New Thinking about Security

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New Thinking about Security

    New Thinking about Security?

    Analytical Pitfalls and Applications to the Americas

    Bernard I. Finel

    National Security Studies Program

    Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service

    Georgetown University

    Presentation to the Organization of American States, Forum on the Future of International Security in the Hemisphere, 19 and 20 April 1999, Washington, DC. This paper is adapted from Bernard 1. Finel, "What is Security? Why the Debate Matters," National Security Studies

    Quarterly, Vol.4, No. 4 (Fall 1998): 1-18.

    Since the end of the Cold War - now nearly a full decade ago - security scholars have

    1been engaged in an extended debate over the future of the field. The debate has been

    characterized as a contest between traditionalists, who would like to maintain the field's focus on military conflict, and "wideners," who believe that "security" in the modem world involves

    2economic, environmental, and social issues as much as guns and bombs.

    This view of a dichotomized field is valid at the surface, but it obfuscates another series of divisions. The "wideners" are themselves divided in rival camps, most notably between those scholars who focus on international trends, such as environmental degradation, and those who focus on the emergence of new security actors, such as terrorists, transnational criminal organizations, and computer hackers. This distinction between actors and trends has a profound significance for the future of security studies, as we shall see later.

    In addition, there are deep and widening methodological divides in the field between the proponents of qualitative methods, quantitative methods, and game theory. As the techniques of academic scholars have become increasingly sophisticated, it has become increasingly difficult for scholars from different methodological schools to speak to one another. Since scholarship has always advanced through a process of debate and discussion, this diminishing dialogue is a source of concern. This methodological divide is especially problematic at present. As scholars in the field debate the meaning of the security at the millennium, there is a significant danger that different definitions of security will emerge in each

     1 For instance, see Stephen M. Walt, "The Renaissance of Security Studies," International

    Studies Quarterly, Vol. 35, No. 2 (June 1991): 211-239; John Lewis Gaddis, "International Relations Theory and the End of the Cold War," International Security, Vol. 17, No. 3

    (Winter 1992/93): 5-58; David A. Baldwin, "Security Studies and the End of the Cold War," World Politics, Vol. 48, No. I (October 1995): 117-41; Richard K. Betts, "Should Strategic Studies Survive," World Politics, Vol. 50, No. I (October 1997): 7-33; Barry Buzan, et. al.,

    Security: A New Framework for Analysis (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1998).

     2 Buzan, Security, pp. 2-5.

    of the isolated methodological schools in the field, possibly making permanent the current divides between different approaches.

    Finally, there is a growing gap between the focus of security practitioners and security scholars. In part, this gap is a function of the methodological debates in the academic side of the field which serve to alienate practitioners. However, there are other broad trends related to foundation funding and defense spending which exacerbate this divide.

    These divisions have different causes and effects. However, each division ultimately robs -the field of coherence, and in the process exacerbates the separation of the academic study of security from the policy debate. This process, ultimately, can only serve to delegitimize and marginalize the field of Security studies, one of the few academic disciplines that has had a lasting and significant influence on policy. During the Cold War, for example, the academic study of security helped guide the formation of policies regarding arms control, deterrence, and limited war. While there is much debate on the efficacy of these academically-derived policies, the contributions of scholars undoubtedly enriched the policy debates. The current question about the nature of security at the millennium raises issues beyond the purely semantic definition of the word "security"; if different definitions become entrenched among the different approaches in the field, there is a risk that security studies will cease to be an effective discipline. Both the policy, And academic communities would suffer as a result. In short, the debate over the meaning of "security" has implications for both how we study the field and how practitioners make policy. This article will first examine the major cleavages in the field of security studies, and then offer a synthesis which if accepted, the author argues, would enhance the utility of security studies" to scholars and practitioners alike. Finally, this paper will briefly consider some of the key challenges to the traditional security paradigm in the America as a way of considering the utility of new definitions of security.


