R. Harrison Wagner
In 1969, the game theorist John Harsanyi wrote an article criticizing the two main postulates of the general theory of social behavior prevalent at the time: the functionalist approach to the explanation of social institutions and the conformist approach to the explanation of individual behavior. According to Harsanyi, functionalist and conformist theories overstated the degree of consensus in societies, could not account for change, and described observed behavior without explaining it. Harsanyi proposed an alternative approach provided by theories based on the concept of rational choice (rational behavior, or rational decision-making). His goal was to develop a hypothetico-deductive theory explaining (and possibly predicting) a large number of empirical facts from a few relatively simple theoretical assumptions or axioms. Among students of international politics, Harsanyi’s approach sparked a controversy about rationalism. However, some critics of rationalism do not distinguish clearly between the interest-based theories Harsanyi criticized and the rational choice methods he advocated, and some even confuse both with neoclassical economics. In order to understand the issues raised in the controversy about rationalism, it is helpful to look at interest-based theories of politics and their relation to neoclassical economics. Game theory has provided a useful framework for the intellectual agenda outlined by Harsanyi, especially in the area of international security.
Stephen M. Walt
Political Realism has been described as the “oldest theory” of international politics, as well as the “dominant” one. Central to the realist tradition is the concept of “security.” Realism sees the insecurity of states as the main problem in international relations. It depicts the international system as a realm where “self-help” is the primary motivation; states must provide security for themselves because no other agency or actor can be counted on to do so. However, realists offer different explanations for why security is scarce, emphasizing a range of underlying mechanisms and causal factors such as man’s innate desire for power; conflicts of interest that arise between states possessing different resource endowments, economic systems, and political orders; and the “ordering principle” of international anarchy. They also propose numerous factors that can intensify or ameliorate the basic security problem, such as polarity, shifts in the overall balance of power, the “offense–defense balance,” and domestic politics. Several alternative approaches to international relations have challenged the basic realist account of the security problem, three of which are democratic peace theory, economic liberalism, and social constructivism. Furthermore, realism outlines various strategies that states can pursue in order to make themselves more secure, such as maximizing power, international alliances, arms racing, socialization and innovation, and institutions and diplomacy. Scholars continue to debate the historical roots, conceptual foundations, and predictive accuracy of realism. New avenues of research cover issues such as civil war, ethnic conflict, mass violence, September 11, and the Iraq War.
Mikkel Vedby Rasmussen
Considerations of risk are pervasive in the contemporary security environment. A risk is a scenario followed by a policy proposal for how to prevent the scenario from becoming real. When policy makers approach security questions in terms of risk, they no longer seek to address specific and calculable threats like the Red Army during the Cold War. Instead, they focus on trends that give a future significance to present challenges—trends that give future significance to present challenges include (a) the personalization of risk, (b) the establishment of political community based on risk, and (c) existential risk where the fate of humanity is at stake.
In his 1958 book War and Industrial Society, Raymond Aron claimed that industrial society had shaped not only the way in which war was fought in the 20th century, but also the expectations of what force could achieve and how peace could be made. A number of sociologists argue that the industrial society described by Aron is changing into what Ulrich Beck terms a risk society.
Risks are associated with a decision. Risk is inside politics, not outside—both internationally and domestically. Risk studies therefore often focus on the difficulties and dilemmas confronting policy makers as they struggle to provide security in a post-secure society. Risks are continuously identified by scenarios pre-empted by military actions or other acts of security—only for the results of these actions to produce, in turn, new risks.
The article seeks to explain why risk studies have never coalesced into a coherent research program, as perhaps some of the scholars engaging with risk theory hoped it would. Having concluded that risk theories remain fragmented and more engaged with particular subfields than with each other, it makes sense to deal with the substantial contribution of risk theory by focusing on particular trends in security policy in which the risk perspective has something important to say.
Mariya Y. Omelicheva
The Cold War was a period of hostilities between the United States and the Soviet Union as the two superpowers engaged in a nuclear arms race. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, some scholars perceived that Russia’s military-industrial complex has deteriorated considerably, and that the country has fallen behind the United States and Europe in the area of information technologies and other strategically important sectors of national economy. Others insist that the image of Russia’s political irrelevancy and demotion of the country to a status of a “small” or even “medium” power is mistaken. The new Russia, they argue, has never surrendered its claims as a great power. Discussions about Russia’s global role have been fueled by its continuing nuclear standoff with the United States, along with growing concerns about its plans to develop more robust nuclear deterrents and modernize its nuclear arsenals. There is substantial scholarly literature dealing with Russia’s foreign, security, military, and nuclear policy, as well as the role of nuclear weapons in the Russian security framework. What the studies reveal is that the nuclear option remains an attractive alternative to Russia’s weakened conventional defense. Today, as before, Russia continues to place a high premium on the avoidance of a surprise attack and relies on its nuclear capabilities for strategic deterrence. There are a host of issues that deserve further investigation, such as the safety of Russia’s nuclear sites and the regional dimension of its nuclear policy.
