For almost half a century humans have sought principles for the maintenance of their security and the peaceful settlement of their disputes. Each historic period has witnessed the emergence of new concepts – or an instance of re-emergence of old – with trust that the mistakes of the past would not be done again. After the Cold War mankind has entered again such a period of doubt and research. The framework of international relations has changed so meaningly over the last decade that it is fair to declare that a new era has begun.
This era offers hope, but no condition of being certain.
Some unanimity has become obvious: that this new era needs a many-sided approach to the resolution of its conflicts, some that came from the past, some generated in the chaos of adaptation to new conditions of growing freedom, of enmity reborn, and of increasing challenges to the peace required for security of people. After the Cold War, globalization increased the motives for states to pursue more cooperative security policies, in particular at the regional level.
In what follows, this paper looks at the main transformations in the structure of international security over the last decade.
How is one to understand the structure of security at the global level? The paper considers how globalization in general and particular aspects of it became securitized by the actors in the international arena. Main Body Any coherent regionalist approach to international security must begin by establishing clear distinctions between what constitutes the regional and global level. Distinguishing the regional from the global is not easy task. The easy part is that a region must surely be less than the whole, and of course much less. There would not be much opposition to the claim that the United States is a global level actor.
But the problem emerges when one tries to determine particular actors. Should Russia be regarded as a global power or a regional one? What about China? Traditional realism does not help in this task because it usually positions states as great, middle, or small powers. Traditional realism does not regard the powers that are structurally significant at the regional level. How the structures are defined shapes the nature of international security. For this reason it is better to approach the global–regional boundary by starting from the top down. Both the neorealist and globalist theories focus on an idea of global structure.
Neorealism is considers two levels, system and unit. Neorealists either underestimate or disregard all levels except the system one. Neorealism is to some extent strong on territoriality. Potential harmony between it and the regionalist perspective is possible, specifically when states are the main actors. There is room for controversy between neorealism and regionalism when the security agenda moves to issue areas other than military-political, to actors other than the state, and to theories of international security other than materialist (Wohlforth 42).
In addition, the most abstract and theoretically ambitious variants of neorealism (for example, Waltz’s) tend to understand ‘system’ in such abstract terms that territoriality disappears. From the regionalist perspective of international security discussed in this paper, a key weakness of both the neorealist and globalist approaches to international security is that they exaggerate the role of the global level, and disregard the role of the regional one. Neorealism in a simple manner chooses not to consider much the levels below the systemic.
To the degree that globalism disregards territoriality particularly and levels in general, it is not an appropriate approach for considering things still defined in territorial terms. However, the more reasonable versions of globalism do give room for a regionalist perspective. The regionalist perspective is chosen approach to analyze international security. Friedberg (2000) indicated “the regional level stands more clearly on its own as the locus of conflict and cooperation for states and as the level of analysis for scholars seeking to explore contemporary security affairs” (7).
This approach can be described as a post-Cold War focus concentrating on two assumptions: 1. That the decline of superpower competition decreases the penetrative quality of global power interest in the rest of the world (Friedberg 160); and 2. That most of the great powers in the post-Cold War international system are now pulled away. The argument of this paper is that the global level of international security over the last decade can best be understood as one superpower plus four great powers. It is essential to distinguish between superpowers and great powers even though both are at the global level.
Then it is necessary to differentiate that level from the one defined by regional powers and regional security complexes. Almost nobody debates that the end of the Cold War had a considerable impact on the whole organization of international security. But, more than a decade after the transformation, the character of the post-Cold War security order still remains eagerly disputed. Over the last decade the regional level of international security has become both more self-governing and more leading in international politics.
Katzenstein (2000) concludes that the ending of the Cold War accelerated this process. This thought comes naturally after the ending of bipolarity. Without superpower competition intruding all-absorbing into all regions, local powers have more room for tactic. For a decade after the ending of the Cold War, both the remaining extremely powerful states and the other great powers (China, EU, Japan, Russia) had less stimulus, and displayed less desire, to take a decisive role in security affairs outside their own regions.
