Security in International Relations

Security studies have taken an important place in scientific research and studies, starting with the Treaty of (Westphalia) in 1648 until the present day, but it did not appear clearly and in its current form until after the end of World War II and the beginning of what was termed “the Cold War.”

Political and strategic scholars disagreed about defining the concept of security in its precise form, although there is some general acceptance of the definition that stems from that the concept of security is: “The individual does not feel that his life or one of his values ​​is threatened in some way.”

With the division of the world into two camps after the Second World War, interest began in security studies that focused on protecting US national security from the “communist threat”, and what this “danger” posed as a threat to values ​​and national security. The nuclear weapon played a major role in determining the course of these studies. As matters of nuclear deterrence and other concepts (such as the first strike, the balance of terror), have captured a large area of ​​interest from thinkers, and many writings have emerged that are among the most important security studies, such as: Bernard Brodie and Robert Endicott Osgood , And Thomas Schelling and others ”.

The concept of “security” also witnessed a difference and distinction in interpretation and analysis according to the difference and differentiation of the opinions of researchers and those interested across time and space. Realism through the idealistic perception in the liberal school and ending with the critical currents and perceptions.

The concept of security from a realism point of view

The realistic view of security prevailed in international relations since the Treaty of (Westphalia) in 1648 and the emergence of the modern nation-state, in contrast to the religious state, to this day, and despite the formulation of new assumptions for the security equation, the real school is still the most appropriate and influential in international relations, especially with regard to the security issue. 

Realistic thought is based on several foundations and determinants for analyzing the concept of security, namely: 

1- The state is the only actor in international relations and is the main and reference issue for security.

2- The nature of the international system is characterized by chaos and the absence of a central authority capable of controlling the behavior of states.

3- States rationally seek to develop their military capabilities in order to defend themselves or to influence other countries, which creates a permanent threat of the possibility of war. 

4- The balance of power between international powers is what achieves stability, and the distribution of that power is what determines the structure of the international system that is characterized by a lack of trust between states.

Security is explained by realists; By “national security”, that is, the security of the state against external dangers and threats, so that this security can only be guaranteed through possessing force and seeking to increase military capacity.  

Kenneth Waltz says in his book International Politics in this regard that security is the supreme goal of states, and when the survival and continuity of states is guaranteed, the latter will search for other goals such as calm and profit.

The chaotic nature of the international system, from the realists’ point of view, lies in the absence of a central governing authority for the behavior of states, which in their view leads to a lack of trust between the units of the international system, which drives them to obtain power in exchange for a feeling of insecurity and threat from the other side, which ultimately produces what is called the dilemma. the wish.  

John H. Herz argued in the 1950s that the security dilemma was a structural concept in which the attempts of states to achieve their own security increased the vulnerability of other states; Each side will interpret the actions taken by the other as a potential danger, which drives it the other to seek to increase military power and capacity, so the two parties will enter into an endless cycle of action and reaction. 

And therefore some of the likes of the new realists tried to Jack Snyder – Jack Snyder reduced the effects and cons of the security dilemma by proposing a kind of cooperative strategies, so that the countries through which the formation of private diplomatic relations with major powers to achieve security.

Some new realists argue that the real reason for states seeking to increase military power and capabilities is due to the desire to self-defense and reduce security risks, not to obtain power per se, and accordingly, some kind of cooperation to achieve common security goals may be the best option to replace the anarchy of the purely international system. With ripe ones, says Barry Buzan . 

The concept of security from a liberal point of view:

Collective security and democratic peace is the alternative perspective advocated by liberalism instead of the realistic one that focuses on national security. According to Joshua S. Goldstein   , collective security is the formation of an expanded coalition that includes most of the main actors in the international system with the intention of confronting any other actor. 

The German philosopher Immanuel Kant developed this perception two centuries ago when he proposed the establishment of a federation that includes all the countries of the world, whereby the majority of the member states will coalesce to deter and punish any country that commits aggression against another country, which is what the US President and Dora Woodrow Wilson relied on in His vision of a peaceful world, which was implemented in practice through his call for the creation of the League of Nations in 1919.

