International Security Studies have traditionally focused on military matters and the use of force, as for example strategy, defense, war studies and national security. One of the contemporary debates around this subject is whether the centrality of war is still relevant on the security agenda. In this article, I will try to present both views, pro and contra.
I will start by agreeing to the suggestion that the threat of war ought to still be the main theme of Security Studies and security policy making. The first argument has to do with the discipline itself. Since it is difficult to separate it from the larger International Relations, the main objective of this discipline too was to avoid the recurrence of a conflict like World War I. Leaving aside the distinctions between the schools of thinking, the threat of war led the field through the Cold War and beyond. It was World War II that proved the potential recurrence of big power conflict and this stabilized the discipline around war. Following this logic, by taking out the military as primary factor, the discipline itself would either disappear or evolve dramatically into something else. With the incorporation of Human Rights and International Development into Security Studies via Human Security, the term ‘security’ itself can lose strength. If all threats to security are put high on the agenda, prioritizing is absent and there will never be enough political will to tackle everything.
Second, even if we accept that war is no longer conceivable among Western democracies, it must be due to having the challenge of avoiding conflict high on the agenda. Whether we think about the US protection of Western Europe against the Soviet expansion through a stabilizing agent like NATO, or about eliminating divergences among Europeans states through common institutions and free trade, the aim was peace and security defined as absence of war or its threat. In my opinion, if scholars and policy-makers shift away radically from trying to solve the puzzle of security in military terms, there is a great risk that the horrors of the past will be forgotten and thus can repeat themselves.
Finally, the products of the academia must be relevant to the policy-making. States still consider the threat of war as up to date and still invest a lot in the military sector. The study of any national security strategy reveals how the use of force is indispensable. Whether it is considered as a unilateral tool, or a tool that needs international support or at least consensus in the case of Europe’s CFSP, the fact remains that national security strategies put a lot of focus on violent conflict. Thus, a discipline of Security Studies that revolves around human rights, social injustice, and other human security issues would in the best case produce policy proposals that do not consider the demand of political leaders and so it will not be taken into account. In the worst case, it will be picked up and used as sugar-coating for militarist purposes and ‘defiant unilateralism’.
Now the real question would be why do states still contemplate military engagement and war? The answer must be related to the threats. Even proponents of soft or smart power agree that the use of force is not obsolete. It is just changing due to nuclear proliferation and the emergence of non-state combatant actors. Terrorism, WMD and global criminal networks are still the main challenges of a country like the US, alongside with climate change, pandemic disease and cyber-security. Moreover, radical proposers of liberal imperialism even prescribe the use of double-standard and of the ‘laws of the jungle’ when dealing with the pre-modern world. Security can also be seen as the ability of a political elite to project power and control over a territory. This is the sovereignty interpretation of security, which requires border protection in order for the state itself to survive. The threat of war is perpetual in the minds of leaders and in the minds of the population who delegate military power to them.
With regard to the opposing camp, the claim is that war and the threat of war have seen a decline in international affairs and consequentially the focus of Security Studies ought to shift away from the military area. The first argument to support this claim has to do with the fast reduction in the number of interstate conflict after the end of the Cold War and its replacement by intrastate ones. In this case, the civilian population is part of the equation and non-state actors cannot be easily identified. Therefore, another approach is required when suggesting security policies. One that differs from classical ones, in the sense that it avoids putting military calculations on top of the list. Negotiations or even non-intervention are considered by the international community as instruments to end such conflicts since doing the contrary would sometimes create complications. Moreover, the EU’s global engagement through economic aid and commercial incentives is seen as a more effective way of altering the behaviour of actors and contributing to stability in the world.
Having touched on the economic side of the global order, we must present the second argument which is the vital place of economy in ensuring international stability. International economic security is seen here as the maintenance of the current liberal order, rather then the creation of an alternative one which would incorporate human security values. Tariffs and trade wars, energy leverage, the vulnerability of the monetary system can all have an immense destructive scale to the ‘economic well-being of billions of individuals’. Such scenarios turn the page from military power to the economic power of states. The most interesting instrument of economic power appears to be sanctions. Trade sanctions, travel bans but also positive sanctions like tariff reductions and aid can be applied against state and non-state actors in order to affect political behaviour. Relations based on economic self-interest, interaction and interdependence seem to be a solution to stability for Security Studies’ scholars ,without resorting to military action.
