Stephen J. Del Rosso, Jr., "The Insecure State (What Future for the State?)" Daedalus, Vol. 124, no. 2 (Spring 1995)

IN THE HEYDAY OF THE COLD WAR, students of the once popular, American-inspired discipline of "strategic studies" could both amaze and appall their friends with a small, seemingly innocuous plastic device known to the cognoscenti as the "RAND Bomb Damage Effect Calculator."(1) By turning a series of concentric dials and aligning such esoteric inputs as "bomb yield" and "single shot probability," one could calculate with apparent precision the devastation that would result from the explosion of a nuclear weapon. In its self-contained simplicity, its diabolical elegance (to employ a rhetorical flourish appropriate to the age), the device was a metaphor for the bloodless, pseudoscientific calculus of the Cold War. Equipped with a bomb damage effect calculator, the strategic studies devotee could gaze upon the world secure in the knowledge that in his hands lay the essence of the international security problematique.

There are no longer any such devices. If one were to exist today, it would undoubtedly confound its user with its Rube Goldbergesque complexity. To the grim factors that once combined to create the nuclear threat would have to be added, or so it is argued, an almost endless array of interconnected inputs that would challenge the capabilities of even the most advanced microchip. In the deceptively profound words of a former American ambassador when asked his views on post-Cold War developments, "everything is related to everything else, only more so now than ever."(2)

It is the very abundance and intricacy of these interrelationships that have posed the greatest obstacle to those now seeking to identify and reify the essence of security. Despite the daunting nature of the task, there has been no shortage of would-be "damage effect calculator makers" who have attempted to redefine security in ways that do not lend themselves to the simple alignment of a few plastic dials. Asserting that security is something more than "the study of the threat, use and control of military force,"(3) an eclectic cadre of new thinkers has promoted such nonmilitary phenomena as environmental degradation, migration, narcotics trafficking, AIDS, and global population growth as worthy subjects for inclusion within a new, broader conception of the field. In response to this conceptual and, for those whose livelihoods have been at stake, practical challenge, the "strict constructionist" school has argued that such a redefinition of security threatens to destroy the field's "intellectual coherence and make it more difficult to devise solutions to any of these [other] important problems."(4) As the dust begins to settle from the epochal changes of 1989--1990 (without a trace of radioactivity, it should be gratefully acknowledged), some have maintained that the more traditional agenda has reasserted its primacy with a strength and vigor that hearken "back to the future."(5)

At the heart of the debate over the evolving nature of security is a familiar, albeit mercurial, entity: "the state." The revisionists, in their rejection of the well-defined Ptolemaic order of the Cold War, in which security revolved around the state, have sought to shift the focus of attention to the borderless realm of humanity and its fragile habitat. Dismissing attempts to change the referent object of security as heretical or even dangerous, the keepers of the faith maintain that, in a world still dominated by the force of arms, the locus of security remains, and must remain, the state.

What, then, are we to make of the conceptual disarray that has accompanied the end of the Cold War? What lessons have we learned since the fall of the Berlin Wall? Have we now entered, as then CIA Director James Woolsey warned, "a jungle filled with a bewildering variety of poisonous snakes,"(6) or, having witnessed the demise of the dragon that defined the chief security threat for the past forty years, have we again been presented with an opportunity--indeed, some would argue, a duty--to remake the world, and in the words of UN Secretary General Boutros-Boutros Ghali, "to secure justice and human rights, promote social successfully threats to common security"?(7)

In an attempt to shed light on some of the key underlying themes that bind these concerns together, I will argue in this essay that behind the lack of conceptual clarity surrounding post-Cold War definitions of "security" is a basic misunderstanding about the changing role of the state in a changing world. Clearly, this is not the whole story; once meaningful concepts of aggression, threat, intervention, and the like also await reconceptualization. But the inability of scholars and policymakers to fully comprehend the transformations taking place in the contemporary state is, I would contend, a major factor contributing to the clouded perception of security in the final decade of this eventful and often tumultuous century.


For the intellectual progeny of Machiavelli, Bodin, Hobbes, and Hegel, giving substance to the term "the state" has long been a daunting practical and theoretical challenge that, nonetheless, has been willingly and exhaustively pursued. From the "realist" conception of an independent, territorially-bounded political entity driven by an unquenchable thirst for power, to alternative approaches focused on ruling class interests or the impersonal "apparatus of government," the state has been cast in many forms. After conducting an extensive literature search of the subject, political scientist James Rosenau bemoaned:

I remain disconcerted by the wavering, multiple uses and elusive formulations of the concept [of the state], not to mention intimidated by an inability to reconcile such unqualified observers as those who assert that "the state is not a does not, as such, exist" with those who argue that "nothing is more real in this world of ours than states."(8)

It is easy to become disconcerted--if at the same time impressed--by the sheer volume and variety of criteria that have been presented as determinants of statehood. To the core elements of a "defined territory, permament population, government and capacity to enter into relations with other states,"(9) have been added such requisites as the provision of a minimum standard of social and economic welfare, maintenance of law and order, establishment of property rights, and, more recently, protection of human rights. Despite the many attempts at semantic precision and the ubiquity of the subject matter, there remains no single characterization of the state that is universally recognized. Even one of the most widely-acknowledged definitions, Max Weber's classic formulation of an entity "capable of sustaining the claim to the legitimate monopoly of control of the means of violence within a given territory,"(10) has been found lacking by those who question its applicability in the face of the widespread delegitimation of authority and absence of "law and order" in the modern world. That such intellectual challenges are even made is testament both to the recondite--some might even say irrelevant--character of the discourse surrounding the state and to the persistent lack of consensus about its essential nature. Each of the social sciences appears to have developed its own idiosyncratic notion of statehood, which, while serving certain narrowly-defined ends, is largely nontransferable across disciplinary boundaries. There are even multiple definitions of the state employed within different branches of the same discipline, most notably political science. Compounding the confusion is a presumption among those employing the term that others subscribe to a particular definition, when something quite different is often understood.

Notwithstanding the "dialogue of the deaf" that characterizes much of the discourse about the state, the search for an immutable core within this wavering entity continues to engage the attention of scholars. In his tripartite analysis of the state, British political scientist Barry Buzan(11) suggests why such searches have invariably proved inconclusive. In addition to the commonly-cited material and institutional determinants of statehood, Buzan views "the idea of the state" as vital to its existence. While giving equal prominence to the more tangible elements of the state, his acknowledgment of the subjective, ideational dimension of statehood is an important corrective to the ostensibly objective criteria that have been offered in other definitions. Buzan's bow to subjectivity lends support to the proposition that the state is, in some important respects, an abstraction, an entity existing "chiefly in the hearts and minds of people."(12) By conceding that statehood ultimately depends as much on what people think about the state as on its more tangible assets, Buzan's notion helps bridge the conceptual divide between those who believe "it is not a thing" and those who believe that "nothing is more real."