It can be said that liberal thought is based on several foundations and determinants for analyzing the concept of security, namely:

1- The possibility of cooperation between states through the establishment of institutions and organizations concerned with achieving cooperation in the field of security and reducing conflict.  

2- Attempts to find common values ​​and interests would reduce conflicts between states.

3- Spreading democratic values ​​in exchange for reducing military factors is a step toward establishing security.

4- Spreading liberal values, free market and international trade between countries would lead to a correlation of economic interests between those countries, which in turn would lead to achieving security and prosperity for all international actors. 

Thus, the liberals see that the establishment of an expanded coalition that includes most of the actors in the international system – meaning international actors here: states, international organizations and institutions, as well as international and regional companies, such as the Atomic Energy Agency and the International Monetary Fund, which could help overcome the selfish tendency of states by pushing them. To concede immediate interests and gains in favor of greater benefits that can be achieved through cooperation, contrary to what realists consider that states are the only international actors in the international arena – that would reduce the severity of the security problem.

The concept of security under bipolarity:  

The end of World War II is considered the major turning point in international relations in terms of study and application. In the field of political studies and its applications, the need for a new science capable of interpreting, analyzing and predicting existing political events to reduce the negative effects that wars and international conflicts may have, emerged. In its new look, it developed as the world divided into two opposing camps headed by the Soviet Union and the United States of America. 

Realism paradigm formed the essence of security and strategic studies during the Cold War period, through the control of the military view and the focus of attention on state security in its traditional concept related to the possession of sources of power, which prompted the United States of America in the 1950’s time of President Harry Truman to adopt the so-called “strategic plan” and guidance Presidential No. 68 proposed by Paul Nitry on the destruction of the Soviet Union and achieving complete military supremacy over it, “which later formed the first building block for security studies in its new form.”  

And between the years 1969 – 1950: Nuclear weapons formed the essence of the threat threatening international security through the efforts of the Soviet Union and the United States to achieve more nuclear superiority and capability in quantity and quality, in addition to the attempts to develop and manufacture hydrogen weapons and a host of other policies such as alliances, clusters and agency wars. The flexible and comprehensive response. The Cuban crisis and the Berlin problem in the early 1960s constituted the greatest threat to global security, as some believed that a nuclear war between the two poles could lead to the end of the world. However, these fears dissipated from the beginning of 1969 with the end of the Cuban crisis, with which the features began. The stage of détente between the two poles, during which security studies moved to a new development after both sides agreed to reduce their nuclear capabilities as well as limit the development of weapons and ballistic missiles. 

With the beginning of the eighties of the twentieth century, security studies took a new direction in which the owners of this approach demanded the necessity of expanding the concept of security and not limiting it to the traditional military aspect, to include, in addition to the military dimension, other dimensions. Such as the economic, social, and transnational international crimes. In order to focus the concept of security to refer to what threatens “the human being, not the state,” and here was the beginning of the emergence of what was termed human security that was mentioned in the article  of international humanitarian intervention and the  article  of human security

Sources and references:

Khaled Al-Masry, The Situation and Its Critics in International Relations, Damascus University Journal of Economic and Legal Sciences, p. 228, Volume 30, Issue 1, 2014.

European Security Perception: Towards a Comprehensive Security Architecture and Strategic Identity in the Mediterranean, Jweideh Hamzawy, Master Thesis, Faculty of Political Science, Haji Lakhdar University 2010-2011.

 International Policy Theory, Kenneth Waltz, New York, First Edition 1979, on: The European Security Perception.

The Concept of Security in International Relations Theory, Takayuki Yamamura, translated by Adel Zagag, first edition 2010 ,.

 The Evolution of the Concept of Security and Security Studies in International Relations Perspectives, University of Constantinople, 2008.

SAKHRI Mohamed
SAKHRI Mohamed

I hold a Bachelor's degree in Political Science and International Relations in addition to a Master's degree in International Security Studies. Alongside this, I have a passion for web development. During my studies, I acquired a strong understanding of fundamental political concepts and theories in international relations, security studies, and strategic studies.

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