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About this book

This innovative new text focuses on the politics of international security: how and why issues are interpreted as threats to international security and how such threats are managed. After a brief introduction to the field and its major theories and approaches, the core chapters systematically analyze the major issues on the contemporary international security agenda. Each is examined according to a common framework that brings out the nature of the threat and the responses open to policy makers.

From war, terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, through environmental and economic crises, to epidemics, cyber-war and piracy, the twenty-first century world seems beset by a daunting range of international security problems. At the same time, the academic study of security has become more fragmented and contested than ever before as new actors, issues and theories increasingly challenge traditional concepts and approaches.

This new edition has been heavily revised to discuss for the failings of the Obama admiration and its strategic partners on a number of different security issues, and the constant, evolving instances of turmoil the world has experienced since, whilst providing the skills students need to conduct their own research of international security issues occurring outside of this text, and for issues yet to occur. Cyber security, the 'Arab Spring' revolutions, the Ebola outbreak, and the refugee crisis are just some examples of the plethora of subjects that Smith analyses within this text.

This textbook is an essential for those studying international security, whether at undergraduate or postgraduate level as part of a degree in International Relations, Politics, and other social sciences more generally.

Table of Contents

Questions and Concepts

Frontmatter

1. International Relations and International Security

Abstract
Wars, arms races and weapons of mass destruction. Terrorism, insurgencies and suicide bombings. Genocides, infectious diseases and refugee crises. Oil depletion, global climate change and economic collapse. Drug trafficking, cyberwar and piracy. These and other international security problems make disturbing headlines on a regular, even relentless, basis. In fact, the list of such problems seems so extensive that if economics is the original ‘dismal science’ then the study of international security must be a very close second (Kapstein, 2002–3). Yet this field can also be as exciting as it is depressing, for it forces us to examine two critical questions about the human condition: what do we really value, and how far will we go to protect those valued things? One might even say we cannot comprehend other philosophical questions about our existence, purpose and destiny until these fundamental questions have been addressed – that is, until we feel more secure.
Michael E. Smith

2. Theory, Research and International Security: Continuity and Change

Abstract
The dramatically altered academic preoccupations of contemporary international security studies deserve more attention as all of the security problems covered throughout this volume must take into consideration certain intellectual legacies and other factors, though these may operate quite differently depending on the issue at hand. Since these factors are so pervasive, we should consider them at length here to avoid a repetitive discussion of them in the chapters devoted to specific security problems. However, we must also keep in mind what has not changed in recent years regarding international security studies. New theories based on realism and liberalism are being developed in this realm, even as alternative approaches claim to challenge the intellectual hegemony of these two enduring paradigms. Similarly, certain aspects of the Cold War still condition debates about international security and must be kept in mind even as new issues are added to the agenda. The next three sections of this chapter examine these dynamics in terms of international security studies prior to the Cold War, during the Cold War and after the Cold War. In addition, each section examines both intellectual trends and the major empirical problems of international security that influenced those trends. The intellectual trends involve two major dimensions: a general expansion in major approaches to international relations/security beyond the realist–liberal dichotomy, and a shift in focus among various levels of analysis when attempting to delineate the field.
Michael E. Smith

3. The Politics of International Security

Abstract
Imagine the following scenario: a huge explosion occurs at a major population centre in the US, resulting in thousands of deaths and injuries. Within minutes – hopefully – an army of officials from various agencies descends upon the scene. These officials represent the local police and fire departments, the medical community, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), and possibly counter-terrorism experts from the local and federal authorities. The initial response of these officials was inspired by the same event – the explosion – yet their professional interest in the disaster varies quite widely. Medical personnel are interested in caring for the wounded; police and fire officials are interested in securing the area and rescuing survivors; FBI and ATF personnel are interested in finding and protecting the evidence of a crime scene, such as witness statements and physical evidence, that could be used in a court of law; and counter-terrorism experts are interested in quickly assigning responsibility for the attack, if appropriate, to some domestic or international terrorist group. Local, state and national politicians are likely to appear at some point, and they may wish to blame other politicians (mainly in the opposition party, of course) for failing to prevent the attack in the first place. These people are all making a ‘correct’ response based on their interests, training and areas of responsibility, yet it is also clear that their goals might not just conflict with, but even undermine each other.
Michael E. Smith