Since the end of the Cold War, efforts to reconceptualize the state have proliferated anew. Much of this work has focused on the alleged deficiencies of the contemporary state when compared to its earlier incarnations. There has been a growing literature in recent years on fundamental shifts in political and economic power to such entities as "The Catalytic State,"(13) "The Region State,"(14) and "The Soft-Edged State"(15) that portend the gradual irrelevance of statehood as we know it. Indeed, this issue of Daedalus as well as its 1993 precursor are, in part, contributors to this movement. Complementing and encouraging this line of inquiry has been a proliferation of academic conferences and "policy dialogues" with such titles as "Beyond the State" (recalling Ernst Haas's 1964 book of the same title), "The End of the State?" (both in the interrogatory and declarative forms), "The Future of the State," and the felicitously titled, "W[h]ither the State?"

The basic questions that have recently been raised about the ability of the state to function as a coherent and viable actor in an increasingly complex and interdependent world are not new; they echo those voiced decades ago by such keen observers of the world scene as Hedley Bull, Charles Kindleberger, Stanley Hoffmann, Richard Falk, George Kegley, and (despite his notoriety as a state-centric grandmaster of realpolitik) Henry Kissinger, among many others.(16) What distinguishes today's debate from earlier versions, however, is the radically changed geopolitical environment, in which the contingent nature of statehood has never seemed so apparent. The accelerated globalization of the world economy, revolutionary advances in communications and transport, secessionist pressures, and environmental, health, and demographic trends are all viewed as undermining the state's "traditional" capabilities and authority as never before. Contributing to this phenomenon are such diverse and increasingly powerful nonstate actors as transnational corporations, nongovernmental organizations, religious movements, drug cartels, and other global phenomena that fall outside of state control. In a world dominated by the overriding imperatives of the market and the unstoppable diffusion of information, territorial boundaries are viewed by some as largely meaningless. Internally, the state is seen as increasingly incapable of providing for the general welfare and asserting its claim to be the moral arbiter of its citizens' lives. Such developments have been used to buttress earlier claims of the state's withering competence that focused on its inability to protect its citizens from attack by hostile foreigners (perhaps the most vaunted of its traditional functions).

In conceding that some of the state's capabilities have been undermined, its adherents contend that no more effective form of political organization has yet been found to replace it. Despite myriad challenges, the state remains the primary actor on the world stage. Its preeminent role in military matters, its macrolevel regulatory authority, its penetration of society, its control over natural and human resources, its formidable ability to rally citizens around a common goal, are all given as reasons to support this claim. One need only ask the Kurds, Quebecois, Tutsi, Karen, or Tibetans to what form of political organization they aspire to see that the notion of statehood continues to have great resonance. In response to those who question the continued relevance of the state's territorial bonds, it can be argued that the doctrine of nonintervention as enshrined in ARTICLE 2 of the UN Charter and the informal but widely-held norm recognizing the validity of existing international borders have ensured that many preexisting states that once might have been swallowed up or dismembered by stronger neighbors are able to survive with their territorial autonomy and independence intact.(17) To arguments that supranational entities such as the European Community are subverting the authority of its constitutent units, the point is made that the end product of the pooling of sovereignty is an even larger, more efficient state. It is further maintained that in a world made smaller, and in some ways more homogeneous, by the relentless advance of technology, the state (especially the "nation-state") provides the most effective means of expressing a particular people's sense of identity and uniqueness and satisfying what Benedict Anderson has evocatively referred to as its "metaphysical yearnings."(18) If there is no common agreement among scholars about what constitutes "the state" in the modern world, if its abstract and variegated qualities render it immune to definitive explication, how then is its competence to be judged? Curiously, if we examine closely the arguments of those who claim that the state is a teetering colossus and those who maintain that it retains much of its historic preeminence, a common flaw is evident. Both are based largely on the assumption that the state has either receded from or remained essentially level with a high-water mark of statehood that purportedly existed at some point in the past. This is not to contend that either critics or adherents would deny, for example, that the power possessed by Louis XIV's France was far different in quality and quantity from that possessed by many states today. Rather, it is to say that there is general agreement that within the historic context of the seventeenth century, France's claim to statehood was quite secure in relation to other states on the international scene. Those who argue that the contemporary state is a pale shadow of its former self would contend that many late twentieth-century states are, in relative terms, far less "stately" than was seventeenth-century France. Others would point out that the relative standing of many states today is no less--and in some cases is even more--imposing than it was three centuries ago.

Regardless of the perspective, a close analysis of the historical record indicates that the traditional competencies of the state were never quite as they are now sometimes imagined to have been. To take only one of many examples, state control over economic matters, as Stephen Krasner(19) has documented, was much less comprehensive throughout most of the presumed heyday of the territorial state than it is for many today. In each of the key areas in which state authority has supposedly been eroded--including its control over communications, its role in ensuring economic prosperity, and its ability to protect its territorial integrity--history provides ample evidence that the state's capabilities have always been highly contingent and variable. Rather than serving as a hermetic seal, the borders of the state have long been a permeable membrane through which armies, immigrants, contraband, pathogens, and ideas have passed with relative ease. More comprehensive and convincing evidence of the state's embellished resume can be extracted from the vast body of scholarship by historians, political scientists, and sociologists chronicling the life cycle of this relative newcomer to the world stage. The reader will search in vain for any period in history in which the state matched the idealized conception that has too often served as the standard against which many of both its contemporary critics and adherents have assessed its competence.

While the conceptual confusion surrounding the basic nature of the state can be attributed, at least in part, to its abstract qualities reflected "chiefly in the hearts and minds of people," the historical record suggests that both the case against the state's continued preeminence as well as arguments in defense of its traditional role are directed towards a mythical entity that has become the object of a widely and deeply held sense of false nostalgia. This flawed perception, or fallacy of a double abstraction, as it might be called, compounds the original conceptual challenge and frames much of the often confusing, unintelligible, and unproductive debate over the role and nature of the contemporary state.

