An examination of the changed nature of ‘defence’ and ‘security’ requires us to go back to two major theories of international relations : ‘Defence’ related approach is affiliated with realism whereas origin of ‘Security’ related approach can be traced back to the liberal tradition. According to the realists, international politics is a continuous struggle for power in an anarchic world environment. Accordingly, state’s national interest play a vital role in a zero-sum game of interstate relations affecting their outward behaviour and thus creating new dynamics . Within this complex context it is ‘Balance of Power’ that rules the roost. International law and structures only play a supplementary role .The controlling dynamic of the nation state system thus came to be known as ‘Power Politics’. This term came from the German Machtopolitik which has both a pejorative and descriptive connotation.
It characterised the relationship between nation states as being governed entirely by use or threat of use of ‘military force’ However, institutional liberalism on the other hand accepts the importance of ‘military force’ in international relations but it emphasises on the importance of the international law and the need for inter-state cooperation through institutions in order to preserve the stability of the system. Accordingly, international norms play a fundamental role to sustain the international status quo. The core of the liberal thought is that the rule of law in international politics is in coherence with the proper institutional mechanism for peaceful resolution of conflicts by establishing a ‘Community of Power’ based not only on the doctrine of deterring potential aggressors but also by altering the nature of states interactions from ‘competitive’ to ‘cooperative’.
It is quite obvious from the changes that have taken place in the world during the later stages of the 20th and the first decade of the 21st century that the Calusewitzian strategy of ‘war as a political instrument’ which dominated the strategic thinking in the world for a long time has changed . Strategy itself has undergone change it can no longer be compartmentalised by geography, said Jean-Marie Guehenno. It is argued, no place on earth is now immune to the global reach of the new smart weapons like the devastating missiles which sought enemy thousand of miles away with pin point accuracy in two recent wars of the twenty first century.
Though nationalism has somehow still remains a very strong force , but nation states find it increasingly difficult to consolidate state institutions. Globalisation has become the convenient word to describe the above changes that seem to be threatening the old order. However, some continue to argue that globalisation is not such a radical change despite emergence of new actors .States, it is contended should confront the new actors as it has done in the past threats, to their power. Strategicaly speaking, globalisation is characterised by the increased role of non-state actors, thus traditional rules of strategy will still apply. Guehenno suggests one should analyse motives and interests , assess the ‘Balance of Power’ and if necessary, try to change it by making alliances and exploiting contradictions.
This is easier said than done, when the biggest alliances like NATO are still groping for a role two decades after the end of cold war and the collapse of the Warsaw Pact. It was easy earlier when right at the beginning its first secretary general, Lord Ismay described the role of NATO simply to keep “the Russians out, the Americans in and the Germans down”. As is well known NATO’s core task has made a shift away from this initial doctrine and along the way has started reviewing the concept of collective ‘defence’ to collective ‘security’. It is coincidental that Lord Ismay, apart from steering NATO during its initial tumultuous years after the Second World War was also instrumental in advising the USA on the reorganisation of their higher defence at the national level. Not known to many, on his return from the USA, Lord Ismay, as Chief of Staff to Lord Mountbatten was asked, to examine the Indian higher defence organisation. It is Lord Ismay who gave us our system of committees including the Chiefs of Staff Committee ! However, NATO and the USA have moved along since then constantly changing their concepts of defence and security according to the requirements of the changing times.
We in India have tended to follow the old beaten path despite the worst relations with our adversaries across the borders. Doing more of the same has brought us to a situation where often the trade and commerce lobby and the strategic lobby are advising the government at cross purposes leading to an incoherent response to any developing new situataion. Paradoxically, instead of leveraging our growing trade we are bogged down by our old thinking on ‘defence’ and end up compromising our national ‘security’ as was evident during the recent visit of the Chinese PM. We were more at ease during the visit from France and Russia where the old fashioned defence deals were eagerly signed . Though here again we did not leverage the ‘defence’ deals to bolster our present and future ‘security’ concerns .
NATO’s change in outlook at looking at the new threats is best illustarted in the talk given by the present NATO Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen on 19 Novem,ber 2010 at Lisbon . He said “many of my generation look at ‘security’, and at NATO, through the prism of the Cold War. They think of ‘defence’ in terms of big armies, heavy equipment, set-piece battles, country versus country. …….but our security environment today is completely different, even from the recent past. We face a range of new challenges” The three challenges that NATO is looking at now are ‘weak states’, that are breeding grounds for terrorism, drugs, trafficking of weapons and people. Second, the steady spread of missiles and nuclear technology. Third cyber security. Clearly, these threats are to the ‘security’ of member NATO countries and can not be met by merely strengthening NATO’s present force structure meant for territorial ‘defence’ . In the USA, the change is primarily being led by the US defence secretary , Robert Gates through his crusade against the old thinking . He maintains “the US can’t eliminate national ‘security’ risks through higher ‘defence’ budgets. Moving away for the present from the debate in the USA is illustrated best in the Time magazine 23 February 2009 issue, “Taming the System”.
In fact, so far the armed forces around the world believed that ‘defence’ and ‘security’ meant the same thing. But that is not true anymore. Scope of ‘defence’ is very narrow. ‘Security’ on the other hand has much wider ramifications. All development of weapons has so far been for ‘defence’ of the nation state and the ultimate development in the process was the nuclear weapon, all for ‘defence’. However, unlike earlier times weapons alone no longer provides ‘security’ .The nation state have been increasingly worried about ‘human security’, ‘food security’ and ‘security against non state actors’. The citizens who are paying taxes for the armed forces, for the big battalions, the big ships, better tanks, lethal aircrafts and the nuclear weapons are not feeling ‘secure’ . Hence, it is for us to ask if the new big ticket weapons really do provide ‘security’ ? It is worth considering at this stage, the strategic reach that the US has through their tremendous Air power . Their Army can take on any adversary anywhere in the world. Force projection is possible through the US Navy all around the globe.
US Navy’s battle fleet is larger than the next 13 navies combined in the world of which 11 navies belong to US allies or partners ! Having the best of weapons and all the military wherewithal that they need including the maximum number of nuclear weapons . Why then are citizens in the US and the US government not feeling ‘secure’? This is the big question and if we take this argument to its logical conclusion we will find that the budget on the defence forces all around the world has already started shrinking. It has already started with the UK and France agreeing to share aircraft-carriers and soon other strategic assets . On the other hand the expenditure on entities known to provide ‘security’ is increasing. Countries are spending more and more money on paramilitary forces, border ‘defence’, policing , intelligence, counter intelligence, surveillance and improving customs checks. All this is being done to somehow make the citizens feel more ‘secure’. Following this argument, it would be apparent that the means of providing ‘defence’ would steadily start losing their relevance.
There is therefore need to change our thinking towards ‘defence’ and ‘security’ and not treat these two interchangeably to mask our inability to face the fact that we are still stuck with the old paradigm of ‘defence’, somehow believing that strengthening of defence will automatically ensure ‘security’. We must seriously debate the issues involved and bolster both our thinking and the capabilities to ensure that we become a powerful provider of ‘security’ to our countrymen. This should happen before the taxpayers ask us the uncomfortable questions about all our glittering goodies from abroad which have little use in bolstering their feeling of ‘security’!
– A Gorkha officer, Lt Gen Dr BS Malik, PVSM, AVSM(Retd) is a graduate of the Royal College of Defence Studies (UK) with a MSc and PhD from the Madras University. He served as the Military Adviser, in the UK from 1991 to 1994