The Traditional International Security Agenda

Frontmatter

4. Interstate War

Abstract
The problem of war has attracted more scholarly attention than any other topic in the history of international security studies, so it is appropriate to begin our discussion here. However, there is an astonishingly wide range of ways to conceptualize this question. One can examine the propensity for organized violence at all major levels of analysis, from individual human beings to the international system level, and reach different conclusions about the causal dynamics involved without ever considering the relationships between these levels. On another dimension, one can examine the normal ‘steady state’ or ‘default position’ of the international system: is it peace or war? In other words, is war the normal state of affairs, so that we have to explain when peace ‘breaks out’? Or is war the exception, not the rule, in everyday political life, as most states and humans seem to be at peace with each other most of the time? And yet a third, but no means final, general aspect of war in international security is that it can be conceived as both a problem and a solution. As long as national defence (that is, unilateral war-making) is allowed by the rules of international law under certain conditions, the problem of war in international security affairs may be better framed as an analysis of the conditions under which armed conflicts become a security concern at the international level of analysis, and the conditions under which the use of military force is deemed acceptable by the international community. Accordingly, this chapter will concern itself less with the historical evolution of war or the conduct of wars and focus instead on the politics of the relationship between war – as a problem and a solution – and international security.
Michael E. Smith

5. Intrastate War

Abstract
The problem of intrastate instability has emerged as one of the most significant security issues in the post-war era, and can be linked, directly or indirectly, to many other problems. Moreover, the vast majority of these conflicts take place in LDCs, which raises difficult questions about how to close the security gap between rich and poor states, and whether rich states should become involved in such conflicts. The 1994 Rwandan genocide alone resulted in the vicious slaughter of over 800,000 people, and many other intrastate conflicts since 1945 have involved similar patterns of destruction. The problem of intrastate war in turn can be linked to a more general problem of weak or failed states, which can take a variety of forms depending on one’s definition. Problems in such states can spill over to, or be exacerbated by, external actors or external phenomena such as disease or famine; these complex processes can have major implications for international security. Similarly, whether the international community – in the form of aid workers, PMCs, military peacekeepers or civilian state-builders – becomes involved in a domestic conflict is also a contested process and involves many more complications than the largely state-centric focus of our discussion about interstate war. As with the previous chapter, our primary concern here is the conditions under which intrastate conflicts become international security problems.
Michael E. Smith

6. Weapons Proliferation

Abstract
The analysis of weapons proliferation as a distinct international security problem can be viewed as an adjunct to our discussion of military conflict. The focus here, however, is somewhat narrower, as we are concerned primarily with the properties and diffusion patterns of weapons themselves rather than with their use during a conflict. Although the central concern of this chapter is with Cold War and post-Cold War developments, we should keep in mind that arms control is very much a late nineteenth/early twentieth-century phenomenon that predates the advent of nuclear weapons. Measures introduced in the pre-WWI era – which involved both conventional weapons (CW) and WMD – still influence modern debates over weapons proliferation, and concepts from this period have been revived, reinterpreted or expanded in light of recent technological developments. For both CW and WMD, the question of controlling proliferation can be divided further into debates about ‘vertical’ versus ‘horizontal’ proliferation. Vertical proliferation describes the growth in numbers of certain weapons and related advancements in weapons technologies that might pose a problem for international security. Horizontal proliferation refers to an expansion in the number of actors who possess such weapons. Finally, a third dimension to the debate involves the question of state versus non-state actors. While states are typically the ‘official’ stakeholders authorized to develop and deploy certain weapons, non-state actors such as firms and terrorists may also play leading roles as both sources of new weapons technologies and as international threats if they acquire certain weapons.
Michael E. Smith