The lack of scholarly consensus about the state may seem surprising, if not counterintuitive, to the readers of The New York Times, The Economist, or Asahi Shimbun, to say nothing of those who practice the art of statecraft in the United Nations or in foreign ministries. There were, after all, nearly 190 officially recognized states at the beginning of 1995; their interplay is the very stuff of international affairs. How the generic notion of the state is defined would seem moot or irrelevant in the face of the entity's unequivocal empirical standing. And yet, I would argue that even those who consider the state as a given, as an immutable fixture of modern life, do not have a clear grasp of what it is they are referring to beyond a certain crudely drawn caricature. This persistent inability to understand the true nature of statehood, to mistakenly apply the outmoded notions of the past to contemporary affairs, is at the heart of the conceptual muddle surrounding the meaning of security in the post-Cold War world. It is this muddle to which I now turn.


When the renowned post-World War II analyst of international affairs, Arnold Wolfers,(20) referred to security as an "ambiguous symbol," he acknowledged the semantic and conceptual imprecision long associated with the term. Traditionally, security has had two primary meanings:(21) 1) freedom from risk or danger and 2) freedom from doubt, anxiety, or fear. It derives from the Latin securitas, which is a variation of securas, meaning "without care."

For most of the past four hundred years, security has been intimately associated with the state. It has long (though not exclusively) meant "protection from organized violence caused by armed foreigners." Since "foreign" implies a person who is "not like us," and since territorially-based states (or nation-states) emerged in Europe after 1648 as the dominant organizing principle for separating "us from them," security's identification with the state is not surprising. Throughout history, it was the consolidation of the state's military capabilities, and the bureaucratization this engendered, that accelerated the consolidation of the state itself. As its violence capability (both defensive and offensive) developed in tandem, the state became not only the chief provider of security, but also its chief interpreter; for much of history, "security" simply meant what the rulers said it meant.

Despite the state's appropriation of the term to serve a distinct and seemingly narrow set of military-based objectives, more nuanced conceptions of security have made their way into political discourse. As the historian Ernest May has noted, security, when defined in "national" (state) terms "has always been understood as having both external and domestic components....Thus Washington could argue in 1791 for more spending on the Post Office and post roads on the ground of their 'instrumentality in diffusing a knowledge of the laws and proceedings of the Government, which...contributes to the security of the people.'"(22) The preamble to the American Constitution--with its avowal to "provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty"--was only the first of what was later to become a thick compilation of official documentation linking the internal and external aspects of security.

The peculiarly American notion of "national security"--a term reportedly first used by James Forrestal, Roosevelt's Secretary of the Navy and later Truman's Secretary of Defense, in testimony before the Senate in the mid-1940s--was codified in the much cited 1950 policy document known as NSC-68, which called for "a rapid and sustained build-up of the political, economic, and military strength"(23) of the United States. This new approach was later reflected in such "security"-related legislation as the 1950s National Defense Highway Act (which funded the construction of forty thousand miles of new highways) and the post-Sputnik National Defense Education Act (which supported the training of a generation of American scientists and engineers).(24) Entire industries, such as those concerned with aeronautics and space exploration, were called into being during the Cold War under a national security guise that provided a ready rationale for "cutting through the logjam of domestic politics."(25)

Although, as its name implies, "national security" was unabashedly state-centric in its orientation, a growing number of intellectual challenges to the prevailing orthodoxy boldly suggested that security could not be so easily contained within the narrow confines of any one state. In light of his standing as former Secretary of Defense and one of the chief architects of America's involvement in the Vietnam War, Robert McNamara's(26) apostasy in 1968 regarding the nature of security was one of the more prominent and surprising examples of this new way of thinking. In his book, The Essence of Security, McNamara articulated an expansive notion of the field that included the promotion of economic, political, and social development in "poor nations" (anticipating his subsequent appointment as President of the World Bank) as a means of "preventing conflict" and preserving a minimal measure of global "order and stability."

Even McNamara's more eclectic approach to security viewed its ultimate objective in essentially traditional terms; nonmilitary aspects were important to the extent that they afforded "protection from organized violence." More significantly, his grasp of the nonmilitary aspects remained vague. There was little sense of how policies could be developed that acknowledged and responded to his account of security's myriad dimensions. At the height of the Vietnam War, with the nuclear arsenals of the United States and the Soviet Union, as well as the missiles of Communist China, set for launch on a hair trigger, no amount of philosophizing (or, less charitably, contrition for previous sins) by a retiring Secretary of Defense could be expected to have much of an effect on the deeply entrenched views of the more traditional security establishment.

During the 1960s and continuing into the next decade, various commentators on the fate of the earth attempted to identify phenomena that were deemed highly dangerous in and of themselves. Rather than serving primarily to undermine international "order and stability," phenomena such as ecological degradation and population growth joined nuclear war as presenting an existential threat to human survival and the earth's ecosystem, not just to survival of the state or the state system. A diverse group of "scholar activists," including Rachel Carson, Barry Commonor, Jacques Cousteau, Paul Erlich, Buckminster Fuller, Garrett Hardin, and Margaret Mead, among others, preached the new gospel of saving the planet. While each emphasized a different aspect of the problem, the urgency that drove their separate appeals was enshrined in the best-selling 1972 Club of Rome study, The Limits of Growth, which painted an unremittingly grim picture of a future in which the world's economic system was destined to collapse as a result of unchecked population and industrial growth.

It was, ironically, the dire warnings of inescapable disaster that ultimately undermined the political impact of The Limits of Growth and other similarly alarmist tracts. The more shrill the cries for attention, the less they were taken seriously. Despite growing recognition of the fragility of "spaceship earth" and such public demonstrations of environmental awareness as Earth Day in 1970 (held, as its critics duly noted, on Lenin's Birthday), the abstruse and often infeasible policy prescriptions advanced to save the planet had as little resonance among most of the celebrated "silent majority" as among the practitioners of "high politics" in the White House, State Department, and Pentagon. Moreover, in their quest for relevance, the scholar activists failed to explicitly link nonmilitary phenomena to a prevailing notion of security still largely perceived in more conventional terms.

Among the first to make this conceptual linkage was WorldWatch Institute President Lester Brown,(27) who anticipated the debate to follow in his 1977 paper on "Redefining National Security," which described a long litany of "security threats," including climate change, soil erosion, food shortages, and deforestation. But the appeal of Brown's argument--regardless of its merits--was limited by his role as one of America's leading environmentalists. He was, in many respects, preaching to the converted. More damaging to his cause was the lack of attention he gave those issues--from the aggressive designs of certain governments beyond the West, to the nationalism that still drove inter- and intrastate relations--which continued to figure prominently in the security calculus of the "powers that be." Incapable of concealing his prominently displayed environmental prejudices and of integrating the "new" security agenda with the old, his case--like those of the scholar activists preceding him--was largely ignored by both policymakers and the public.