The terrorist attack on the United States on the September 11, 2001 may well give rise to some affirmation of great power interventionism. However, this is likely to be for quite narrow and particular purposes, and seems improbable to recreate the general will to step abroad that was a characteristic of Cold War superpower competition. The definite autonomy of regional security over the last decade forms a pattern of international security relations fundamentally different from the steadfast structure of superpower bipolarity that was common during the Cold War.
The regional structure of international security is the relative balance of power of, and relative relationship within it between, regionalizing and globalizing trends. The central idea in the regional structure distinguishes between the system level cooperation of the global powers. Since most security threats travel undoubtedly over short distances than over long ones, international security interdependence is normally arranged into regionally based divisions: security complexes. As Friedberg (2000, 5) discuses: “most states historically have been concerned primarily with the capabilities and intentions of their neighbors”.
Security complexes may well be largely penetrated by the global powers. However, their regional dynamics have a considerable degree of autonomy from the plans set by the global powers. Usually, two main levels dominate security studies: national and global. National security– for example, the security of France–is not in itself a significant level of study. Because security branches are intrinsically relational, no nation’s security is self-contained. At the same time, global security refers at best to a strong desire, not a reality.
The globe is not tightly characterized by integration in security terms. Except for the special case of superpowers and great powers discussed above, only little can be said at this level of generalization that will reflect the real conflicts and problems in most countries. The region, in contrast, is connected with the level where states or other units cooperate together very closely and their securities cannot be analyzed separate from each other. The regional level is the space of national and global security mutual action, and where most of the operations occur.
Both the security of the divided units and the process of international power intervention can be understood only through comprehension of the regional security dynamics. The best understanding of the dynamics of international security could be achieved by treating global and regional levels as distinct, and considering how they played into each other. On the basis of a distinction between superpowers and great powers international security has outlines as follows: Over the last decade the global power structure shifted to 1 + 4.
The USA remained as a superpower, and China, the EU, Japan, and Russia as great powers. There was some mobility in the pattern of regional prospective. North and South America continued to be much as before. The breakdown of the Soviet Union meant that two (and for a while almost three) regional security complexes emerged in Europe. In Asia, the integration of the Northeast and Southeast Asian complexes brought the total to two. In Africa, the Southern Africa complex spread into Central Africa, and a Central African RSC came into view increasing the number to four.
If to consider the Middle East as one, then the global total in 2001 was eleven. Thinking about the future, 1 + 4 remains the most probable structure for at least a couple of decades. A shift to 2 + x is connected with the possibility that either China or the EU will be elevated to superpower status. Kapstein (1999) and Hansen (2000) share the widely held view that the emergence of a second superpower within the next two decades is unlikely (79). More likely is a transformation to 0 + x.
This could happen little by little if the USA experiences a long-term relative decline in its material assets in regard to other powers, or quite quickly if the USA decides to give up its superpower role and become a normal great power. Some writers, particularly Wohlforth (1999) and Krauthammer (1999), are strong supporters of an unipolarist strategy for the USA. This general course seems to have been made stronger both by the Bush administration and by the US acts in regard to 11 September. Waltz (2000) sees a multipolar world with the USA as one pole.
South Asia’s strong regional securitization was strengthened over the last decade. Post-Cold War, South Asia was chiefly affected by the ‘4’ element of 1 + 4. While Post-Cold War developments increased the possibility of the Asian super complex unification into a full Asian regional security complex, it was not absolutely matched by securitization of China in India. In South Asia, the strongest concern is a possible change of essential structure made up of the organization of an internal and an external change.
East Asia witnessed the merger of two previously independent regional security complexes, Southeast Asia and Northeast Asia. In East Asia, like in South Asia, the breakdown of the Soviet Union contributed considerably to the relative empowerment of China and its movement towards the centre of the US debate about possible ‘peer competitors ‘(Buzan and Little 13). It also generated to the emergence of a security regime in Southeast Asia and the union of the Southeast and Northeast Asian regional security complexes. The US activities in the region contributed to the incensement of securitization between it and China.
