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close this book Human Security and Mutual Vulnerability
View the document INTRODUCTION
View the document Acknowledgements
View the document Chapter 1: A Framework for Analysis
View the document Chapter 2: Environmental Insecurity
View the document Chapter 3: Economic Insecurity
View the document Chapter 4: Social Insecurity
View the document Chapter 5: Political Insecurity
View the document Chapter 6: Cultural Insecurity
View the document Conclusion
View the document Bibliography


Paradigms of Crisis and the Crisis of Paradigms

To a casual observer of international events, sitting in the comfort of a corporate office, the post 1989 world order may seem like a string of good news. From a conventional point of view, the present appears to contain few security threats. After all, the end of the East-West conflict meant that the possibilities of a nuclear holocaust have all but disappeared. The disintegration of the Soviet Union and the demise of communism could be seen as the global victory of political and economic liberalism (for a most explicit articulation of this business position, see Gee 1994, a response to Kaplan 1993). Some, in the vein of a modern Doctor Panglos have optimistically asserted that "life for the majority of the world's citizens is getting steadily better in almost every category" (Gee 1994).

The past few decades have seen an improvement in human health, education, nutrition and longevity. The rapid expansion of the world economy, which has grown nearly fivefold since 1950, has raised living standards in all but the poorest countries. Food production has easily outstripped population growth. Democracy has advanced in almost every corner of the globe. International security has improved. (Ibid.)

With the end of the East European bloc, the Third World and its plight (articulated in the Non-Aligned Movement, UNCTAD and the South Commission) have also vanished as a source of nuisance for the West (Lane 1992). Furthermore, the crippling debt burden has finally brought most of the South to accept the conditionalities imposed by the international financial community. And without international socialism to assist local revolutionary movements, insurgency looks rather unlikely.

Moreover, a number of major "hot spots" have cooled off: there is qualified peace in Central America, the Iran–Iraq war has ended, Afghanistan and Cambodia are out of the news, the civil strifes in the Horn of Africa (especially in Ethiopia with the independence of Eritrea and Tigray) have come to an apparent end and Germany has been reunited. The two most enduring problems with potentially destabilizing effects, South Africa's apartheid regime and Palestinian self-rule moved decisively toward settlement. In 1993, an ANC government, led by the country's once most notorious political prisoner, Nelson Mandela won the general elections. The following year, an agreement between the PLO and the Israeli government began handing power to an emerging Palestinian entity; the first move toward an independent state. The rebellion in Northern Ireland was settled in 1994, putting an end to decades of sectarian violence. These developments can result in a reduction of military expenditures (Sivard 1989), a slowing down of refugee flows, and a downturn in transnational terrorism. For the superpowers and their more developed allies, demobilization, in theory at least, means the possibility of cashing in a "peace dividend." In addition, Western cooperation under US hegemony, as seen in the UN actions against Iraq and the "peacemaking" operation in Somalia, has brought decisive, yet at times unfocused, intervention to enforce "international law" and "norms of civilized behaviour."

However, there is a more sombre side of the picture. As Pierre Sané, Amnesty International's Secretary General, stated in his 1993 Human Rights Day address:

Four years ago, when the Berlin Wall came tumbling down, we were promised a bright new future. New accountable democratic governments. New prosperity. New cooperation between the governments of the world.... But what do we see? Far from accountable democracies, we see the horror of civil war and governments resorting to the old methods of repression.... Far from prosperity, we see even more people plunged into poverty, sickness and despair.... Far from international cooperation, we see the world community floundering in the face of human rights disasters (Sané 1993).