To reach, if not convert, the nonbelievers, the case had to be made by someone who was not so easily identified with the environmental cause and who could speak the language of the foreign affairs establishment. In a 1983 piece in the military-oriented academic journal, International Security, entitled "Redefining Security," Princeton University political scientist Richard Ullman(28) attempted to take up this advocacy role by adding such nonmilitary phenomena as epidemics, floods, droughts, and earthquakes to many of the "security" threats cited earlier by Brown. Notably, Ullman also promoted the shift in focus away from concerns about the state, arguing that mankind shared a destiny that transcended national borders. Despite its lack of environmental bombast and its acknowledgment of the continuing salience of the old security agenda, Ullman's appeal also made hardly a ripple in an entrenched security establishment still preoccupied with the more traditional imperatives of war and peace. Although hailed as a seminal essay more than a decade after it first appeared, the article's most significant achievement at the time was that its subject matter was deemed to be a valid and appropriate topic for further discussion among some of the limited, though sometimes influential, readership of International Security and other esoteric journals of its kind. It was only later in the 1980s, when the cracks began to widen in the geopolitical edifice of the Cold War, that the arguments advanced by Ullman would reach a broader audience.


When the Cold War ended, there came to be even more reason to consider "security" as an "essentially contested subject"(29) unfettered to the state. With the nuclear standoff between the superpovers no longer dictating the principle terms of the security debate, a new spate of revisionist analysis appeared on the scene. The tone was set by World Resources Institute Vice President Jessica Matthews(30) in her 1989 Foreign Affairs update of Ullman's article "Redefining Security." Matthew's piece, which served as an archetype for a number of similarly themed essays, established a far-ranging agenda of security concerns that expanded on earlier warnings that "mankind is rapidly altering the basic physiology of the planet." It also suggested fundamental changes in governmental and intergovernmental policies. Although, like Lester Brown, Matthews represented an institution associated primarily with environmental concerns, the radically changed geopolitical climate made her appeal--voiced in an eminently mainstream publication--more palatable and accessible than earlier efforts.

In the ensuing years, the intellectual floodgates were flung open and it was the more traditional security adherents in academia and the Washington think tanks (many of whom scrambled to redefine their own job qualifications) who were now on the defensive. What was once a cottage industry in redefining security rapidly assumed the characteristics of a mature and booming enterprise. In addition to the analyses of the changing security environment by such establishment stalwarts(31) as Zbigniew Brzezinski, Stanley Hoffmann, Henry Kissinger, James Schlesinger, and Theodore Sorenson, there now appeared the works of a younger and diverse group of new "security" analysts,(32) including Peter Gleick, Michael Klare, Ronnie Lipshutz, and Joseph Romm, among many others, who challenged the traditional orthodoxies and mind-sets.

A common thread in much of the security-related analyses during this period was the recognition that any attempt to redefine the field must entail a clear articulation of both the object and scope of the inquiry. For example, while acknowledging the salience of nonmilitary aspects of security, some insisted that "the danger of war"(33) should still be the field's primary concern, while others argued that an expanded dialogue on security "among [scholars] of widely differing views," should not "obscure the centrality of the discipline of political science"(34) to the field. Anxious to articulate the object and scope of the inquiry was a new breed of thinkers who had little patience with the conceptual strictures of established doctrine and insisted, to paraphrase Georges Clemenceau, that security was too important to be left to the political scientists. These specialists, representing diverse disciplines, sought to get at the essence of security by cutting through the Gordian Knot that had sheathed international relations theory for so long. Rejecting the terms of the traditional debate, Cambridge University's Gwyn Prins, for example, declared in 1989 the establishment of a new field of security in which the key referent object was the entire globe rather than the state:

Global Security is about survival. It is the next step beyond national and international security studies. It grapples with the transition from a world where decisive power was uncontroversially interpreted as military force wielded by states to one where, increasingly, individuals and communities face threats without enemies; where many of the familiar forces and political ideas of the last two centuries cannot safeguard security.(35)

Numerous variations on this theme were advanced in the early post-Cold War years with such labels as "World Security,"(36) "Common Security,"(37) and, perhaps most ambitiously (as well as pretentiously), "Ultimate Security."(38) Each of these new formulations, while taking a distinct approach to the subject, called for a fundamental change in thinking that linked security to the well-being of the earth and the existential needs of its human and nonhuman inhabitants. Building on the conceptual insights of James Lovelocks's "Gaia Hypothesis"(39) (which describes a world in which all elements, including human beings, are inextricably interconnected by powerful "feedback loops" that sustain a fragile global equilibrium), the new apostles of security also emphasized the critical interrelationships among some of the most daunting threats to human survival--poverty, environmental degradation, and rapid demographic change.

Although such concerns were dismissed by many traditionally-mined "realists" as "globaloney," "wooly do-goodery and piously impractical one worldism,"(40) they were, in fact, less starry-eyed than their most ardent critics maintained. The inflated and, at times, pretentious rhetoric of the "new thinkers" often masked a deeper, more "realistic" concern for some important, and underappreciated, dimensions of the evolving international system. A central critique of the new conceptions of security was that they moved the concept away from its roots in the fundamental notion of "protection from organized violence." But this is less of a problem than it might appear. Why is organized violence something to be protected against? Because, as seems obvious, it can cause harm to human, material, and natural resources on a potentially large and disruptive scale. If, in addition to the arsenals of the world's armies, there were factors emerging in the nonmilitary realm capable of causing comparable harm, then it does not seem unreasonable to have also considered these factors as security threats (or "risks," as they are termed in NATO's new "Strategy Concept"). The myriad forms of environmental degradation, for example, may not be able to elicit the same kind of widespread visceral reaction that was once embodied in the searing image of the nuclear mushroom cloud, and they may lack the certainty and perceived imminence that marked the nuclear threat, but they will increasingly demand our attention. Even in terms of more narrow conceptions of security, it may be true, as Gwyn Prins has put it, that "you can't shoot an ozone hole,"(41) but even realists should be reassured by the fact that you can still shoot--or, more probably, exert some other form of pressure on--the state or nonstate actor whose behavior exacerbates the problem.

