinsic meaning (Wolfers, 1952: 481).


Wolfers argues that national security -  an ambiguous and possibly dangerous concept, more a rhetorical device (think Trump's 'Fortress America' type promises) used by those seeking support for particularistic policies than a real, concrete attribute of the nation as a whole.


At least with genuine national security in say time of war/threatened war, our security IS aimed at the whole population without discrimination for the most part (though of course it is usually irrelevant to say, the Scottish Highlands)...


...BUT with other newer ideas of security that have arisen, the universal application of a security measure which if successful will be wholly positive ('you were all protected by our decisions') may in say the cases of food or environmental security policies/measures be mixed - advantaging some and not necessarily others. OR produce further down the line, unintended consequences of backlashes (we spoke about 'ban the Burka' policies in France which may, when linked to cultural and religious sensibilities, weaken senses of personal security and also of the range of what counts as a Human right (and thus democracy). Equally it may produce the 'security dilemma' that it does more harm than good, angering the relevant religious or cultural group to the point of causing them to engage in violent actions against the (security of) the state.



Rather than affecting everyone in similar ways, most policies are redistributive or have differential impacts on groups even in the same country. That is, that what is security for one group or population is not necessarily security for all. Internationally agreed fishing quotas which secure continued food supplies adversely affect fishing fleets capacity to earn enough and therefore to provide personal/family security.



Of course, national states often try to mitigate these adverse affects (e.g. give subsidies)…but then does this help or does it produce adversity elsewhere in the system = perceived injustice. ('You gave the fishermen subsidies/support to cope with conservation quotas but you did not give it to us in the farming industry' (pick your favorite alternative industry which complains when other industries are helped but not them)




B. In a cold war setting, the question of when to attack and with what e.g. nuclear weapons, changed strategic issues...



Q: Why




C. Strategic bombing and nuclear weapons transcended traditional military war fighting expertise in ways that required, or at least opened the door to, bringing in civilian experts ranging from physicists and economists to sociologists and psychologists.


As shown during the Second World War, strategic bombing required knowledge about how best to disable the enemy’s economy and infrastructure, not just how to defeat his armed forces. Nuclear deterrence quickly became the art of how to avoid fighting wars while at the same time not being militarily defeated or coerced. The centrality of the civilian element also reflects the fact that concerns about  post-military ideas of security has largely flourished in democratic countries, while strategic thinking in non-Western countries generally remained more firmly in the grip of the military.





Theoretical Forms of Security:



Security realism – securing and maintaining the security of your capacity to gain advantage over other states



Waltz held that classical realists' powerful insights into the workings of international politics were weakened by their failure to distinguish clearly

among arguments about


a) human nature,


b) the internal attributes of states, and


c) the overall system of states.



Thus neo-realism stressed that the identity of security issues not only derived from a vaguely worded idea of the ‘national interest’ but from underlying drivers of policies not least human nature.


In security terms:


a)     what do you with a crazy man (or rogue state/regime)? (Human nature)


b)    What do you do when internal politics demands solutions likely to bring worse consequences that make situations for  the ‘national interest’ more insecure (when the population and populism  abandon reason)? (Internal attributes of states)


c)     What do you do when the several system does not  converge on one agreed approach -  Russia/Syria – or -  a classic for neo-realism –when instead of bi-polarity you drift into multi-polarity. (overall system)


Q: Does the emergence of multi-polarity make managing the International system (anarchy) far more difficult?


And then you may get 'Security dilemma realism':


If you strengthen your armies, they will strengthen their and the escalation will make everyone relationally weaker as well as tend to feed fear of the other and thus prone to first strike strategies

And everyone will be worse off…part from the costs incurred which weaken the economies of states ...



Note what happened to Italian city states and 13th C Princes...

where the Princes of small Principalities in Italy in the Medieval and renaissance period kept on having wars with other small Principalities and taxed their merchants and citizens dry to fund the rather pointless aggressive attempts to gain territory. The escalation of constant threats, challenges and pre-emptive strikes ruined the Southern Mediterranean states/Princes or certainly weakened them and their populations started migrating north to Germany etc taking their skills with them, and the great cities of the South slowly declined (absolutely or relatively) across the next four centuries, and the northern countries which were politically and economically stable grew - e.g. Amsterdam). See article (from which the table below is taken): Delong & Shleifer, Princes and merchants)





Big Q: Is 'economic globalisation creating 'insecurity'




and can we have:

Security Idealism: the legal and/or ethical framework that delimits but legitimates measures of security that should be available to all states to ensure their stability without their being disruptive of other states’s equal entitlements to conform to the universally agreed security measures