The disintegration of Eastern Europe has meant the unleashing of deep and vicious social, political and ethnic tensions, the symptoms of which are persistent civil wars, military intervention and border disputes in Chechnya, Georgia, the Central Asian Republics, in the Armenian-Azari region and the multisided conflagration in the former Yugoslavia. The Bosnian war has meant not only vicious and cruel ethnic bloodshed, but also a widening entanglement for would-be "peacekeepers": NATO, the USA, Canada and various East European states, includmg the Ukraine and Russia. Conflict has also spread throughout Africa, as in the Rwanda and Burundi massacres, while deeply seated genocidal confrontations continue in Sudan, Angola, Mozambique and Liberia. Likewise, the aforementioned negotiated dismantling of South Africa's apartheid system has been accomplished in the midst of persistent violence. The same is true with the more recent implementation of the Palestinian–Israeli accord. Violent ethnic conflicts go on unabated in India and Sri Lanka, with prospects of national disintegration. With constant turmoil, refugee-producing zones have just been replaced by new and more active ones. Robert Kaplan's apocalyptic 1993 article in Atlantic Monthly summarizes Western paranoia about the "revenge of the poor." In his "premonition of the future" he envisions:

[A] worldwide demographic, environmental, and societal stress, in which criminal anarchy emerges as the real "strategic" danger. Disease, overpopulation, unprovoked crime, scarcity of resources, refugee migrations, the increased erosion of nation states and international borders, and the empowerment of private armies, security firms and international drug cartels... [provides] an appropriate introduction to the issues... that will soon confront our civilization. (Kaplan 1993)

Instability and centrifugalism in the former Soviet Union and the fragmentation and deregulation of its nuclear arsenals raise the spectre of proliferation, smuggling of atomic weapons, blackmail and, in the mildest scenario, severe environmental hazards. This is compounded by internal problems. In Russia, direct confrontation among power contenders has moved beyond a manageable threshold, in the absence of clear and legitimate rules of the game. The attempted coup against then-president Mikhail Gorbachev, but more ominously the bloody confrontation between President Boris Yeltsyn and a rebellious parliament, not to mention the war in Chechnya have shown a distressing pattern of escalation. Moreover, the December 1993 election that gave Vladimir Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democrats a controlling minority in the internal correlation of forces has dramatically increased the possibilities of an ultranationalist reaction. Old resentments, racism, power deflation, complicated by catastrophic economic and political conditions, may precipitate desperate imperialistic ventures with serious consequences for regional and world peace. The war in Chechnya represents the crystallization of all these contradictions, moving the weak Russian government into ever entangling and dangerous positions. A resurgence of Russian nationalism is especially destabilizing since Russia, as well as some of its possible targets such as the Ukraine, still possess a significant nuclear and conventional weapon capability.

At this point in the world system of governance, there is no codified approach to this evident need to clarify and tack down regional and universal responsibilities when governments go awry or disintegrate. Response mechanisms have not been developed to mobilize early and equitable external responses before events spin out of control.... But looking at the range of unstable states from Eastern Europe to Central Asia, from the Caucasus to the Cape of Good Hope, the potential for multitudes of such disasters in the next decade seems clear, and we are inadequately equipped as a world community to confront them. (Winter 1992)

There is an urgent need to develop analytical frameworks to understand this seemingly random, turbulent, and chaotic period and the emerging global configurations. There is also a need to construct operational criteria and mechanisms for conflict management based on that understanding. As we approach the end of the second millennium, the many conceptual and ideological structures that we took for granted and that gave us a grasp of "reality" have crumbled: the Cold War, "really existing socialism," the nation state, the "Three Worlds of Development" and the myth of progress. Some observers have gone as far as to make this turbulence synonymous with "end of history" (Fukuyama 1989). I would like to contend that, despite the appeals of this neo-Hegelian metaphor, history has not ended. All that has collapsed is our faith in old dogmas and the particular visions associated with them (Nef and Wiseman 1990). The way we saw the world is no longer the way it is.

With the disarticulation of the terms of reference of international politics, the conceptual foundations that gave meaning to what was referred to as "the world order" have become dated. Much of the assumptive scaffolding underpinning development studies, international relations, and security studies, all fields of research which emerged in the context of the Cold War, has lost consistency. At the level of hegemonic ideas and discourse, the crisis is one of imagination; as if our capacity to make sense had vanished. Perhaps reality changes so rapidly that only post facto rationalizations are possible, thus signalling the end of utopias and ideologies. Or perhaps, the opposite is the case and we are moving into a new and "postmodern" age of ideology. Although this crisis of paradigms has had a fundamental impact upon academia, it appears that scholars have been slow in reacting to global transformations and in filling the intellectual void. Samuel Huntington's (1993) article in Foreign Affairs is an attempt to resurrect a new imperial Cold War, now between "the West and the rest" under the mantle of a construed "Clash of Civilizations."

