Keith Krause and Michael C. Williams (eds), Critical Security Studies: Concepts and Cases. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997.  379pp.  ISBN1 85728 733 9.

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A recurring theme in Part I of this book was that the Cold War model of security in terms of nations needed to be re-assessed.  Indeed the same or highly similar phrasing of ‘who or what was to be secured’ was used by Keith Krause and Michael C. Williams (p.  ), R.B.J.Walker (p.  ), and Ken Booth (p.  ).  There was general agreement that theories of international relations needed to incorporate the security of individuals, hence replacing the phrase ‘national security’ with ‘human security’.   By focusing on individuals, it would be possible to reduce the resources nations allocated to the military, freeing them for use in meeting the global economic, environmental, and other social needs of individuals.

The Hobbesian (or realist) theory of human nature has been used to justify focusing on the state.  That is, humans are motivated by self-interest and unless controlled by the state, there would be anarchy.  Theories that humans are by nature or are even capable of being cooperative and empathizing with other humans are required to justify focusing on individuals.  It was regrettable that a discussion of human nature was not informed by work in other highly relevant disciplines, such as anthropology, cognitive psychology and neuroscience, and biogenetics.  These disciplines, unlike the areas of the social sciences discussed, are based on actual research using the scientific method.

Interestingly, Parts II and III led back to the “crude” suggestion dismissed by R.B.J. Walker that it was relevant to consider ‘the ongoing record of large-scale violence’ (p.   ).  Chapters in these sections made it clear that the ending of the Cold War division of the world into Eastern Europe, led by its super-power the Soviet Union, and Western Europe, led by its super-power the United States, technically on the other side of the world, did not end the dichotomous nature of international relations.  Instead of ‘the bipolar division between East and West’ that was noted by David Mutimer (p.  ), there is a division of the world into North and South, or a division between the economically developed countries of Europe and the United States and underdeveloped third world nations, such as those in the Middle East, Yugoslavia, and South Africa.

One characteristic of a number of underdeveloped nations has been the severe poverty and inhumane treatment of individuals in these countries and, in response, Thomas Risse-Kappen noted, the United Nations made it possible for military intervention based on humanitarian concerns, ‘explicitly including gross violations of human rights’ (p.   ).  However, individuals in Yugoslavia, described by Beverly Crawford and Ronnie D. Lipschutz, and in Iraq, described by Thomas Risse-Kappen, suffered the same economic deprivation and torture wrought by power struggles within the countries, but in regard to Yugoslavia, developed nations managed to find reasons for nonintervention, in contrast to intervention in Iraq?  Why?

If intervention was based on humanitarian concerns, shouldn’t individuals have welcomed United States forces, rather than viewing them as a greater threat to their security than Sadam Hussein?   Is Iraq really a threat because of ‘weapons of mass destruction (WMD) . . . the greatest single threat to world security for the rest of our lives’, according to David Mutimer (p.   )?   Indeed, have WMD replaced the Cold War threat of communism?  For that matter, why is anyone surprised that underdeveloped nations want the same nuclear toys that other nations have? Is it possible that the main difference between Yugoslavia and Iraq was oil?

Is it time to examine again differences between individuals and nations?  Consider the reasons given for United States entry into World War II.  Regardless of what Franklin Roosevelt may have believed, would individuals have supported entry into a war to end the imprisonment of Jews in concentration camps?  In Part I of this book, the record of civilization was dismissed.  However, perhaps it is important that since the beginnings of recorded history, there hasn’t been a period when powerful nations, groups, or individuals weren’t inflicting torture on those without power.   Contributors to this book raised some interesting and important questions, but we still do not know and may never know whether it is possible for either nations or individuals to create conditions conducive to peace.


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