7. Terrorism

Abstract
Although terrorism has served as a political tactic for well over a century, its status as a major problem of international security is a more recent trend. In fact, no other contemporary problem so effectively demonstrates one of the core arguments of this volume: the role of politics in setting the international security agenda. The US has been the critical player in this regard, as it elevated its view of terrorism from a relatively minor threat to a major international concern following the attacks by al-Qaeda on American soil on 11 September 2001. This response was supported to various degrees by several American allies and led directly to US military attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq, plus a host of other, often controversial, domestic and foreign policies whose aftershocks persist. This increased attention by policy-makers has been accompanied by more activity on the part of security scholars and other experts, making the study of terrorism one of the major growth areas in the field since the end of the Cold War (Anderson, 2004). Before 9/11, the study of terrorism had been quite marginalized by many universities, book publishers and major academic journals (Jentleson, 2002; Cronin, 2002–3). Unfortunately, however, much of this work is polemical or sensationalistic in nature, and often does not involve rigorous empirical research or sharp conceptual distinctions.
Michael E. Smith

8. Cybersecurity and Cyberwar

Abstract
The internet has been widely known by the public for less than a generation, after it was heavily commercialized during the 1990s (Greenstein, 2015), yet in that space of time it has become so ubiquitous in world affairs that it now deserves attention as a major ‘standalone’ issue in international security; in fact, a new Journal of Cybersecurity was launched in September 2015 to study this issue. It is also a useful topic to mark the transition from traditional security problems towards the new security or human security agenda, beginning in Chapter 9. As suggested earlier in this volume, two factors help define the orthodox view of traditional international security problems: a focus on violence/military affairs and a focus on direct threats to the state or its major components, such as the economy or public infrastructure, for primarily politico-military rather than economic/criminal reasons. Conversely, the new security agenda involves broader issues, which often do not involve violence and that may not involve direct attacks against the state system but that still undermine national or international stability. International crime, including various forms of cybercrime, represents one focus of the new agenda, as it generally involves the pursuit of economic gain or personal satisfaction rather than political control, and will be discussed in the next chapter. Accordingly, the rest of this chapter will examine the concepts of cybersecurity and cyberwar. These terms focus on the internet and its related components, such as databases, as a critical referent object to be protected from deliberate attacks (i.e. cybersecurity).
Michael E. Smith

The New/Human Security Agenda

Frontmatter

9. Organized Crime

Abstract
As we have seen, criminal activities often play a supporting role in many traditional international security problems, as in the form of criminally financed terrorist and rebel movements, computer hacking or illicit arms trafficking (Rubin and Guáqueta, 2007; Cockayne and Lupel, 2011; Asal, Milward and Schoon, 2015). These and similar problems, which also reflect the growing importance of non-state actors in international relations, are becoming so widespread and prominent that some crimes and criminal organizations are increasingly being treated as international security concerns. As the previous chapter noted, this trend also inspires a conceptual transition towards a range of non-traditional (or human security) issues covered here and in the rest of volume, which can involve wellorganized non-state (or private) actors, often using non-military power resources and motivated by a wide range of goals, political and otherwise. Thus, although some security specialists might still argue that crime is much less important than the problems covered earlier in this volume, most would nonetheless agree that certain types of criminal activities – beyond terrorism and cybersecurity – can pose a threat to international security. As always, however, we must be very clear in terms of analysing why certain crimes or criminals are invested with the status of international security threats, while others are not. One obvious answer to this puzzle involves the growing role of international or transnational organized crime, and this trend indeed provides much of the raw material for this chapter.
Michael E. Smith