Charlotte Graves Patton
Resolution 1325, adopted by the United Nations Security Council (SC) on October 31, 2000, reaffirms the important role of women in conflict resolution as well as in the maintenance and promotion of international peace and security. Res 1325 urges states to expand the number of women working in UN peacekeeping, diplomacy, the military, and police, while rejecting impunity in matters of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, especially with reference to violence against women. It also calls for greater consideration of the needs of women and girls in conflict circumstances, including in refugee camps, and the different needs of female and male ex-combatants in disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR). Transnational networks, such as the NGO Working Group on Women, Peace, and Security (NGOWGWPS), played an influential role in the drafting of Res 1325y. The implementation of this resolution throughout UN agencies may be assessed using two theoretical perspectives, constructivism and neorealism. The NGOWGWPS’s published report, Five Years On Report: From Local to Global: Making Peace Work for Women, describes National Action Plans (NAPs) as a tool that member states could use to detail steps that they will take to fulfill Res 1325’s objectives. It is worth noting that 37 out of 193 member countries of the UN have or are establishing NAPs. However, the UN has been slow to “adopt, consume, and promote” the norms embodied in SC Res 1325. One way to address this is to include changes in national foreign policies actively supporting such norms.
Thierry Balzacq, Tugba Basaran, Didier Bigo, Emmanuel-Pierre Guittet, and Christian Olsson
Practices refer to collective and historic acts that shaped the evolution of the fundamental distinction used to define the field of security—that of internal vs. external security. In general, security practices relate to two kinds of tools through which professionals of (in)security think about a threat: regulatory tools, which seek to “normalize” the behavior of target individuals (for example, policy regulation, constitution), and capacity tools, specific modalities for imposing external discipline upon individuals and groups. The roots of the distinction between internal and external security are embedded in a historical process of competition over where to draw the line between the authority and limits of diverse agencies. Much of the international relations (IR) literature ignores the diversity of security practices, and reduces security to an IR problem detached from other bodies of knowledge. This is an error that needs to be corrected. Security and insecurity must be analyzed not only as a process but also as the same process of (in)securitization. The term “security” cannot be considered as a concept capable of capturing a coherent set of practices, but rather the result of a process of (in)securitization. Research on security practices opens a variety of promising paths, but at least three challenges need to be met before this potential can be realized: a sustained development of cross-disciplinary studies; address the “sacrifice” entailed in definitions of security; and more time to elucidating as clearly as possible processes of resistance from those who are the target of these practices.
The twentieth century was marked by the proliferation of security regimes, and collective security in particular. Under a collective security arrangement, all states at either a regional or global level agree to resolve their disputes peacefully, collectively oppose acts of aggression, and actively defend those who are victims of such aggression. It is based on the premise that security is indivisible, that is, each state’s security is intricately tied to the security of others, and no nation can be completely secure so long as the territory, independence, and populations of other states are seriously threatened. However, over the past several decades, ethnic conflicts, civil wars, guerrilla insurgencies, and other forms of internal violence have dramatically increased, even as large-scale interstate wars have declined. In addition to these sources of instability and conflict, political repression and extreme human rights abuses by governments against their populations (particularly genocide and ethnic cleansing) often generate massive refugee flows, illegal arms trafficking, and the rise of paramilitary guerrilla armies, all of which could disrupt neighboring states and regional stability. Thus, the concept of security adopted by international and regional regimes over the past few decades has expanded from the threat and use of force for deterrence and enforcement to include nation- and state-building, peacekeeping, and peace-making.