Clearly, the basic philosophical underpinnings of the new gospel of security were not new--their origins could be traced to classical ethics and the teachings of the major religions. What was new, and what distinguished them from similar sounding appeals made decades earlier, was their pretension for filling the conceptual vacuum left in the wake of the dissolution of the Soviet threat and the end of the Cold War. The immediate post-Cold War years were marked by an almost psychological revulsion against the perceived excesses of the preexisting orthodoxy. On the eve of the United Nation's military response to Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait, President Bush proclaimed a "New World Order" in which enlightened multilateral cooperation would take the place of a paralyzing nuclear standoff. During this period, talk of bomb yields and throw weights--despite the existence of a former adversary still "planted thick with nuclear missiles"(42) and a would-be regional hegemon armed with intermediate-range missile capabilities--became anathema in certain fashionale academic and even policy circles. The nonmilitary agenda of the revisionists was now winning favor with those in search of the essence of security. "Geoeconomics"(43) was seen by some as a natural successor to geopolitics in a world in which the force of arms was not only bad for humanity, it was also bad for business. Absent the practical and intellectual constraints of the preceding years, there was growing receptivity to the notion that a new paradigm was needed to replace the outmoded Cold War standard.

Despite this receptivity and the more "palatable and accessible" aspects of many of the new reconceptualizations of security, a singular, widely-accepted new paradigm did not emerge. Instead, scores of competing paradigms or quasi-paradigms appeared on the scene, none capable of capturing the imagination or support of either scholars or policymakers, to say nothing of the public at large. An additive "laundry list" approach to security became commonplace; a series of emerging (or more evident) threats--from drug trafficking to global warming--were appended to a steadily increasing inventory that was once primarily limited to military concerns. The cumulative product, largely devoid of any coherent, overarching framework, became the basis for a raft of dimly remembered and rarely consulted academic and "policy-relevant" pieces that, for the most part, gathered dust on library shelves.


Many of the early efforts to reconceptualize post-Cold War security were supported by American foundations. As Stanley Hoffmann pointed out in a characteristically trenchant 1977 contribution to Daedalus, among the most important reasons that the field of international relations was largely an American creation was the unprecedented role played by the network of these foundations serving as "dumbwaiters" between the "kitchens of power and the academic salons."(44) Just as in an earlier era foundations such as The Ford Foundation and Carnegie Corporation had encouraged the growth of the branch of international affairs known as security studies, so, too, did private philanthropy after 1989 attempt to foster the development of new, expanded approaches to the subject that put particular emphasis on interdisciplinary cooperation and nonmilitary phenomena. Contributing to a wider trend, foundation support in this area was also largely geared toward efforts that challenged the primacy of the state in security affairs. Increasingly, state-centric "realists" were treated with suspicion, if they were treated at all. Grant-making by Carnegie, Ford, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and The Pew Charitable Trusts (building on its earlier efforts to promote the study of economics and national security), among others, continued and accelerated the trend begun in 1984 by the MacArthur Foundation's program on International Peace and Security, which sought to "infuse a field of study and policy arena with new perspectives."(45)

The results of this support by American foundations have been mixed--certainly in comparison to their championing of the field of security studies during the Cold War. In the early 1990s, several ambitious efforts, aimed at establishing a consensus on the emerging security environment that could, ultimately, if not readily, be translated into policy, were launched in the United States. For example, with funding from The Pew Charitable Trusts, The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) convened a group of foreign affairs experts in 1991 chaired by former Secretary of Defense and Director of Central Intelligence James Schlesinger to examine "America's Task in a Changed World." At about the same time, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace also convened a group of experts (some of whom served double duty on the CFR project) to address this theme under the direction of former American Ambassador to China (currently the Clinton administration's Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs) Winston Lord. A third example in this genre was a similar group organized by the political scientist Samuel Huntington (also a participant in the CFR project) at Harvard University's Olin Institute on "The Changing Security Environment and American National Security."

Critics of these projects pointed to the superabundance of establishment figures who had once dominated foreign affairs policymaking during the Cold War. Given the background and expertise of the participants, there was no shortage of sober and learned discussion in the respective project sessions. However, the impact of these deliberations was difficult to discern. Although the CFR effort generated some insightful analyses of the nonmilitary aspects of security,(46) it was unable to meet its more ambitious objectives and was halted after one year of what was to have been a three-year undertaking. The ostensibly more successful Carnegie Endowment project culminated in the publication of an eye-catching and concisely worded publication, Changing Our Ways,(47) which summarized the various strands of conventional wisdom on a wide range of issues linking foreign and domestic affairs. However, it was the predictability and lack of imagination in much of this wisdom, including its anticlimactic call for yet another blue-ribbon commission on America's new role in the world, that ultimately limited the publication's impact and appeal. Huntington's less publicized endeavor, although subject to some of the same structural defects as the others, at least generated some thought-provoking commentary on the emerging security environment, particularly from its redoubtable chairman, attracting widespread attention among foreign affairs mavens in the United States and abroad. (Huntington's "The Clash of Civilizations?"(48) essay, written in 1992 under the auspices of the Harvard project, was a lightning rod for controversy after it appeared in Foreign Affairs in the summer of 1993.) Despite the eloquence of many of the project's participants, none of these efforts established a durable framework for building a new and widely held conception of security.

In retrospect, each of these attempts at making sense of the emerging security environment can be seen as having been based on an unrealistic premise: that the contours of the emerging international order could be perceived if not redrawn. It is perhaps a cliche to say that the world has changed dramatically since the end of the Cold War, but it has changed even more since the end of World War II when earlier groups of "wise men" sat down to chart a new course for America and the West. The security challenge faced by the post-World War II foreign affairs experts, as daunting as it was, was more comprehensible and, in some important ways, more manageable than that faced by their post-Cold War successors. The emerging communist menace concentrated attention in a way that could not be replicated forty-five years hence. For much of the Cold War, despite the appeals of the revisionists, there was little disagreement about what was ultimately meant by security. A "clear and present danger" existed, largely devoid of the "symbolic ambiguity" that Wolfers once attributed to the term. With the nuclear arsenals of both superpowers held in check by a seemingly precarious doctrine of "mutually assured destruction," "security" had a distinct and unequivocal meaning for much of humanity. There was also little confusion surrounding the concept of the state and its preeminent role in maintaining security; the entire globe may have been vulnerable to nuclear destruction, but it was still a few potent states whose actions could determine the fate of the earth.

