When it comes to security talks, there is a traditional tendency for the conversation to degenerate into the planning of brute displays of force. Following this mentality, the best response to any given problem is to hit it hard enough on the head to guarantee complete and utter annihilation. History, however, has shown that this process often shatters these “big” problems into thousands of smaller, shard-like hitches. Due to their trivial size, these “smaller” problems are subsequently often overlooked by those international coalitions mandated to solve the original issue. Once such coalitions disband, each of these hitches evolves into a monster in its own right.
Granted, from a realist’s perspective, savage show of power constitutes a very sensible approach to conflict resolution. Do you want to remain a strong sovereign? Keep your colleagues weak, as this prevents them from becoming instigators of insecurity. Only then can we truly minimise potential dangers to our very existence from forming. In such a world, security maintenance asks that actors fight fire with fire. We will build up our military to deter others. We will make shaky alliances with those we do not really trust; and sometimes, we will have no choice but to ally with those who utterly reject our core beliefs, to destroy an enemy who, though it may share some of our values, has become too strong for its — and our — own good.
Within this world, in order to keep such dubious allies on our side, we must toss them the occasional bone. We might call this bone “development”, a label we use to make ourselves feel better. And yet in the end, we still get what we want; after all, a starving dog will always do your bidding after the first bone.
I argue, however, that the time for this strategy has lapsed. Such attempts to secure ourselves from external threats belong to an out-dated era of rational, centralised powers. It is not our need for security that has changed, but the nature of security itself. Today’s security concerns know no sovereign borders: disease outbreaks, climate change (including water and food crisis), terrorist attacks by global organisations, and human trafficking, none of which can be fought with re-vamped border agencies. The impact of such security issues is undeniably global. Strong armies and war declarations can no longer provide adequate solutions. Instead, we need to genuinely, and indiscriminately, focus on development projects at a global level.
Modern-day security asks that we work as one global unit, demanding full participation as we increase the openness and equality of access of economic opportunities. Once nations jump on the “inclusive economic bandwagon”, they will act as a collective whole in order to preserve their growing economic interests. This will allow for stronger international norms and bonds to be forged, leading to the emergence of a self-regulating international community, as opposed to the present-day anarchy we know. Only through this process will we collectively gain greater security at home.
By rooting our security strategy into an increased focus on development, we will be able to respond more efficiently to devastating human security threats such as water and food insecurity. Addressing these global human security issues, and increasing living standards around the world, through genuine development efforts, will also decrease the global level of discontented individuals. As discontent dwindles, so does the likelihood of civil support for terrorist activities. In fact, at this stage, the only measure for violence remaining in the world will be nothing but the very nature of human beings.