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On the Expanded Security Concept

by Lothar Brock Friday, Feb. 17, 2006 at 6:26 AM
mbatko@lycos.com

As the term social security contributed to undergirding public security against private life risks as a legal claim of individuals visavis society, the new international securiity discourse upgrades civil conflict resolution.

FROM “EXPANDED SECURITY” TO GLOBAL CONFLICT INTERVENTION

A Mid-Term Review of the New Security Discourse

By Lothar Brock

[This article published in: Wissenschaft und Frieden, 2005-4 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, http://www.friedenskooperative.de/iwif/wf405-24.htm. Prof. Lothar Brock is research leader of the Hesse Peace and Conflict research foundation and chairperson of the EKD (Evangelical Church in Germany) board for development and the environment.]




Since the end of the 1980s, non-military political fields – hunger, poverty, environmental destruction, discrimination and new sicknesses (Aids) have been identified as non-military endangerments to security. The initiative came from civil society. With the help of an `expanded idea of security,’ attention and resources could be mobilized and security policy demilitarized. What was accomplished? Today the `expanded idea of security’ is a standard formula applied from the UN Security Council to the National Security Council of the US. Like the Sachs report on Millennium Development Goals, the high level panel that published a report on UN reform in December 2004 and General secretary Kofi Annan who used this report as a model for his own proposals started from an expanded idea of security. Was this a breakthrough? Undoubtedly. However the reform of the United Nations sought by the General secretary has not helped him much. The success suggested by the general acceptance of an expanded idea of security could prove to be a Pyrhhic victory if military politicians profit more from the expansion of the security concept than advocates of civilian conflict resolution. Whether this fear is justified and what could follow from this will be discussed here.

The past evaluation of the new security discourse is mixed. On one side, an astonishing differentiation of non-military forms of conflict resolution occurs under appeal to an expanded idea of security. Since the beginning of the 1990s, a regular `industry’ has formed for conceptual innovation in the areas of civilian conflict intervention, crisis prevention and peace consolidation. From the beginning, this development has taken place in the close interaction of science, civil society and politics and led to a professionalization of civilian conflict resolution beyond the 1992 agenda for peace of the former UN General secretary Boutros Boutros-Ghali.

Building and developing civilian conflict resolution is in no way synonymous with declining military intervention practices. On the contrary, the renewed efforts around civilizing conflict resolution correlate temporally with an expansion of military options. Territorial defense gives way to global military conflict intervention. NATO and the EU add military task forces that can be rapidly deployed at any places of the world. The German army participates in peace missions today with 7,200 soldiers. This development is partly joined with efforts at developing collective peace security through the United Nations according to chapter VII of the UN Charter. This is gratifying. However the expansion of the security concept goes along with an expansion of the idea of defense (Art. 51, UN Charter) and in this way with a `de-tabooing of war.’

The expansion of the security concept is politically ambivalent. It can be used to underscore the demand for civilian conflict resolution and justify an expansion of military security policy externally and restriction of civil rights and freedom internally. This political ambivalence of the term corresponds to its analytical vagueness. This ambivalence hides contradictions and conflicts over goals instead of uncovering them. The rhetorical synchronization of political fields (developmental cooperation, combating Aids, strengthening security and recognizing cultural difference as security policy) replaces an analysis of the connection between economic marginalization, discrimination, state collapse, foreign cultural determination, rise of new sicknesses and violence.

This vagueness of the expanded security concept is one of the reasons for its political ambivalence. Everyone can use it since it can mean anything. The expansion of the security concept is synonymous with expanding the spectrum of threats confronting people. However the escalation of feelings of threat promotes acceptance of military provisions or military encroachments in acute conflicts more than political reliance on protracted civil forms of conflict resolution. Therefore no opportunity exists to acknowledge new threats and the responsibility to protect.