    During most of the Cold War, security studies focused on issues revolving around the

    3control, threat or use of force. Since states are both the main users of force and the main targets of force, this traditional approach is naturally state-centric. The field was divided functionally into research on arms control, deterrence and coercion, and the use of force. These issues, of course, overlapped, and various productive discussions emerged on such issues as how arms control can bolster deterrence, or how military forces can be structured to support deterrence but also meet military requirements should deterrence fail. In this setting, the security studies field served as a vibrant, intellectually coherent subfield of international relations.

    Certainly, even at this height of intellectual coherence, there were scholars looking at security through different lenses. Following the Vietnam war, many universities across the United States established programs in peace and justice. The peace and justice programs,

    however, focused less on managing security than on finding ways to escape the need to worry

    4about security. As their names suggested, these programs and the scholars in them were as concerned with elucidating an ethic of public policy as with devising rigorous research programs. In addition, in the 1980s, concern over the escalation of the Cold War under President Ronald

    5Reagan prompted some research on issues of "non-offensive defense" or "defensive defense”,

    which sought to escape the security dilemma by suggesting military postures which provided security without threatening one's neighbors. Some of this work was highly technical and concerned with the performance characteristics of particular weapons systems but much of it

     3 Joseph S. Nye and Sean Lynn-Jones, "International Security Studies: A Report of a Conference on the State of the Field," International Security, Vol. 12, No. 4 (Spring 1988): 5-27.

     4 Walt, "Renaissance," P. 224; J. David Singer, "An Assessment of Peace Research," International Security, Vol.

    1, No. 1 (Summer 1976): 118-137; George Quester, "International Security Criticisms of Peace Research," in George A. Lopez (ed.), Peace Studies: Past and Future, pp. 98-105.

     5 David Gates, Non-Offensive Defence: An Alternative Strategy for NATO? ( New York St. Martin's Press, 1991);

    Bjorn Moller and Hakan Wiberg (eds.), Non-Offensive Defence for the Twenty-First Century (Boulder: Westview

    Press, 1994); and Anders Boserup and Robert Neild (eds.), The Foundations of Defensive Defence (New York: St.

    Martin's Press, 1990). Much of the work during the 1980s was published in German and Swedish.

    was constructivist in orientation and is difficult to characterize as either scholarly or policy relevant.

    The traditionalist research agenda has narrowed dramatically over the past decade. Currently, the most vibrant area in traditional security studies is work on the democratic peace which speaks directly to the issues of threat assessment, deterrence and signaling, and the use of force. Although some observers have evinced a weariness with democratic peace research -

    6justifiably since much of it now revolves around coding and semantics - there remain many

    untapped areas of study. Most notably we still do not know whether the democratic peace occurs due to single or multiple causal processes, how and why "stable peace" relationships

    7emerge, and the precise role of information and transparency in signaling resolve. The

    traditionalist research agenda has also been active in examining the links between national

    89culture and the use and control of force, the effectiveness of economic sanctions, the nature of

    101112military innovation, the offense-defense balance, and proliferation.

     6 See, for instance, the extended debate in International Security on this issue collected,, in Michael E. Brown, et

    al. (eds), Debating the Democratic Peace (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1996); and Charles S. Gochman, Henry

    S. Farber, and Joanne Gowa, "Correspondence: Democracy and Peace," International Security, Vol. 21. No. 3

    (Winter 1996/97): 177-187. 7 For a good discussion of these issues, see the introduction to Miriam Fendius Elman (ed.), Paths to Peace : Is

    Democracy the Answer? (Cambridge, MA: MIT University Press, 1997). 8 See, for instance, Elizabeth Kier, Imagining War.- French Military Doctrine between the War (Princeton:

    Princeton University Press, 1997); Peter J. Katzenstein, Cultural Norms and National Security (Ithaca, NY:

    Cornell University Press, 1996); Stephen Peter Rosen, Societies and Military Power: India and Its Armies

    (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1996); Alastair Iain Johnston, Cultural Realism: Strategic Culture and

    Grand Strategy in Chinese History (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995); Peter J. Katzenstein (ed.), The

    Culture of National Security: Norms and Identity in World Politics (New York: Columbia University Press,

    1996); and Michael C. Desch, "Culture Clash: Assessing the Importance of Ideas in Security Studies," International Security Vol. 23, No. 1 (Summer 1998): 141-170. 9 See, for instance, Lisa Martin, Coercive Cooperation: Explaining Multilateral Economic Sanctions (Princeton:

    Princeton University Press, 1992); Robert A. Pape, "Why Economic Sanctions Do Not Work," International

    Security, Vol. 22, No. 2 (Fall 1997): 90-136; Kimberley Ann Elliott, "The Sanctions Glass: Half Full or Completely Empty?" International Security, Vol. 23, No. 1 (Summer 1998): 50-65; Robert A. Pape, "Why

    Economic Sanctions Still Do Not Work," International Security, Vol. 23, No. 1 (Summer 1998): 66-77; and Gary

    Clyde Hufbauer, et al., Economic Sanctions Reconsidered, 2" rev. ed., 2 vols. (Washington, DC: Institute for

    International Economics, 1990). It is fair to note that the economics sanctions literature is only tangentially related to the traditionalists focus on the use of force. However, if sanctions are effective, then they act as a substitute for the use of force. 10 Deborah D. Avant, Political Institutions and Military Change: Lessons from Peripheral Wars (Ithaca: Cornell

    University Press, 1994); Geoffrey Parker, The Military Revolution: Military Innovation and the Rise of the West,

    1500-1800 (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996); Williamson Murray and Allan R. Millett (eds.), Military Innovation in the Interwar Period (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University

    However, the traditionalist agenda is lagging behind policy developments. For instance, despite significant reductions in the nuclear forces of the superpowers, there has been virtually no work done on multilateral nuclear deterrence. Although the U.S. Congress and military focuses a great deal of attention on the development of theater ballistic missile defense, few scholars are examining the implications of this development on either regional or systemic security. Finally, while the U.S. military is heavily engaged in considering the implications of an emerging revolution in military affairs (RMA), academic considerations of the use of force

    13have yet to integrate these developments. These are all issues which, a decade ago, would

    14have been at the center of the traditionalists' research agenda.

    In large part, this narrowing of the research agenda among traditionalists has contributed to the popularity of the "widener" positions. "Wideners" believe that the nature of security is changing. They point to the increased importance of non-traditional security concerns, including

Press, 1996); and Stephen Peter Rosen, Winning the next war: innovation and the modem military (Ithaca, NY:

    Cornell University Press, 1991). 11 See Sean M. Lynn-Jones, "Offense-Defense Theory and Its Critics," Security Studies, Vol. 4, No. 4 (Summer

    1995): 660-691; Stephen Van Evera, "Offense, Defense, and the Causes of War," International Security, Vol. 22,

    No. 4 (Spring 1998): 5-43; and Charles L. Glaser and Chaim Kaufmann, "What is the Offense-Defense Balance and How Can we Measure it?" International Security, Vol. 22, No. 4 (Spring 1998):44-82. 12 Scott D. Sagan and Kenneth Waltz, The Spread Of Nuclear Weapons: A Debate (New York: W.W. Norton,

    1995); Brad Roberts, "From Nonproliferation to Antiproliferation," Vol. 18, No. 1 (Summer 1993): 139-173; Peter R. Lavoy, "The Strategic Consequences of Nuclear Proliferation: A Review Essay," Security Studies, Vol. 4,

    No. 4 (Summer 1995): 695-753. 13 One notable exception is Lawrence Freedman, "The Revolution in Strategic Affairs," Adelphi Paper 318

    (London: International Institute for Strategic Studies, 1998). The Army War College's Strategic Studies Institute (SSI) has published an extensive series of monographs on the RMA; however, this work is not considered to be in the academic mainstream. For a full list of SSI publications, please see http://carlisle- 14 John Mearsheimer, for instance, discussed the influence of precision guided munitions on use of force decisions in Central Europe. See John J. Mearsheimer, Conventional Deterrence (Ithaca: Cornell University

    Press, 1984). Charles Glaser's analysis of nuclear deterrence had direct implications for the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI). Charles Glaser, "Why Even Good Defenses May be Bad," International Security, Vol. 9, No. 2

    (Fall 1984): 92-123; Glaser, "Do we Want the Missiles Defenses We Can Build?" International Security, Vol - IO,

    No. I (Summer , 1985): 25-57; Barry Posen's work on inadvertant escalation suggested dangers in NATO plans and deployments in northern Europe. Barry R. Posen, "Inadvertent Nuclear War? Escalation and NATO's Northern Flank," International Security, Vol. 7, No. 2 (Fall 1982): 28-54.

    transnational threats such as organized crime, global concerns such as environmental

    15degradation, and the increased importance of regions and institutions as new security actors.