It is my hypothesis that the fundamental source of conflict in this new world will not be primarily ideological or primarily economic. The great divisions among humankind and the dominant source of conflict will be cultural. Nations will remain the most powerful actors in world affairs, but the principal conflicts of global politics will occur between nations, and groups of different civilizations. The clash of civilizations will dominate global politics. The fault lines between civilizations will be the battlelines of the future.

Yet, this highly metaphysical, ethnocentric and deterministic effort at resurrecting the ghost of cold wars past is simply old vinegar in old bottles with new labels. This nostalgic "neorealism" shows a remarkable misunderstanding of both history and culture and cannot reflect the complex, nuanced, and dynamic nature of our age of extremes, while perpetuating the cult of war and Western superiority. Our inability to structure paradigms able to explain and understand the present crisis as part of a global system and process and not as mere "freaks" or abnormalities is precisely at the core of the crisis of paradigms. The paradox is that, irrespective of the present confusion in the conceptual compasses and the absence of analytical and predictive instruments, decision-makers still have to respond to events, make day-to-day choices and formulate policies in an increasingly chaotic environment. So do ordinary citizens who have to cope with the effects of these policies.

The Changing Foundations of the World System

The momentous transformations of the world system affecting both its overall structure (polarity) and those of its constituting regimes are rooted in changing circumstances. These could be grouped into three main categories. The first set of factors is the broader and long-ranging changes of our age of pervasive technology (Nef et al. 1989). In this case, we are referring to the multiple and profound innovations in knowhow that have occurred since the end of the Second World War.

The second set of factors affecting systemic change is the alterations in the ideologic-political matrix that defines the cultural polarities in the system. Specifically we are referring to the sharp divide between Marxist-Leninism and liberal capitalism which characterized the Cold War, followed by the sudden disappearance of one of these ideologies in the late 1980s and the hegemonic role played by neoliberalism.

The third, and perhaps most important set of circumstances, consists of those related to alterations in the economic fabric of the world order. Here again, the transformation of world economics from international trade and finance among nations into global and transnational economics comes to mind. We will discuss these in greater detail below.

Long-Range Technological Changes

In the last 50 years, the development of technology has been exponential. It has affected the nature of the world system in two ways. One is the impact of technological innovation upon the instruments of war, both "hard" and "soft." The most striking transformations in military technology include the massification of air power, "informal penetration," psychological warfare, entangling collective defence, the development of nuclear weapons, intercontinental missiles, the use of outer space and the computerization of conflict. The nature and pace of technological innovation since Hiroshima set the parameters of an escalating arms race between those capable of harnessing the nuclear "genie." The USA and the USSR competed in an astronomically expensive search for military superiority: nuclear weapons, delivery and early warning systems, conventional - land, sea, and air - forces and the space race. The stretching of natural, economic, social, fiscal, and technological resources to their limits in the pursuit of security by supremacy (a first and second-strike capability) had long and broad-ranging implications. The former USSR was the most catastrophically affected; but the USA too experienced the ill effects of over-readiness. From a broader perspective, the profoundly destructive consequences of the Cold War were suffered by the entire planet.

The other effect of technology on the world system involves the dramatic improvement in the speed and reach of communications and transportation. Information, finance, goods, and people have become more mobile than in any previous period of human history. The development of military and industrial technology since World War II has reduced the time and space limits of world politics. What once was international relations, understood as "politics among nations" progressively and unavoidably became global politics (Blake and Walters 1976). In this context, domestic concerns have become so intertwined with "external" factors as to make the distinction between national and global merely semantic.