FROM PEACE TO (IN-) SECURITY

In the early years of peace- and conflict research, the idea of peace was controversial. The distinction between negative and positive peace was central. Negative peace was largely understood as inadequate since it could mean a cemetery peace, a peace of violent pacification and put a fraudulent veneer over structural violence. The all-pervasive militarization of political rule in Latin America in the 1970s was a shattering example. Peace was established there with the help of brutal repression. Consequently, many justified (tacitly) the wars of national liberation as wars to establish a positive peace. However the negative peace also had a positive side in view of the confrontation of the superpowers and the possibility of a nuclear war.

Paradoxically, the security term moved into the foreground of the debates in the 1980s when the danger of a nuclear war receded and the peace discourse was a security discourse. The co0mplete transfer occurred with the end of the East-West conflict. The trick with which this happened without loss of face for the peace movement consisted in recourse to an `expanded security concept’ that offered the advantage of standing for everything desired under a positive peace. The expanded security concept made possible addressing those feelings and needs that were only inadequately grasped with a pejorative undertone in the negative peace. Peace-, environmental, and human rights groups wanted to use these feelings (the uneasiness about violent conflicts and liberation wars) and needs (for security in rapid change) strategically to dispute the high politics agenda and mobilize more public attention and more financial means for goals that earlier were regarded as `low politics’: protection of the environment, enforcement of human rights, abolition of sexual discrimination, recognition of cultural difference and building developmental cooperation.

As introduction of the term `social security’ contributed to undergirding public security against private life risks as a (legal) claim of the individual vis-à-vis society, the new international security discourse has contributed to upgrading civil conflict resolution as a standard. The second great achievement of the new security discourse is doubtlessly making the individual as the object of international security policy the focus of attention of international politics instead of the long dominant fixation on the state. Thinking in categories of national security is beginning to crack through the category of human security.

As appears in Germany, `social security’ exists where it is recognized as a standard of appropriate claims. This is not a security in relation to the forced attempt at a new privatization of provisions mainly `sold’ as a measure for saving social security under changing environmental conditions (globalization). The general acceptance of an expanded security concept hardly offers a reliable bulwark against the temptation of politics to downgrade civil conflict resolution as a follow-up to military intervention and subsume `human security’ under national security. The political importance of `human security’ in the sense of responsibility to protect grows to the extent that it agrees with the national security interests of potential interveners. This appears in connection with the great military events since the end of the East-West conflict, with the Kosovo war and the wars against the Taliban and the Saddam regime in Iraq.

FROM SECURITY TO WAR

As to the Kosovo war, the demonstrative reference to the security of people was overshadowed by the security of states. The possibilities of civil conflict intervention (for example in the scope of the OSZE mission) were hardly exhausted when NATO decided for military confrontation (with the subsequent consequence of war). The proportionality of military action is controversial since the endangerment of human security increases drastically in war (which really cannot surprise anyone). In addition, the Kosovo war represented entrance into an international law policy that aimed at extending individual state action possibilities in using force against the restrictions of the UN Charter. This politics was displayed over against Afghanistan and Iraq. In both cases, the US appealed to resolutions of the UN Security Council. However this happened in a way that left the use of force to the largely free discretion of the intervening states.

This international law policy as a rule opposed the civil society security discourse. On the other hand, it participated unintentionally in its formation. Faced with numerous violent interstate conflicts and the difficulty of reacting appropriately to this violence, the civil security discourse made use of the vocabulary of `new wars,’ `humanitarian intervention,’ and `just war.’ The emphasis on the `new wars’ helped arouse broad public interest in the violent conflicts in the South and in the former socialist camp. At the same time, it suggested that the old rules of international law cannot and should not be valid against these new wars. The rapid spread of the figure `humanitarian intervention’ could be understood on one hand as an expression of the `power of morality’ (Hasenclever 2000). On the other hand, it meant that two kinds of sovereignty exist over against the states in which the `new wars’ occur – the inviolable sovereignty of liberal democracies that were and are not ready to submit to an obliging collective peace assurance and the limited sovereignty of `failed states’ or rogue states against whom both the intervention prohibition of the UN Charter (Art. 27) and the prohibition of force (Art. 27) are no longer in effect. A comparison presses here with the prisoners in Guantanamo who like rogue states are denied a claim to legal protection.