Thus, it is not surprising that the latter day wise men, when confronted with the myriad and far-ranging challenges of the immediate post-Cold War years, could not mount a more effective response. While the monuments of the old regime were still literally and figuratively crashing down in the erstwhile Soviet empire--the dust they stirred up as yet unsettled--it was premature to begin designing a new security architecture. Given the uniquely complex nature of the world in the early 1990s, and the accelerated interactions among many of the new and preexisting security threats, it is doubtful that any group, however diverse and talented, could have accomplished much more.

There is another point to be made, reflecting a larger lesson from these unsuccessful early efforts at redefining security: they all can be seen as necessary, but insufficient, exercises in "loosening the intellectual bolts" of some of the foreign affairs establishment's most influential figures. By exposing the representatives of the ancien regime to the new gospel of security, and making a few converts in the process, the projects described above--along with numerous other efforts in this general category--helped legitimize and, in some cases, accelerate its acceptance within the foreign affairs mainstream. Definitive evidence of such causality is, of course, difficult, if not impossible, to measure. There were, however, certain "trace elements" whose subsequent appearance in the halls of power suggested that all might not have been in vain.


The first of these trace elements appeared after the presidential election of 1992. When the Clinton administration took office, the conceptual ground beneath security had been sufficiently softened to allow for certain institutional changes to take root that would have been deemed radical or even unnecessary only a few years earlier. The establishment of the office of the Under Secretary for "Global Affairs" within the State Department, dealing with such issues as population, the environment, and biodiversity, and similar institutional changes at the White House and the Pentagon, reflected a new willingness to address a more eclectic approach to security. Although some of these changes took hold better than others--for example, the Pentagon's initial reorganization plan was eventually scrapped in favor of a more "traditional" design, and Global Affairs is still having difficulties becoming fully integrated into the State Department's Byzantine hierarchy--such early actions as the administration's reversal of the Reagan-era "Mexico City Policy," which had prevented the United States from taking a leadership position on world population issues, and support for the Biodiversity Treaty, can be seen as further evidence that the foreign affairs establishment's intellectual bolts have, indeed, been loosened.

At the same time, however, there were still potent elements within the establishment who saw a more apt metaphor in the notion of "loose screws" among the country's leadership in regard to its alleged disregard of some of the bedrock concerns of more traditional notions of security--particularly those that stressed the importance of protecting the American state rather than the entire planet. For example, reductions in the US force structure mandated by the administration's assessment of America's defense needs in its 1993 "Bottom-Up Review"(49) were deemed by some to be perilously shortsighted and dangerous. Notwithstanding this judgment, the lack of consensus around the nature of the post-Cold War security challenge can be illustrated by the equally vehement charges that the proposed changes were woefully inadequate and reflective of an antiquated Cold War mind-set.

The dilemma that this lack of consensus presents policymakers is graphically reflected in the July 1994 "National Security Strategy of Engagement and Enlargement,"(50) which opens with a solemn pledge by President Clinton that "protecting our nation's security--our people, our territory, our way of life--is my Administration's foremost mission and constitutional duty." What follows is a precis of the various strands of post-Cold War security reconceptualizing leavened with a seemingly incongruous bow to the "old" security agenda. The dissonance of the document's carefully wrought prose is evident in the juxtaposition of such nontraditional security concerns as "promoting democracy," "strengthening macroeconomic coordination," and "preserving the environment," with the more conventionally aligned goal of preparing military forces "to win nearly two simultaneous major regional conflicts." A convincing rationale for the state-centric objectives of the latter, in a world seemingly driven by the global imperatives of the former, is nowhere to be found. In the end, the administration's strategy report is a catchall policy document that attempts to address all contingencies by hedging America's bets in the face of wildly uncertain odds and conditions. Whatever its political merits, such an approach remains a poor substitute for a focused and coherent strategic vision.

For their part, political opponents of the administration's security strategy are not immune from their own post-Cold War induced bewilderment. In criticizing President Clinton for creating a "hollow military," the new Republican majority's "Contract with America" calls for a National Security Restoration Act(51) to "reverse the downward spiral" in the military. Eschewing the administration's more eclectic and globalist conception of security, the Act would limit defense funding to a more traditional roster, including increased spending on troops, weapons, and research and a renewed "Star Wars" missile defense effort. No longer would funds earmarked for the Pentagon be used for "nondefense" programs such as defense conversion, peacekeeping, and environmental cleanup of military bases. But since the budgetary impact of these "nondefense" programs is relatively small (peacekeeping expenses amounted to only 1 percent, and conversion and environmental cleanup each less than 2 percent, of the Defense Department's 1993 budget(52)) it is unclear where the money will come from to finance this "restoration" in an age of fiscal austerity and public opposition to increased government spending. Moreover, while adhering to a "strict constructionist" definition of security, the Republicans are unable to offer a convincing rationale for why such a "back to the future" approach is necessary even if funding were available. Like the administration, the Republicans appear stymied by a world in which old paradigms do not seem to fit and new ones are not yet operable.


Only five years after British Member of Parliament George Robinson coined the phrase "Bonfire of the Certainties"(53) to describe the abrupt demise of the bipolar system that had dominated international affairs since 1945, we seem to be witnessing another type of conflagration; this time of the new "certainties" propounded in the heady euphoria that marked the immediate end of the Cold War. Such highly-touted concepts as "peace dividend," "assertive multilateralism," and even the "triumph of democracy" have moved in and out of the vernacular with alarming rapidity. (Who now can even remember when the term "New World Order" was not an object of derision?) In the words of The New York Times corespondent Thomas Friedman,(54) we have now entered the "Post-Post Cold War World," a world in which the existential realities of life on a still discordant planet have tempered the unbridled optimism that was a staple of political and public discourse only a few short years ago.

In the midst of this jarring realization that there is no "end of history" and that the world is still a nasty and brutish place, a new type of pessimism has emerged that combines the apocalyptic rhetoric of the 1960s and 1970s with a postmodern twist. In the post-post-Cold War era, old structures and institutions are being "deconstructed" before our eyes. Chief among them is "the state." The state--or, more accurately, a certain type of state--is now seen by some as the primary cause of insecurity. In the words of US Agency for International Development administrator J. Brian Atwood, "disintegrating societies and failed states...have emerged as the greatest menace to global stability. Increasingly, we are confronted by [states] without leadership, without order, without governance itself."(55) Indeed, the Central Intelligence Agency launched a project in late 1994 to develop a set of quantitative indicators of failed states that can provide early warnings of impending crises.