Back in the 1950s, John Herz (1962) suggested that technology had undermined the territorial function of the nation state. Nuclear stalemate among the superpowers, and the subsequent possibility of a ladder of escalation - even under assumptions of "flexible response" - made conventional military instruments less effective for conflict management. Stanley Hoffman (1973) put it succinctly: power had never before been so great, but also never so useless. Instead, nonconventional, yet nonnuclear types of warfare (terrorism, clandestine actions, "low-intensity operations") as well as economic instruments became more central. The strategic importance of weapons of mass destruction, especially nuclear warheads and long-range delivery systems, has radically diminished since 1989. Nuclear deterrence theory, "strategic thinking" à la Herman Kahn and what John Kenneth Galbraith called the influence of "nuclear theologians" have become irrelevant. Likewise, the kind of Cold War "realism" that permeated much of the international relations and security studies literature for four decades has been rendered meaningless.

Conventional wars do not seem to pose nowadays the same risk of escalating into nuclear confrontation between the superpowers, or rather between one superpower and the scattered remains of the other. However, as we will discuss later, this perception may be deceiving. In addition, the development of a new generation of high-tech tactical weapons has made small-scale wars once again "thinkable" options. The prenuclear solution of quantitative continuity between tactical and strategic instruments, as well as between those of deterrence, defence, compellance, and offense has been reestablished, albeit in a less predictable context. This delinking in the ladder of escalation combined with the end of rigid bipolarism effectively reduced the "patron–client" superpower control over theatre conflicts. Under these circumstances, a resurgence of small and medium-sized conflagrations and a tendency to regional polycentrism could be expected. Yet, the long-range effects of technological permeability on the territoriality of nation states, and upon the very idea of sovereignty, are bound to remain. A return to an overall pre-World War II type of multipolarity is unlikely.

Changes in the Ideological Matrix

Perhaps more important than the technological changes mentioned above have been transformations of the ideological parameters since the end of World War II. The period between 1945 and 1989 was defined by a clash of two cultures: liberal capitalism and state socialism. The rhetoric of Winston Churchill and Harry Truman, not to mention Stalin, constructed the semantic foundations of this binary world view. Terms such as Cold War, Iron Curtain, and Free World, conveyed an inescapable logic: aligrunent as either friend or foe. Its corollary was a rigid ideological bipolarism between two incompatible camps, referred to by their respective propagandists as the "Free World" and "Popular Democracies."

One part of humanity, under the Western Alliance and superintended by the United States, was construed as the embodiment of the ideals of freedom and democracy. The other half followed the Soviet Union, whose leaders had erected themselves as the defenders of self-determination, justice, socialist solidarity and world peace. There was a great deal of self-serving hypocrisy in these labels, for there was not much democracy or popular consent in Eastern Europe, while the "free" world included in its ranks notoriously repressive regimes such as Latin American dictators, Third World oligarchies and thinly veiled fascist regimes like those of Generalissimo Franco and Chiang-Kai-Shek.

Culturally, the East–West conflict permeated national boundaries. The emergence of Third-World nationalism expressed in Bandung in 1955 was a reaction against this sharp ideological schism. Leaders of new and emerging nations, such as Sukarno of Indonesia, Nehru of India, Nkrumah of Ghana, U-Nu of Burma, Nasser of Egypt and others, with the support of Marshal Tito of Yugoslavia, sought to define a third position. Yet, nonalignment and the attempts to separate North–South issues from East–West confrontations, paradoxically increased a proclivity for clientelism, entangled alliances and ultimately facilitated the transnationalization of peripheral states (Nef 1986). Foreign aid, the international transfer of technology, manpower training, and the all-pervasive presence of military assistance during the Cold War increased reliance on external constituencies. Peripheral elites were integrated into a global structure by means of manifold linkages of complex dependency (Nef 1983). This patron–client structure was developed by both power blocs, creating structural conditions still existing after the demise of the USSR.