Finally, there is the most recent argument centered around the concept of Human Security. This concept goes beyond statism and national security interpretations. It drops the focus on the threat of military aggression towards governments, in favour of analysis around the protection of individuals against any type of situations and threats that could endanger their ‘survival, livelihood and dignity’. The aim of Human Security Studies is the emancipation, equality and freedom of all human beings, which would eventually lead to universal values like peace, fairness and justice. The empirical proof of the ascendancy of Human Security on the agenda is the UN’s project of the Millennium Development Goals. The ambitious list includes eradication of poverty and hunger, universal education, gender equality, improvement of global health and environmental sustainability. However, the deadline for achieving all these is one year from now and the limited success gives us a bleak glimpse into the governments’ true interest in humanitarian causes.
In conclusion, to my mind, the balance is leaning towards a continued importance of war and its threat in the security community. Military conflict is impregnated in the collective memory and the atrocities of war cannot be so easily put aside. Generations change but skepticism continues to persist in the face of contemporary invasions, land occupations and failing states. However, one must recognize the change in the international order and the increasing strength of other issues and necessities that affect the everyday lives of humans, regardless of nationality. Rights and freedoms, social justice, economic opportunity and the right to have a long, healthy life are being required more and more in international fora. Their satisfaction are indispensable to stability and prosperity which in turn could keep weapons down. But the weapons will always remain at hand.
References and further reading:
Cooper R., The new liberal imperialism, Observer Worldview Extra, 7 April 2002;
National Security Strategy, May 2010, The White House
Nossel S., Smart Power. Reclaiming Liberal Internationalism, Foreign Affairs, Volume 83 No. 2, 2004;
Nye J., The Future of Power, 2011, Public Affairs New York;
Rees W., The US-EU Security Relationship, 2011, Palgrave Macmillan;
Smith M., International Security. Politics, Policy, Prospects, 2010, Palgrave Macmillan;
UN Millennium Project, website: http://www.unmillenniumproject.org/goals/;
United Nations Trust Fund for Human Security, Human Security in Theory and Practice. Application of the Human Security Concept, 2009, Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, UN.
US Constitution, website: http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/constitution_transcript.html
Yes, You Should Start Caring About Politics!
One of the most common things that you hear from people a lot of the time is something along the lines of “I just don’t really care about politics.” In fact, you might have even said something along those lines yourself. And it can be tempting to fall into this line of thinking. After all, politics are hardly the most exciting or exotic things in the world. However, the truth is that they impact your life in different ways every single day and if you choose to ignore politics, then that just meant that you’re going to end up falling victim to policies that harm you and the people around you. With that in mind, here are some ways that you can start being more politically minded right now.
Know the issues
Do you know where you stand on many of the most important issues of the modern day? Do you know what most of those issues are? The truth is that many people would rather ignore a lot of the problems that society and the world at large face simply because it can feel as though they’re too big to deal with. Things like the economy, climate change, and social justice aren’t just abstract concepts; they’re things that impact the lives of real people every single day. Being more informed about the issues will allow you to have a much better understanding of your own political views.
Know who to speak to
Do you know who your senator is? Your representative? Most people tend to only know major politicians who have held office at one point or another. Sure, you probably know the president or a senator like John Mccain. But what about all of the other senators like Doug Jones or Mike Crapo? These are the people you can actually contact if you want to start making some changes in the world. Getting to know who you can contact can help you feel much more involved in the modern political process.
Forget about personalities and focus on policies
Modern politics has become as much of a game of personalities as anything else. But the truth is that the personalities of individual politicians are far less important than the policies that they and their party want to enact. After all, the policies are the things that will actually make a difference in people’s lives. You should never vote just because you like or dislike the way that a particular politician talks or what their personality seems to be like. Always vote on policies, not personalities.
Now, this doesn’t mean that you should suddenly let politics take over every conversation that you have or that you need to be constantly thinking about it. But trying to bury your head in the sand and ignore the things that are going on around you isn’t going to do you any good. The only way that you can start to make some genuine changes in the world is if you face up to the realities of the modern world and try to do something about it.
How Mafia-States Get Away with Criminality
In theory, all 195 states adhere to the Charter of the United Nations and therefore pledge “to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained”. In other words, to play the game and adhere to basic governmental principles. That’s in theory: in practice, a handful of states in the world behave like mafias, and get away with it.
