How do you imagine a global world?

International security policy

Sven Bernhard Gareis

Prof. Dr. Sven Bernhard Gareis has been German Deputy Dean at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies in Garmisch-Partenkirchen since 2011. Since 2007 he has been teaching international politics at the Institute for Political Science at the Westphalian Wilhelms University in Münster with a focus on international organizations, German and European security policy and Chinese politics. He designed this issue and coordinated its creation. Contact: [email protected]

The wars and crises from Syria to Iraq to Ukraine, as well as the ubiquitous refugee misery in the Mediterranean region and the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, show that there are no more oases of stability in the globalized world. International security requires increased cooperation between states, organizations and civil society.

Security - a complex concept

Security is a basic human need. Ensuring this within the framework of a comprehensive security policy for its population is a basic function of the modern state. The fact that fulfilling this task is becoming increasingly difficult is due to the very concept of security. This does not describe a tangible object, but a multi-faceted concept that has individual-personal as well as collective dimensions, for example on the national or social level.

It is therefore difficult to define security. As an approximation to this complex concept, security is understood here as a state in which individuals, societies or states think that they effectively control and / or control the most important risks and threats to such existential goods as life, health, prosperity, way of life or the political and cultural order. to be able to fend off.

So security is not a static condition, but a construct subject to dynamic changes that must be continually discussed and politically reviewed. This begins with the question of the most pressing security threats: Are it health threats, economic problems, transnational terrorism, Russia's aggression against Ukraine, climate change or perhaps out of control financial and economic structures that can call into question the socio-economic stability of entire societies? Each answer is ultimately based on subjective assessments and evaluations, which can turn out very differently depending on the geographical, political, social or religious-cultural point of view.

The critical examination of security risks is so fundamentally important because the (power) instruments used to defend against a threat also unfold their effects on very different fields and levels: To what extent - at the national level - civil and human rights may be restricted in the course of countering terrorism without damaging the principles of freedom and democracy? Under what conditions and to what goals is an - international - military action against organizations like the "Islamic State" in Syria and Iraq imaginable without fueling the war and violence in the region even further? How can Russia be stopped without major challenges to European energy security?

Security issues usually lead to dilemma situations in which it is important to weigh up risks and goods to be protected, to minimize negative side effects as far as possible and to establish the greatest possible consensus among the actors involved about the joint approach. Clear answers are extremely rare, especially in pluralistic and democratic societies.

Wars and conflicts since 1945 (& copy Bergmoser + Höller Verlag AG, figure 621 070; source: AKUF, HIIK, COW, Plowshares, ICG (as of 4/2014))


Globalization as a design factor for international security



In addition to this conceptual problem, state and international security policy are also becoming more and more difficult because the emergence of risks and threats as well as their management take place under fundamentally changed framework conditions. Until the end of the East-West conflict, the world of states was characterized by secure borders and restricted or controlled mobility of people and goods. So she could still maintain the idea of ​​separate spheres of "inner" and "outer" security. Internally, the administration, disaster control, police and judiciary were responsible for covering the general life risks of the population; externally, these were mainly diplomacy and the military, which in Western Europe, for example, were supposed to ward off a threat from military attacks by the Soviet Union.

Global village

This classic distinction no longer exists under the auspices of globalization. In this global process, a growing number of state and non-state actors as well as political fields of action and problem areas are becoming ever more closely networked. The interaction relationships between the actors are accelerating rapidly, and the spatial connection between the occurrence of an event and the development of its effects is increasingly dissolving. This globalization process opens up unimagined possibilities for states and societies: Faster communication channels and better transport connections lead to closer global trade relations and thus at least potentially to growing prosperity, increased cultural exchange and understanding. Access to global media and freely available information increase the influence of international civil society on political processes, improve public control over state action and help collective goods such as human rights, environmental protection and social justice to gain greater global attention. The world is increasingly developing into a global village (according to the Canadian philosopher and humanities scholar Herbert Marshall McLuhan in 1968), whose inhabitants are increasingly dependent on one another.

New risks and threats

However, this global village is not a romantic place. Mutual dependence (interdependence) always means vulnerability, the open paths and channels that are essential for freedom and prosperity can also be used by criminal or terrorist organizations. In addition, the fruits of the globalization process are distributed extremely unevenly among the inhabitants of the global village. The resulting political, economic and social inequalities have also caused a noticeable fragmentation of the international system along cultural, religious or ideological fault lines.

Instead of an overriding military threat from a powerful enemy, the states today are mostly confronted with a whole bundle of direct and indirect risks, which in addition often overlap and are linked to increasingly complex scenarios. The range of these challenges includes wars and crumbling states, transnational terrorism and organized crime, migration and refugee movements, the spread of diseases and, last but not least, environmental and climate damage. In addition, developments and events in one part of the world are affecting states and societies in supposedly distant regions more and more quickly. War and violence in the Middle East not only cause existential hardship and displacement for the affected populations, but also affect numerous neighboring countries. The persistent development deficits in parts of Africa, combined with the inability of many states to protect their populations from attacks by terrorist organizations or militias, are leading to mass exodus and migration towards Europe. The global financial, economic and debt crisis that has been going on since 2008 shows how massive and extensive undesirable developments in one sector of this closely networked global system affect practically all other fields of action. The ever faster global transport connections ensure that infectious diseases such as the lung disease SARS a few years ago or, more recently, the Ebola virus, are not limited to a few local herds, but can quickly spread to other countries and continents. In addition to the risk of regional or even global disease transmission, so-called pandemics, infections with a high degree of spread have effects in the countries and regions of origin themselves. For example, HIV / AIDS or, more recently, Ebola in Africa destroy social and political structures and economic and social life comes to a standstill.

The media bring wars and catastrophes to the attention of the global public in real time and can thus trigger political pressure to act in capitals and in international organizations such as NATO or the UN. It is the so-called CNN effect, a mechanism that owes its name to the reporting of the US news channel of the same name from war-torn Somalia at the beginning of the 1990s: Drastic and emotional images mobilize public opinion in many countries in favor of international interventions and Activities. In addition to the professional news channels, individuals and groups have long since appeared who use smartphones and digital cameras to make pictures and eyewitness reports available in the shortest possible time. This initially promises authenticity - since with modern communication media such as Facebook and Twitter anyone can become a war correspondent on their own behalf, the question of its origin and reliability is becoming increasingly important, especially in view of the often far-reaching consequences of such information.

Erosion of state sovereignty

Globalization also has a decisive influence on international politics. It becomes clear that the scope of individual, even very powerful, states to use the opportunities of the globalization process and to reduce its risks is becoming increasingly narrow. This is also expressed in a progressive erosion of state sovereignty: States and governments are less and less able to control the consequences and effects that external developments bring into their territories. Even domestic political action can no longer concentrate exclusively on its own national territory, but must keep an eye on cross-border requirements.

Since the international system has so far not produced any central political control mechanisms, even under the sign of globalization, it is still up to the states to develop suitable strategies for their own security provision. Above all, however, they must work together internationally to create a global security order and to deal with an increasingly broad spectrum of difficult problem areas.