That states are now considered to be "failing" and that this failure is now deemed the cause of many of the world's problems reveals as much about the ethical considerations driving the contemporary debate about the nature of security as it does about the conceptual confusion surrounding the meaning of statehood. As former National Security Council staffer Jeremy Rosner has pointed out, such a world view "does not pass judgment on the actions of states and individuals [within those states]. Violence is an inevitable response of people plagued by poverty and overcrowding. Evil plays no role. The question of individual responsibility never arises."(56)

This notion of the state as passive victim, rather than active agent, suffuses much of the contemporary commentary about the emerging security agenda. This has perhaps best been exemplified by journalist Robert Kaplan in "The Coming Anarchy."(57) In this article, which was widely cited in speeches by President Clinton and other administration officials, Kaplan painted a ghoulish picture of the assorted demographic, environmental, and societal stresses afflicting the states of West Africa, which he held up as a harbinger of a future world of "ever-mutating...chaos." Kaplan's description of a land of Dickensian squalor marked by "the withering away of central governments...the rise of tribal and regional domains" recalls political scientist Robert Jackson's(58) earlier disquisition on "quasi-states"--political entities possessing juridical statehood but having only a tenuous empirical claim to such status (what John Stewart Mill in the nineteenth century called "ramshackle states").

Like Kaplan's West African states, Jackson's quasi-states "lack the institutional features of the traditional...state [including]...the means to meet most of the socio-economic needs of the people." As discussed previously, the vaunted capabilities of the "traditional state" are less than commonly imagined. But disregarding for the moment the ambiguous nature of this fabled entity, both Kaplan and Jackson are still guilty of applying a standard "to far off countries, in far off places" where the Western notion of statehood does not correspond to reality. To paraphrase Gertrude Stein, there has never been a there, there. Typically, socioeconomic needs have been met at the clan, tribe, or village levels far removed from the purview of any central "state" authority. With little heed given to these historically-developed coping mechanisms, these states are now judged to be "quasi" or "failed" to the extent that they do not conform to a Western archetype established in a different time and place under very different circumstances.

The perils of applying Western standards to non-Western subjects were highlighted in the late 1950s by John Herz.(59) Herz's analysis of "The Rise and Demise of the Territorial State" underscored the futility of equating postcolonial nation-building with the experience of existing European nation-states that endured centuries of wars and other traumatic growing pains before solidifying their own claims to statehood. With their artificially-established borders that ignored ethnic and tribal claims and their lack of administrative control and cohesion, it was unrealistic to attempt to create these newly independent entities in the image of a Western ideal. This logic, however, was never fully absorbed by some of the leading architects of development aid who proceeded to construct "the outward paraphernalia of [Western] statehood"(60) on a decidedly non-Western social, political, and economic base, and to channel billions of dollars of assistance through contrived and largely ineffectual, or worse, "state" governments. The failure of developmental assistance efforts to reach their lofty goals is only one example of the very real and often lamentable consequences of the conceptual imprecision surrounding what a state is or should be. When security is defined in terms that reflect a narrow, Eurocentric conception of statehood, the world is bound to appear to be a very insecure place. In such a world, "security"--in its myriad forms--will often be provided by actors other than states. Attempts to make the world more secure that rely on outmoded and inapplicable standards are, thus, likely to fall victim to unrealistic expectations about how security can best be achieved.


Corollaries of the policymakers' newfound fixation with "failed states" and "ever-mutating...chaos" are the increasing number of gloomy prognostications about the world we are about to inherit. Emerging problems are not only daunting, they are unprecedented. "Global life," commented James Rosenau in his most recent analysis of international politics, "may have [now] entered a period of turbulence the likes of which it has not known...and the outcomes of which are still far from clear."(61) In reviewing the recent literature on this subject, from Paul Kennedy's(62) unsettling analysis of global trends on the eve of the twenty-first century to Norman Myers's(63) doleful assessment of the human condition, and the scores of similarly-themed journal articles and speeches by government officials, one is struck by the repeated usage of the same grim statistics. Time and again we are told, for example, that the world's population has increased more in the past forty years than in the preceding forty centuries. Even the most optimistic demographic data portend a frightening world where the quality of life--already near or below subsistence level for many--will degenerate even more.

Striking yet another disconcerting chord, some Western analysts have pointed out that since 95 percent of the increase in global population is taking place in the developing world, the proportion of humanity considered "children of the Enlightenment" (i.e., of European ancestry) will soon be perilously small. With the inevitable decline of a widely shared sense of respect for liberalism, individual rights, and modernity itself, implied by this development, it is little wonder, according to these analysts, that the world is increasingly riven with strife(64) (as if, somehow, four hundred years of European-inspired strife counted for naught). Such concern for the presumed marginalization of a once-dominant ideology, however, misses a larger, though less obvious, point. Demographers predict that children will soon literally comprise the largest proprtion of the human population. It would not be unreasonable to suggest that historical memories might someday extend back only a few years. Seen in this light, Huntington's(65) provocative argument about the coming "Clash of Civilizations," in which the most important security fault lines lie between the broad cultural agglomerations of "the West and the rest," would seem almost moot. "Civilization," after all, implies an uninterrupted link with the past, to customs, mores, and institutions forged over centuries.

If the predicament we face is as grave as the experts insist--and there is little reason for the concerned layperson to doubt its plausibility--then what is, perhaps, most troubling is the perceived mismatch between the immense problems afflicting the world and the meager institutional responses that have been proposed to address them. Even the ambitious and far-ranging "Program of Action"(66) agreed to in Cairo at the United Nations' September 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), involving an interrelated strategy of massive family planning efforts combined with increased educational and economic opportunities for women and improved maternal and child health care, would seem capable only of postponing the world's day of reckoning rather than preventing it.

