The Problem of War and International Security
Security studies is the pinnacle sub-field of IR, not necessarily the only one but largely one of the
most important ones.
IR Theory and the Problem of War:
Classical Realism: States are always at war, or constantly preparing for war. We try to
mitigate the frequency at which we go to war.
Structural Realism: much more way of discounting norms and morals of IR. Anarchy is
the key variable which makes war possible. The other factor within IR is the balance of
power. Therefore, look at the security studies as a balance of power.
Neoliberal Institutionalism: looking at institutions as means of mitigating conflicts.
Constructivism: look at actors‟ predisposition to war at a function of activity. Certain
actors are less likely to go to war with each other. Security institutions, or regional
organizations, constructivist would argue that identities and the collective ideas which are
foundation of that state, will explain why the state would or when it‟ll go on war.
Neo-Marxism: capitalism is inherently self-defeating, on a broader scale would add to the
security study debate, and look at the capital, mode of productions, technology. The
various influences that change balance of power and the relationships between them.
Ultimately changing class structures in states and between states.
Postmodernism: invested in language, the effect of which has a structural property in the
reality that we know. The words that we use, symbols etc all come and expressed through
language, and they form the social reality. Different ways in which we talk about war,
frame war, and normalize war in language.
Each one of the theories has different ways of dealing with IR and the problems that exist within
Security as a Contested Concept:
Q1: What is the security referent? i.e. what is the object of security? Security for whom? And
security for which values?
A basic framing question in which we can approach this contested concept of security. Security
is an essentially contested concept, that comes out of our mouth and we know what it is. The
notion of national security is so ambiguous. States and national politicians use security and all of
a sudden it is supposed to mean something.
Q2: How do you achieve security? What is your guide for pursuing security? By what means will
you achieve these goals? Cutting with each question a little bit deeper this notion of security. Should have a basis for
Q3: what is your metric of security? What measurements, thresholds or markers do you use to
frame whether or not the object is “secure” or security is achieved? How much security is
How much protection is needed from something as allusive as security threats to do with
terrorism. What is acceptable in terms of our reaction to these types of security threats? Help us
frame and address and approach whatever security issue we are looking at.
Q4: security at what cost? The pursuit of security always involves the sacrifice of other goals that
could have been pursued had they not been devoted to security. So, how can one decide when or
how much of a given policy issue should be sacrificed to a given security concern? What is a
This is the nature of real world politics that we cannot prioritize everything and we have to do a
reasonable trade-off to have an order. Are we investing enough or too much? Are there such
things as diminishing returns when we look at security problems at peaks?
Q5: In what time period should specified security goals be pursued? What is the time horizon? Is
there any possibility of extension or room for flexibility?
How much reasonable time should be elapsed in which normal procedure will take place and you
cannot hold the person in captivity.
Q6: From a disciplinary standpoint, how far can the definition of security stray beyond military
and state affairs? For instance, is the notion of human security too broad?
This gets us back to the first question; we have to put limits around security studies at some
point. Is it too far, to say that human security advocates that security referent should not be the
states but the human, is that something that should be securitize. Should all states adopt this? Not
only security is an essentially contested concept in theory, but also in practice. That
securitization is inherently political. There is nothing automatic about securitization, in the sense
that we cannot automatically securitize against some threats. It is not to say that the Soviet Union
threatened individuals or all states yet there were certain policies, that USA and Canada
implemented to approach it.
The process of Securitization:
Barry Buzan: “issues become securitized when leaders begin to talk about them- and to gain the
ear of the public and the state- in terms of existential threats against some valued referent object.
The securitizing formula is that such threats require exceptional measures and/or emergency
action to deal with them. Securitization classically legi