Dependency relations, irrespective of who occupied the centre, have had a tendency to persist. External constituencies have become and remain an intrinsic part of the political alliances that take part in the internal public policy process. Besides the aforementioned transnationalization of states, based upon essentially bilateral arrangements, there have been multilateral forms of transnationalization. These result from the development and expansion of international law and organizations. Furthermore, the legacy of collective defence and collective security, not to mention a complex body of international contract law based on trade, has further limited territorial sovereignty. The Wesphalian principle, Rex est imperator in regno suo, is no longer a valid descriptor of the world order. The centrality of past elite nationalism has been displaced by elite internationalism.

Correspondingly, in an increasingly unipolar world, a global ideology with hegemonic pretensions, has gained predominance among the core sectors within the Group of Seven countries. This ideology is trilateralism (Sklar 1980). Substantively, the cultural software of this "new internationale" is distinctively neoliberal, elitist and monistic. In spite of a seemingly progressive rhetoric of democratization, the support for individual freedoms and the "rule of law," this new world view is every bit as Manichean and dogmatic as the old Cold War, national security discourse it replaced (Drury 1992–93). Most important though, is the fact that the trilateral view has a wide appeal to the affluent, globally integrated, and modern elite sectors in what used to be called the Third and Second Worlds. Its intellectual antecedents are partly rooted in 19th century social Darwinism and partly in the messianic universalism of neoclassical economics. From this perspective, the "triumph of the West," the "end of history," the "clash of civilizations" (Huntington 1993) and "manifest destiny" blend in a neofunctionalist synthesis.

There is a great deal of optimistic triumphalism among those who espouse this world view. From the perspective of its supporters, the ideological superiority of this global project is demonstrated by the collapse of Eastern Europe, the disintegration of African societies, or Latin America's "lost decade." Yet, the sharp schism of the planet into two worlds - "this" and "the other" - and the conflict between an expanding Western civilization and an increasingly fragile, unstable, and besieged global and domestic periphery offers a scenario of violent confrontation: a new phase of World War II. The growing squalor of the many, which makes the prosperity of the few possible, has intrinsically destabilizing effects. It is a direct threat to everybody's security. The extreme vulnerability of the South and the East, far from enhancing North-Western security, are symptoms of a profound malaise of the entire global system. This dysfunctional trend is already eroding postindustrial civilization's own vitality, not only in what is contemptuously referred to as "down there" but essentially "up here" too.

Changes in the Economic Basis

If we compare the nature of today's world economy with the system to emerge in 1944 at Bretton Woods, the most striking feature is the profound restructuring undergone ever since. Globalization, interdependence, skewness, dynamism, and fragility are appropriate characterizations of the aforementioned restructuring. A key vehicle for the transnationalization of production - and the whole gamut of social reactions accompanying it - is the cosmocorporation or TNC (Müller 1973). The emergence and consolidation of this relatively new modality of organization of production over the past two or three decades has created a global neofunctional network of transactions and business alliances enhancing the supremacy of economics over military considerations. TNCs constitute a mechanism not only for the transfer of capital and technology across jurisdictional boundaries, but a most effective vehicle for the extraction of surplus from peripheral sectors, via credit-indebtedness devices, wage differentials, tax advantages, franchises, transfer pricing, and the like (Collinworth et al. 1993) to semiperipheral ones and from there to the various groups at the core of corporate power. In addition, TNCs play a fundamental role in the integration of elites and their ideologies at the transnational level.

But not only production has become transnationalized. One of the most important developments in recent decades has been a rapid and profound globalization of trade and finance. New trade regimes and the emergence of dominant trading blocs - the EC, ASEAN, and now NAFTA - have facilitated a transnational integration of business elites into extended circuits of trade, capital, information, and power, often by-passing national interests and regulatory structures. Today, it is possible to transfer financial resources from one country to another at the flick of key, crossing national borders and affecting the national balance of payments without ever crossing corporate boundaries.