    "Wideners" start from the basic premise that security involves threats to core values of

    16referent objects -- whether they be regions, states, subnational groups, or even individuals.

    Cast broadly, this definition obviates the need for identifying threatening actors, eliminates the state-centric focus of the traditionalists, and opens the security studies field to many important and emerging issues.

    "Wideners" view this expansion of security studies as finally freeing the field from the unnatural strictures imposed during the Cold War. After all, why should we only study state

    17insecurity caused by other states? Individuals can also be insecure. And the sources of

    individual insecurity come as often from economic or environmental factors as from military threats. Traditionalists respond to the "widener" position by saying, "yes, these are all major problems, but what makes them security problems?"

    Ultimately, both, sides make both good and bad arguments. First the bad: "wideners," at some level, reduce the discussion to a debate on semantics. Of course, there are other sources of "insecurity" defined broadly than the military component. Equally obvious, however, is that security studies is not and cannot be concerned with all forms of "insecurity." Are we next going to do research on human psychology to find the causes of low self-esteem? In short, just because we call something security or insecurity does not mean that it belongs in an intellectually coherent research program named "security studies."

    Second, "wideners" sometimes support their position by stating that since military threats have diminished, it is only natural to expand the field to consider other sources of

     15 Richard H-. Schultz, Jr., "Introduction to International Security," in Schultz, et al. (eds.), Security Studies-for

    the Twenty-First Century (Washington: Brassey's, 1997), p. 43-44. 16 Buzan, Security, pp. 5-8. 17 On this topic, see Barry Buzan, People, States, and Fear: An Agenda for International Security Studies in the

    Post-Cold War Era, 2" Edition (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 1991), pp. 35-56. Buzan raises the interesting argument that in many cases states rather than being security providers generate insecurity.

    insecurity. This is, of course, a flawed argument. If physicists manage to develop a grand unified theory thus solving all current problems in physics, would they be justified to expand the field to consider chemistry or psychology? Similarly, claiming the research in the field must change because current international conditions make military security less relevant or because many of the traditional areas of concern have been studied in detail makes no conceptual sense. If security is truly becoming unimportant, that is a reason to eliminate the study of security, not redefine it to remain compelling.

    Finally, the "wideners" make a flawed argument when they point out that money and public interest both point to a new definition of security. Several prominent foundations, which used to fund research on traditional security, now largely fund projects on new threats. And public opinion polls routinely show that, for Americans at least, military security ranks well below drugs, crime, and economic insecurity as sources of concern. However, developing a coherent academic field of study is not a popularity contest. Of course, scholars need financial support to do their research, and people will devise research projects that have a good chance of being funded. But being funded is not the definition of a successful or coherent project.

    The traditionalists also make some bad arguments. For instance, the traditionalists are wrong in their overemphasis on military security. Military threats have never existed purely in a military realm guided by the security dilemma and the offense-defense balance. Rather, force has been used or threatened most often in response to ideological, economic, and personal

    18factors. To the extent that there are systematic patterns of political, economic, cultural causes and military effects, then these should be covered even under the narrowest definition of the term "security studies." Security studies is not -- and never has been -- solely the study of defense policy.

     18 For an extended discussion of the issues that causes wars in the Western world since 1648, see Kalevi J. Holsti,

    Peace and War: Armed Conflicts and International Order, 1648-1989 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,


    In addition, some traditionalists object to the "widener" agenda as a ploy to redirect research and public policy dollars. This argument has some legitimacy in that various actors in academia and government are seeking to redefine security in self-interested way, but that said, if security is changing, then it is changing. We cannot impose rigid definitions of the term “security" purely because we are concerned about the public policy implications of accepting a new definition.