President George W. Bush first used the terms “failed states” or “rogue states”, during his office. Rogue states seem more adapted because, if they are failed states in the sense that they do not carry out their mission, they are not failed for everyone. Afghanistan is, still today, one of the most prominent examples of how to get personally rich by pretending to represent people. In the wake of the NATO intervention in Afghanistan, billions of dollars were poured into the country in reconstruction efforts, based on the belief that if the population was schooled and busy at work, they would be less likely to join rebel ranks. The idea was good, but most of the massive funds were sidetracked to line officials’ pockets and Afghanistan is pretty much in the same shape as it was before the program, if not worse. Business Insider covered the subject (1): “All districts receive central government budget to cover salaries of front-line forces,” reporter Jessica Purkiss wrote for the Bureau. “In many areas in Afghanistan, some of this budget disappears and the actual number of officers tasked with holding back the Taliban is much lower than the number actually allotted.”
And such rogue states also exist close to the Western sphere of Europe and the US. Almost every single State in Central and South America is at the warning level on the Fragile State Index (2) (the term was brushed up to sound less definitively damning than President Bush’s wording). Hungary was bashed this year, along with the rest of EU low-performers, for dropping sharply in the EU’s good governance ranking, as reported by Nicolaj Nielsen, for the EU observer (3): “Bulgaria scored the worst among EU states with 41, followed by Greece (44), Italy (47), Romania (48), Hungary (48), and Croatia (49). Dolan faulted the crackdown on civil society and other independent institutions in Croatia and Hungary for their worsening performance. Both governments were also embroiled in scandals last year. In one case, Hungary’s government allegedly funneled money from the Central Bank to friends and family.” Prime Minister Viktor Orbán learned from the report (4) that “Hungary loses 200 billion forints every year due to the corruption that exists in public procurement cases.”
Not to forget that States are not all mutually recognized and accepted, some of them are self-proclaimed. While some do indeed strive to carry out their stated mission and serve the people they claim to represent, some other are merely mafia groups with a political cover, which deal in various traffics and racketeering. Bordering Morocco, Algeria and Mauritania, lies Western Sahara, where a group named the Polisario Front announced to the world that it was the shield of the Sahrawi people, who originate from the arid strip of land, with the stated intent of creating a sovereign state. But that must be put into perspective with the endless list of allegations and accusations carried against it, regarding the Polisario’s management of refugee camps in Algeria for example. The self-proclaimed government of the Sahrawi – namely the SADR (Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic) – is known for keeping the refugees captive in the camps, or keeping family members as hostage to guarantee men’s returns, maintaining a general state of violence and lawlessness within the compound. In addition, the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) has serious doubts (5) as to what becomes of the humanitarian aid it sends. It suspects not only the food to be sidetracked and sold on the black market, but also to be requested in excessive numbers – the Polisario front claims it holds up to 200 000 refugees but has systematically refused census, leading humanitarian donors to believe the figures are doubtful.
Can this be avoided? Hardly, at the general level. Pablo Escobar coined the phrase which underlies the entire system : Plata o plomo (silver or lead). Officials could be paid off to keep silent and play along, or be shot. Therefore, it is in the nature of corruption systems to maintain themselves because, should a “pure” official arise, he will be removed and replaced by a more complacent one.
Mafia states use the cover of darkness or, better still, a politically activist stance. The Colombian FARCs – Polisario’s allies, incidentally… – and the Medellin Cartel, run by Pablo Escobar, had an intense PR activity with many “social and humanitarian” poses, to help improve their public image and stymie political push-backs. The Polisario Front has moved much of its assaults to the judicial level, in a new form of “civilized” piracy, including with the surprise attempt to seize a Moroccan shipload earlier this year in South Africa. “The conclusion of this case will actually tell us whether it is now conceivable, on the judiciary level, that international shipping industry – which carries 90% of global trade – become hostage to some form of unprecedented and increasingly vicious political piracy,” wrote Philippe Delebecque (6), a French judge specializing in maritime affairs.
Mafia states are here to stay, because the mafia creates the state, and not the other way around. Once the mafia has developed its tentacles and political power enough, it will make kings and topple uncooperative administrators. Other states in the world are fully aware of this fact, and that if they bust a mafia-state, another will replace it within weeks. So, in the best cases, neighboring countries let it be; in the worst cases, they get involved in the graft.
Should You Support Universal Basic Income? Who else is in favour?