The speech about “humanitarian intervention” that has subsided supported the international law policy of liberal democracies oriented to freedom of action. This phrase blurred the distinction between collective peace security according to chapter VII of the UN Charter and unilateral or alliance-supported exercise of power. When people are in distress, as the figure of “humanitarian intervention” assumes, that is a sufficient legal foundation for an intervention – if the Security Council as the only authority that can authorize the use of force is or seems to be unable to act.

Blurring distinctions was also blatant in reflection on the “just war.” This doctrine can be cited for both legiimation and criticism of wars. However the conflict whether a war is just or unjust passes by the central point. The concept itself is “unjust” since it is captive to a logic where the individual state is at once a party and (legal-) authority in a dispute. In this sense, the crucial problem is that this approach ultimately reserves to the individual state to decide over the justice or injustice of military action. This concept undermines the idea of collective peace security according to chapter VII of the UN Charter.

The figure of “human security” is not as innocent as it seems. The upgrading of persons as subjects of legitimate security claims over against states relied on the argumentation that there is a responsibility of the international community to protect people from lawless violence. The recognition of this responsibility is an advance in upgrading the individual as an international law subject (especially in the area of human rights). However if observance of international responsibility is not bound to firm rules, the emphasis on the categories of “human security” expands the spectrum of reasons that can be offered for an interventionist policy. In this sense, the danger exists of promoting an international law arbitrariness that lowers the thresholds for military solutions and forces he redevelopment and use of civil preventive action possibilities to the background.” Reference to a need for humanitarian intervention could be a justification or pretext.

FROM EXPANDED SECURITY TO PROTECTION FROM LAWLESS VIOLENCE

To counter this danger, I plead for a narrow security concept, namely security as protection from lawless violence. A narrow security concept allows precise identification of the tasks of security policy. What is central is not the good life in itself but the challenge of enabling people to settle their conflicts without use of force. Limits are set to this task since the capability for nonviolent conflict resolution can never be developed consistently and completely. Therefore the “civilizing process” is not synonymous with overcoming violence but with restraining lawless violence, that is mob justice or taking the law into one’s own hands. On the plane of the United Nations, the general prohibition of force and he command of peaceful enclosure of conflicts (chapter VI, UN Charter) are joined with measures for collective peace security (chapter VII) that include the use of force after exhausting all other means. Two things follow from this: the precedence of civil before military conflict intervention and the binding of military conflict intervention to the rule system of the Charter. With the guarantee of security as protection from lawless violence, the criterion “law” always refers to both the local situation and the way of interfering in this situation. Thus the narrow security concept is reflexive. It includes the self=-perception of security policy as policy constantly in danger of producing new insecurity.

On closer examination, civil conflict resolution involves a narrow security concept, not a broad concept. The idea of civil conflict resolution establishes a primacy of civil over military conflict resolution and the strict bond of military interventions to the rules of the UN system. To that extent, the idea of civil conflict resolutions appeals unnecessarily and recklessly to an expanded security concept. The expanded security concept is unnecessary because it contributes nothing to the normative justification of civil conflict resolution (and much to the confusion of problems). The appeal to a broad security concept is reckless because it annuls the normative tension between civil and military in the figure of a complete security policy. Criticism of violence is inscribed in a security concept understood as protection from lawless (physical) force. This included the distinction between legal and lawless violence since the difference between the two is not pre-given to politics but is influenced by politics (for example, in international law policy). In any case, the mode of using force is always a theme of a narrow security concept.

The German government’s May 2004 action plan is criticized for refusing political priorities in listing 160 measures for civil conflict resolution. It could prove to be a waste of time and effort since it follows the model of the expanded security concept. A narrow security concept or the concentration on a core interest of security policy (protection from lawless violence) could be useful in this regard.



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