    By contrast, both sides also makes some good arguments which, collectively suggest a first cut at assessing a possible direction for the future of security studies. Among these arguments, we might suggest four propositions which both traditionalists and "wideners" might accept. First, economics, resource scarcity, and environment degradation are becoming, at least relatively, more important as potential causes of interstate conflict. Second, due to proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and increases in international travel and communication, the relative ability of non-state actors to utilize force is increasing. In other words, the traditional monopoly of states over the use of forces is weakening, relatively speaking. Third, whereas in the recent past, the most significant threats to the core values of the major powers came from other states, environmental degradation, disease, and transnational threats are increasingly important. Fourth, the effectiveness of traditional tools of security policy are in question in a new era which features changing state motivations and the rise of potentially dangerous non-state actors.

    Before explicitly considering a possible synthesis of the traditionalist and "widener" positions, it is first necessary to consider the other three schisms in the field, that is among the different varieties of "wideners," the increasing methodological divide in security studies, and the gap between policy and scholarship.


    There are significant distinctions and divisions among adherents to the "widener" position, which raise important issues for the future of security studies. "Wideners" propose

    expanding the scope of security studies in a wide variety of ways; however, the "'widener" position can be. divided productively into two categories: actor-centric and trend-centric.

    Actor-centric "wideners" focus on the emergence of new actors in the security realm. The most important of these new actors are terrorist groups, transnational criminal organizations, trans-state or sub-national movements (including ethnic and religious groups), and computer

    19hackers of various sorts. The groups can sometimes overlap. For instance terrorist groups, focused on achieving a specific political goal, may employ or become hackers to wage information warfare against target states. Criminal organizations and trans-state groups often employ political violence to achieve their goals. However, the importance of the actor-centric perspective is that it posits the existence of specific entities and groups which deliberately attack the core values -- usually defined as territorial integrity, political independence, and sociocultural-economic viability -- of states. Furthermore, this position claims a growing importance due to the proliferation of weapons and technology and the decentralized infrastructure (and hence increased vulnerable nodes and targets) of modem states.

    By contrast the trend-centric position points to the growing importance of global “security" issues, for instance, environmental degradation, resource scarcity, and even international capital flows which limit the ability of states to control and stabilize their political

    20economy. These global issues are related in that they all threaten the core values of states.

     19 See, for instance, Roy Godson, "Transstate Security," in Shultz, Security Studies, pp. 81-118; Robert Kaplan, stThe Ends of the Earth: A Journey to the Dam of the 21 Century (New York: Random House, 1996); Samuel

    Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of the World Order (New York: Simon and Schuster,

    1996); Louise Shelley, "Transnational Organized Crime: An Imminent Threat to the Nation-State?" Journal of

    International Affairs, Vol. 48, No. 2 (Winter 1995). 20 See, for instance, Richard Rosecrance, "Economics and National Security: The Evolutionary Process," in Shultz, Security Studies, pp. 209-246; and the responses by Robert Gilpin (pp.238-246)and David A. Lake (247-st252) in the same volume; Robert Reich, The Work of Nations: Preparing Ourselves for the 21 Century

    Capitalism (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1991); Jeffrey A. Frieden, "Invested Interests: The Politics of National Economic Policies in a World of Global Finance," International Organization, Vol. 45 (1991): 425-45 1; Terry

    Terriff, "Environmental Degradation and Security," in Shultz, Security Studies, pp. 253-280; Richard A.

    Matthew, "Environmental Security and Conflict: An Overview of the Current Debate," National Security Studies

    Quarterly, Vol. 1, No. 2 (Summer 1995): 1 -10; Rachel Fleishman, “Environmental Security: Concept and

    Practice," National Security Studies Quarterly, Vol. 1, No. 2 (Summer 1995): 11-16; Daniel Deudney and

    Richard Matthew (eds.), Contested Ground: Security and Conflict in the New Environmental Politics (Albany,

    NY: SUNY Press, 1996); Shaukat Hassan, "Environmental Issues and Security in South Asia," Adelphi Paper

    262 (London: IISS, 199 1); Terry Terrill, "The Earth Summit: Are There any Security Implications?" Arms

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