10. Economic Security

Abstract
Although the term ‘economic security’ is often invoked by scholars and policy-makers to advance a specific agenda, there is virtually no consensus on how to define it. Some more traditional security analysts would argue further that ‘economic security’ is not even relevant to a text such as this, as it relates only indirectly, if at all, to the core international security problems of war and related forms of organized violence. However, it is also true that many traditional security issues can be linked to economic factors, such as the role of economic investment and technology in fuelling a political rivalry in the form of an arms race (Levy, 1989). There is also an ongoing debate regarding whether increased economic interdependence helps promote peace, as economic or commercial liberalism argues (Snyder, 2015–16). As we saw in Chapter 5, the relationship between weak states and intrastate war, particularly in less developed regions, can also be greatly exacerbated by economic problems. Violent conflicts over identity/ethnicity also might have a strong economic element to them, especially when certain economic classes or sectors have links to foreign stakeholders, such as former colonial states. In addition, the basic measures of globalization as presented in Chapter 2 are primarily defined in terms of cross-border economic transactions, which can easily facilitate the movement of illicit (and therefore threatening) goods, services and individuals. Finally, the possibility of a catastrophic financial crisis cannot be discounted and could easily have major security implications.
Michael E. Smith

11. Environmental and Resource Security

Abstract
The relationship between security affairs, the protection of the environment and the conservation of certain resources is becoming one of the more complicated topics in world politics. If international security is fundamentally concerned with the protection of particular referent objects – whether physical or symbolic/institutional – valued by large numbers of human beings, then it would seem self-evident that environmental problems would loom large in such a context. And if a physical resource such as territory can be treated as an object to be protected or contested by various political actors, then the same should be true of other components of the earth’s physical environment essential to human life, such as food and water. Yet the orthodox view of international security seems extremely reluctant to include consideration of the protection of the environment and critical resources, except in isolated circumstances to be discussed later in this chapter. Conversely, scholars who defend the new security/human security agenda are far more likely to treat environmental and natural resource problems as security issues in and of themselves, and have pursued this position in their work. This chapter examines the case for what might be called ‘international environmental security’ from both perspectives: the orthodox/traditional view and the new security/human security view. The fact that this division even exists indicates that the initial framing of an environmental problem as a security concern can be a highly contentious process, and that consensual knowledge about such framing is often lacking even in the face of scientific evidence.
Michael E. Smith

12. Public Health

Abstract
The analysis of problems related to public health in terms of their relationship to international security is very similar to the discussion of environmental issues in the previous chapter, and of population issues to be discussed in Chapter 13. Specifically, the more traditional or orthodox view of this topic would focus primarily on narrow or direct threats to international security, as in the form of a major infectious disease outbreak or a terrorist attack with biological weapons (i.e. ‘biosecurity’; see Koblentz, 2010). A much broader view of this topic, framed in terms of the new security or human security agenda, would consider indirect health problems as well, such as high levels of infant mortality in LDCs or the role of public health issues in undermining government authority or stability. In this sense the human security agenda can become virtually indistinguishable from the international development agenda, which would stress health-related goals in LDCs such as access to clean water, adequate food, antenatal care and so on. Obviously these agendas are closely linked: vulnerability to a specific threat such as an infectious disease outbreak is strongly conditioned by vulnerability to broader problems involving sanitation, nutrition and adequate medical care. As always, however, our focus here is on the political framing and response (if any) to these problems as urgent international security threats rather than as long-term international development or human rights issues.
Michael E. Smith

13. International Population Trends

Abstract
Our final problem area involves the international security aspects of human population trends based on changes in their size, composition, location or distribution/movements. As with many of the topics covered in this volume, the study of population, or demography, is an academic field in its own right, so our task here is to isolate various findings and arguments from this field and relate them to the question of international security. The most immediate problem in making such a linkage involves the inherently dual nature of certain demographic trends: populations can be framed as threats to security, or as referent objects to be protected. This can be seen most prominently with one major topic covered in this chapter: the question of mass population flows. Should these individuals be viewed as victims and welcomed by other states, or are they more appropriately viewed as threats? This is precisely where some aspects of the human security policy agenda begin to run into problems, as do national immigration policies in particular: because ‘humans’ can easily be interpreted as resources, victims or threats depending on the political context involved (Koslowski, 2002; Parker and Brassett, 2005). As we shall see throughout this chapter, the idea that the international community should provide greater human security for certain populations tends to ignore the hard political and economic calculations made by officials and others in the face of multiple security threats and limited resources.
Michael E. Smith
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