In this process of transnationalization combined with shifting economic policy, from demand-side Keynesianism to supply-side neoliberalism and monetarism, there have been clear winners and losers. Finance capital, telecommunications, and in general proprietary high-tech cosmocorporations have come up on top. Meanwhile, important sectors in the old post-1930 Keynesian "social contract" such as labour, consumers, farmers, the bulk of the white-collar middle class, and nationally based, medium-sized manufacturers have been severely hurt. The ensuing social and political restructuring (Bienen and Waterbury 1973) has affected the nature of contemporary politics, the state, the definition of citizenship and the very essence of governance, both globally and within countries. Macroeconomic decision-making, as in the case of central banks, has tended to escape national and democratic controls. This has brought about a persistent tendency of external constituency involvement (eg. the IMF, foreign creditors, transnational corporations) in seemingly internal matters of credit, fiscal and monetary policy. Domestic concerns become peripheral and subordinate to the interests of transnational capital. While consumerism and prosperity are peddled by the business elite, this ideology conceals the objective reality of massive unemployment and the creation of a low-wage economy (Standing 1989).

Alternative trading regimes to those controlled by the major trading blocs within the Group of Seven have disintegrated. The dismantling of COMECON has eliminated the presence of a trade arrangement that encompassed all of the former Eastern European bloc and a number of centrally planned economies in the Third World. Before the demise of COMECON, initiatives for a new international economic order, or a "trade union of the Third World" proposed by Julius Nyerere and endorsed by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) failed to materialize. UNCTAD itself and the Non-Aligned Movement, the latter an offshoot of the Bandung Conference of 1955, lay in shambles, crushed between the death of the Second World and the debt crisis. Thus, the possibilities of South–South cooperation were dealt a mortal blow. Likewise, an improvement in the value of exports for basic commodity producers vis-à-vis imported manufacture is hard to visualize.

For the foreseeable future, terms of trade will continue deteriorating for most of the South. Western elites and their external clients are now in a position to dictate the terms of global surrender, not only to the populations of the former Third and Second Worlds, but to their own populations as well. As externally imposed structural adjustment policies severely affect economic sovereignty, a deepening of underdevelopment - and poverty - are more than likely.

Security in the New Era

During the long period of nuclear stalemate, survival meant the prevention of World War III and the avoidance of military confrontation among the two super powers. Paradoxically, the transformation of a balance of power system into a balance of terror, acted as a deterrence against war itself. Thus, super power confrontation and deadlock manifested themselves through political and economic conflict in the periphery of both super powers, in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America. Often, this "cold" confrontation led to surrogate wars in which issues of equity, development and self-determination ended up being misconstrued in tenns of indirect super power confrontation. Since the end of World War II, there has been an ongoing - though de facto and undeclared - World War III in "instalments" fought in Southern fields. The heavier human and material tolls have been born by the world's poor. Algeria, the Congo, Vietnam, Palestine, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Angola, Mozambique, Afghanistan, Nicaragua, and El Salvador became the battlegrounds of a North–South conflict cast on an East–West matrix. These conflicts also had profoundly dysfunctional consequences for the Western centre. The Indochinese and Algerian involvements almost destroyed France, while the Vietnam and Afghan wars had deleterious implications in the economy, the society, the social fabric and the cultural pathos of both the USA and the Soviet Union.

With the ideological schism between "communism" and the "Free World" gone, there was a missed opportunity for a new and refreshing view of world politics without the ideological blinders of the past. Rather, in President Bush's "new world order" a persistent, albeit convoluted, North–South pattern of confrontation reemerged. Panama, Iraq, and Somalia are recent examples of a new kind of interventionism and confrontation. The collapse of communism was almost automatically translated by Western elites into the logic of a zero-sum, winner-takes-all game: a victory for liberal capitalism and Western civilization over the rest of the world. Arthur Schlessinger, on the eve of the coming down of the Berlin Wall cautioned about such misguided optimism. He argued that the disintegration of the East had more in common with a crisis of both socioeconomic and political systems - and the world order - than with an American victory.

A redefinition of what constitutes threats to security is in order. Most importantly though is the question of whose security and whose interests are at stake; or, more specifically, what is the connection between the abstract public, or "national," interest and the specific and concrete interests of diverse national and international constituencies. It also requires a search for the linkages between domestic and global concerns above and beyond facile, dangerous, ethnocentric, and now outmoded ideological cliches.