They also dampened down securitizations of China elsewhere in the region. China is chief but possibly not in the near future powerful enough to create a centered Asian regional security complex. The Middle East is to some extent very much like Asia, a region where strong local controversy dynamics intersect with a mighty US presence and worries about the future of the US role. In this regional security complexes, the shift to a 1 + 4 structure generated a period of unipolar intervention by the USA intended at a kind of coercive desecuritisation (Friedberg 68).
This made a considerable impact on the local division of power, supporting Israel and hammering Iraq. This also put all of the former clients of the Soviet Union into a weaker position. The Middle Eastern regional security complex has experienced some medium-scale transformations. Over the last decade, Africa underwent the reduction of external support for the postcolonial state structures. Since sub-Saharan Africa, similar to South America, has no neighboring great powers, it was not much influenced by the ‘4’ element of 1 + 4 (Wohlforth 40).
Dynamics of securitization were driven downward to the domestic level and upward to the international one. Africa is possibly to become the home of four regional security complexes. In Africa, the concern is about the formation and evolution of regional security complexes in a subcontinent dominated by state failure. There is the lack of much interest or intervention on behalf of the global powers, and the not absolutely strong roles of transnational organizations.
In Europe, the end of overlay disclosed both the centrality of the European Union as the main international security institution, and the growing of the stakes in the global great power status, or not, of the European Union (Buzan and Little 37). It also demonstrated the difference between the international security community dynamics of Western Europe in comparison with opposition formation dynamics in the former Soviet Union and its former empire. For the Central and South-eastern European countries caught in the middle, this contrast determined their whole foreign policy problematic.
The collapse of the Soviet Union not only replaced one of the superpowers, but also created a new regional security complex. In both Europe and the post-Soviet region, the regional and international levels play considerably into each other because the regional activities are responsible for the emergence and distribution of a great power. What is striking about the US power in Europe, East Asia, and South America (however, not the Middle East) is the level to which its position has become institutionalized through the creation of super regional projects including Atlanticism, Asia-Pacific, and pan-Americanism (Buzan 2000).
These projects commonly involve a strong mixture of super regional economic organization, and mutual defence and security processes, the special mix varying depending on the local conditions and history. These projects enable the USA to appear to be a powerful member of these regions. Where super regional projects are present, it is quite usual for the United States to be considered, and probably to consider itself, as a member of those security regions. By putting the USA inside these regions, super regional projects make less distinct the crucial distinguishing feature between regional and international level security processes.
They also make them difficult to see from within the United States. This blurring becomes a significant tool for the supporting of the USA’s sole superpower position, not least in keeping from the emergence of more autonomous regional coalitions that might be a threat to its influence or its primacy. This is not to refuse to recognize that these projects have considerable and sometimes positive political effects. But they can also contribute to the problems in terms of distinguishing between being a superpower and being a great or regional power.
The US security role in East Asia, South America, and Europe can be compared with its role in the Middle East. The US’ role is an outside global power penetrating into the affairs of the regions. The main point to support this theory is that there can be disputes concerning an outside power withdrawing, or being expelled, from the region concerned (Buzan and Little 69). For example, Germany cannot detach itself from Europe, nor Japan from East Asia, nor Brazil from South America. But the US can withdraw itself (or be withdrawn) from Europe, East Asia, and South America.
There are numerable debates both in the USA and in those regions (and also the Middle East) regarding the desirability or not of such transformations. Conclusion The attacks of 11 September showed how much international security is produced by the specific interactions of regional and global security dynamics. It is clear that the structure of international security is defined by the interplay of regions and powers. Regional security complexes analysis offers a significant tool for analyzing and understanding not only the past and present structures and processes of international security, but also the future transformations.
This paper argued that the regional level of security is significant and is a considerable part of the overall area of security in the international system.
Buzan, Barry, and Richard Little 2000. International Systems in World History. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Friedberg, Aaron L. 2000. In the Shadow of the Garrison State: America’s Anti-Statism and Its Cold War Grand Strategy. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Hansen, B. 2000. Unipolarity and the Middle East. Richmond, Surrey: Curzon Press. Kapstein, Ethan B. 1999. ‘Does Unipolarity Have a Future? ‘, in Kapstein and Mastanduno 1999.