In the previous article “Universal Basic Income: In Action” we explored that Universal Basic Income under different variants is already being put to trial in different provinces of a number of countries around the world. Before that, in “Universal Basic Income: The Idea” we weighed the potential of UBI in creating a monumental change in the way humanity as a society functions as of today. While there’s still quite some time required to ascertain how easily and efficiently the system can be put into effect and whether it should be put into place at all, some of the more apparent advantages, as well as flaws of the system, are repeatedly considered by experts in determining the answers to the aforementioned questions. In addition, many influential figures have also come out both in support of UBI as well as against it. Let’s take a look at the support UBI has garnered as well as the supposed benefits and criticisms of UBI.
Pros of Universal Basic Income
The first argument often cited in favour of UBI is for its potential to alleviate poverty, improve the standard of living and vastly reduce income inequality no matter which country it is implemented in. the Alaska Permanent Fund (AFP), which we’ve already discussed, was instrumental in improving the state’s income equality rank from 30 to 2. UBI trials in Namibia, Kenya, and parts of India have also yielded positive results in this regard. UBI has also resulted in the improvement of health, especially mental health, as reported by people who have been part of UBI trials in Ontario, Canada. UBI also encourages entrepreneurial behaviour since it guarantees basic subsistence thereby providing an incentive for people to take up a line of work of their liking. UBI trials in India and Namibia have also shown that it has helped promote financial decision making by women resulting in their empowerment. A guarantee of a fixed income every month also brings more power to people when it comes to deciding where they should spend money. The Roosevelt Institute research we discussed previously also suggests an overall growth in the US economy with a countrywide implementation of UBI. UBI is also expected to lead to a positive job growth and lower the dropout rates in schools since it provides more security to families.
Cons of Universal Basic Income
The critics of UBI argue that money that is essential for the poor is being redirected towards the wealthy and those citizens who have no need for it. Robert Greenstein, founder and President of Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington D.C. “if you take the dollars targeted on people in the bottom fifth or two-fifths of the population and convert them to universal payments to people all the way up the income scale, you’re redistributing income upward. That would increase poverty and inequality rather than reduce them.” In addition to that, it is often argued that UBI programs are highly ineffective when compared to welfare programs that are implemented on targeted populations. Therefore, unless UBI is implemented without the scrapping off of such welfare schemes, it is likely to find opposition from a huge number of people who currently benefit from these programs. Another argument against UBI one may repeatedly encounter is that UBI reduces the incentive to work, which leads to huge costs for the economy. This may also lead to a dearth of skilled and unskilled labour in the economy. The Swiss government have opposed the implementation of UBI for the very same reason, fearing that the current labour shortages may be exacerbated. Finally, an argument that also holds the door open for many debates is that UBI is too expensive to implement and will cost a lot to the government. As opposed to studies which show a growth in the economies through the implementation of UBI, many economists have also opposed it, claiming that UBI in the more developed nations will be very expensive to guarantee an acceptable standard of living to all the citizens.
Who Supports Universal Basic Income?
Since the idea was first proposed by Sir Thomas More in 1516, UBI has found suitors throughout recent history. Founding father of the United States Thomas Paine was in favour of it, philosopher and Nobel Laureate Bertrand Russell argued in its favour, and even Martin Luther King said: “the solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by a now widely discussed measure: the guaranteed income.” American economist Milton Friedman, Bishop Desmond Tutu, and even former US President Richard Nixon came close to bringing UBI to the United States. As of today, a number of high profile names in the Silicon Valley have expressed their support for UBI. An advocate of entrepreneurship and creativity, Mark Zuckerberg sighted UBI as an worth a look in his statement at his Harvard commencement address: “We should explore ideas like universal basic income to make sure that everyone has a cushion to try new ideas.” Tesla co-founder and CEO Elon Musk believes implementation of UBI is inevitable. “There’s a pretty good chance we end up with a universal basic income, or something like that, due to automation,” Musk said in an interview in 2016. Pierre Omidyar, founder of eBay also donated towards a UBI experiment in Kenya. Coursera founder Andrew Ng expressed on Twitter: “More than ever, we need a basic income to limit everyone’s downside, and better education to give everyone an upside.” The list does not stop here.
UBI has at least gained enough attention to get people, investors, world leaders, and governments to talk about it and more importantly experiment with it. The results are not yet out and will take a considerable amount of time still to be able to present a final verdict on UBI and its effectiveness. However, as robots make humans redundant in recurring waves, is there still enough time to just be experimenting?
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