Harvey M. Sapolsky
Security studies in the United States is marred by a lack of status. Opportunities within American universities are limited by the fact that the work deals with war and the use of force. Another reason for the isolation of security studies is its inherent interdisciplinary nature. It is nearly impossible to separate military technology from security policy, and there is the constant requirement in doing security analysis to understand weapons and their operational effects. However, the most serious limitation of security studies is its narrowness. Nearly all of its ranks are international relations specialists concerned primarily with relationships among and between nation-states. Absent from serious analysis are international environmental, economic, and health issues that may precede and produce political upheaval and that have their own academic specialists. The collapse of the Soviet Union raised questions about the opportunities and dangers of the United States' globally dominant position. The efforts to specify America’s new grand strategy produced a variety of expressions which fall into four main categories. The first is Primacy. Its advocates are primarily the neo-conservatives who relished America’s post-Cold War global dominance and sought to thwart any attempts to challenge this dominance. The second strategy is usually labeled Liberal Interventionism, which is also based on the dominance of American military might and urges US intervention abroad. The third strategy is the Selective Engagement. Under this strategy the United States should intervene only where vital interests are at stake. The fourth strategy focused on Restraint.
William C. Spracher
Intelligence studies, as taught by specialized departments or institutes and leading to degrees with the word “intelligence” in their titles, is a relatively new phenomenon. Intelligence is considered a profession, while intelligence studies can probably best be described as an emerging discipline that has yet to reach full maturity. Much of the more recent data on teaching intelligence is in the hands of professional associations, government agencies, and nongovernmental organizations dealing with the intelligence profession. Some of the government academic institutions which served as the wellspring for many of the nongovernmental programs that blossomed later are the Department of Defense institutions, the National Defense Intelligence College, and the National Defense University. There are also professional journals and other publications covering intelligence studies courses, as well as nongovernmental professional organizations that students of intelligence can join, such as the National Military Intelligence Association and the International Studies Association. At the international level, intelligence studies courses are offered in countries like the UK, Canada, Australia, South Africa, Israel, and Brazil. The next step is to determine what specifically is being taught, and how, among the growing number of colleges and universities getting into the business of teaching intelligence, especially in the wake of 9/11. A significant is the phenomenal growth of online programs, which allow deployed military and civilian personnel to study intelligence while practicing the theory they are learning.
Frank Foley and Max Abrahms
Since 9/11, terrorism has been widely perceived as the foremost threat to the United States, its allies, and the broader international community. Political scientists have historically paid little attention to the study of terrorism and counterterrorism; in the subfield of international relations (IR), the focus of research of the dominant realist tradition was on great power politics, not on substate violence. In the post-9/11 world, IR scholars have begun to show interest in the causes and consequences of terrorism. Studies undertaken since October 2001 have been increasingly quantitative, employing a mixture of descriptive and inferential statistical analyses. Yet this heightened scholarly attention has yielded few uncontested insights. Fundamental methodological, empirical, and theoretical questions about terrorism have become the subject of intense discussions. The definition of terrorism in particular remains problematic. Scholars also debate over the virtues of large-n studies versus case studies, the accuracy of terrorism events data, and al-Qaida’s place within the history of terrorism. In the case of counterterrorism, much of the literature has followed policy trends rather than developing empirically grounded theories. Two strands of counterterrorism literature are country case studies and discussions on the relative merits of different policy instruments. There has been increased interest in systematic studies of counterterrorism effectiveness and the nascent development of theories on the sources of counterterrorist policies in recent years, which raises the possibility for theoretically informed and methodologically aware debates in the study of state responses to terrorism.
Organizational culture refers to the constellation of values, beliefs, identities, and artifacts that both shape and emerge from the interactions among the formal members of the US intelligence community. It is useful for understanding interagency cooperation and information sharing, institutional reform, leadership, intelligence failure, intelligence analysis, decision making, and intelligence theory. Organizational culture is also important in understanding the dynamics of US intelligence. There are four “levels” of, or “perspectives” on, organizational culture: vernacular and mundane organizational communication; strategic and reflective discourse; theoretical discourse; and metatheoretical discourse. Meanwhile, four overarching claims can be made about the intelligence studies literature in relation to organizational culture. First, explicit references to organizational culture within the literature do not appear until the 1970s. Second, studies of organizational culture usually critique “differentiation” among the subcultures of a single agency—most often the CIA or the FBI. Third, few intelligence scholars have provided audiences with opportunities to hear the voices of the men and women working inside these agencies. Finally, the majority of this literature views organizational culture from the dominant, managerial perspective. Ultimately, this literature evidences four themes that map to traditionally functionalist assumptions about organizational culture: (1) a differentiated or fragmented culture diminishes organizational effectiveness, while (2) an integrated or unified culture promotes effectiveness; (3) senior officials can and should determine organizational culture; and (4) the US intelligence community should model its culture after those found in private sector corporations or institutions such as law or medicine.