Although the vocabulary may have changed, and the specific objects of attention may be new, there is a disturbingly familiar quality--as well as danger--to the most recent bombast about the grim future that awaits us. Like their predecessors, the new scholar activists have overstated their case, and in the process have run the risk of undermining support for policies--like those of the ICPD--that might actually help address the myriad problems afflicting the world. But unlike their predecessors, who were never able to gain acceptance among the dominant foreign affairs establishment, these new purveyors of gloom appear to have found a receptive audience among an influential segment of the contemporary foreign policy elite. There has been, however, a problem with the processing of the message. As reflected in the Clinton administration's recent strategy document, referred to above, and in the rhetoric of National Security Council, State Department, and Defense Department officials, there is a profound discontinuity between "national security" policies designed to defend the state and "global security" policies designed to protect the planet. The exaggerated claims of the doomsayers have exacerbated this discontinuity by distracting policymakers from doing what they must to achieve the feasible. And what is feasible often involves relatively modest objectives that begin with the actions of individual states working alone or in concert. For all the intense, albeit short-lived, media attention given the ICPD's "Program of Action," for example, it will require sustained financial support from a wide range of states before it can be implemented. Scare tactics that inure the public against believing in the efficacy of any government response to the threat posed by the coming chaos are bound to be counterproductive. They only lessen the chances for winning the political support needed to soberly and realistically meet a broad range of challenges that, although appearing insuperable in the aggregate, are far less daunting when addressed one by one.

How to achieve such "sober and realistic" policy-making? A good place to start would be to clear away the conceptual cobwebs that obscure the true nature of the still prevalent constituent units of the beleaguered international system. Thus far, however, even some of the most prodigious of thinkers appear not to have a firm grasp of the primary object of their analysis.


In his 1994 retrospective on the last four hundred years of statecraft, Henry Kissinger(67) described three principal types of contemporary "states that call themselves nations," that lack many of the attributes of the "traditional nation-states" (which he defines rather sparingly as states with "a common language and culture" that gradually emerged between the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 and the Treaty of Versailles in 1919). These are: "the ethnic splinters of disintegrating empires," such as the remnants of the former Yugoslavia and Soviet Union; the "post-colonial" states, primarily in Africa, such as Zambia and Nigeria, with bequeathed administrative borders; and finally, and most significantly for Kissinger, the "continental nation-states," in which category he places such diverse entities as India, the United States, and the Russian Republic, which he confidently predicts will dominate the world scene.

Would that the new taxonomy of states were so simple. Kissinger's tripartite division, with its echoes of the familiar first, second, and third world categorization of the Cold War, does not adequately reflect the bewildering heterogeneity of the contemporary "family of nations." Where do Hong Kong, Singapore, or Haiti fit into this arrangement? Does the "continental nation-state" of India really have more in common with its putative associate Japan, not to mention the United States, than it does with "post-colonial" Nigeria? Would an independent Quebec--presumably, a candidate for "ethnic splinter" status--bear any meaningful resemblance to Bosnia-Herzegovina or Azerbaijan? The political reality of the contemporary world, in some important ways, more closely resembles the pre-Westphalian order that was characterized by an admixture of political units possessing widely varying forms and capabilities (what Hedley Bull referred to as "neo-medieval"(68) in its modern incarnation). Rather than being limited to the three species identified by Kissinger, or the "quasi" and "non-quasi" categories implied by Jackson and Kaplan, the state exhibits a form of political biodiversity that prevents it from being captured in narrow definitional confines.


In an attempt to find a way out of this conceptual maze and to move toward an understanding of the state that is both more comprehensible and serviceable, and can more easily be reconciled with emerging conceptions of security, an approach must be taken that reflects the world as it is rather than how it is imagined or hoped to be. When Jean Bodin wrote his classic treatise on state sovereignty, Six Livres de le Republique, he was responding to a specific historical experience, the religious wars that ravaged France in the mid sixteenth century. Similarly, Thomas Hobbes penned his Leviathan almost seventy-five years later in response to the anarchy that reigned in Central Europe during the Thirty Years War. Throughout history, statesmen and theoreticians have proposed new political orders--from "liberty, equality, and brotherhood" to "the selfdetermination of peoples"--to respond to the exigencies of a particular era wrought by war.

It was no different at the end of the Cold War when the profound and unexpected geopolitical changes that had taken place stimulated yet another intellectual debate about how best to reorder the global polity and find a new role for its principal constituent unit, the state. But as described above, this debate has been hampered by a lack of conceptual clarity and the sobering realization that while much has changed since 1989, much remains the same. Despite the withering of communism, and the presumptive ascendancy of market-based democracy, there is still poverty and injustice in the world, there is still ethnic and racial enmity, and there are still armed and dangerous warlords who threaten peace and stability at every turn.

What is needed is a new definition of the state that fully reflects its dynamic qualities and liberates it from the metaphysical time warp in which it has too long been caged. Such a definition must acknowledge both its empirically grounded reality and its abstract existence. It must be expansive enough to accommodate the full range of political entities that have attained juridical statehood, however deficient or undeserving they might appear. Most importantly, it must take into account the unprecedented, and often poorly understood, changes taking place in the world--from technological innovations to new forms of political, economic, and social interaction. Rather than undermining or repudiating the concept of the state, such phenomena must be seen as an integral part of its fundamental nature. Only then can its proper role in the world be appreciated and effectively acted upon.

As it has since its inception over four hundred years ago, the state continues to evolve--or, to use Michael Mann's term, "mature."(69) But contrary to Mann's notion that the state has reached its developmental limits, the maturing process (at least in the foreseeable future) has no predetermined end and is occurring at varying rates both across and within different states. This is more than just a semantic point; it underscores the fact that we have now entered yet another phase in the unfolding history of the state. It is a transitional phase in which new states have emerged from the remnants of former empires and are attempting to establish their place and ensure their viability in a diverse world of preexisting states and nonstate actors. However they accomplish this end, whether they decide to seek closer ties with neighboring or distant states once the heady experience of attaining independence has worn off, whether they attempt to consolidate their new-found status in relative isolation, or whether they are themselves the victims of secessionist pressures or internal strife, they will still be states. Other states and nonstate actors may impinge on their range of action or may even assist them in achieving their goals, but their essential identity as states should not be in question--neither, for that matter, should the identity of those preexisting states whose economic and political viability may seem in jeopardy, or the more advantaged states who may be ceding whole swatches of authority to higher or lower entities but still provide the most vivid coloration to the multihued tapestry of the global polity.

Notwithstanding the premature judgments of those who predict (and even yearn for) a stateless future, the state will continue to provide a crucial frame of reference for the confusing array of problems on the emerging security agenda. Since these problems are usefully considered in terms of their consequences within, across, and between state borders, the state must still play a role--however circumscribed--in the search for solutions to these problems. But given the nature of this protean entity, these solutions are unlikely to follow any predetermined pattern linked to the past. They will not be found in the bomb damage effect calculators of an earlier age, nor in the infeasible nostrums of the new alarmists. In the post-post-Cold War era, and that which succeeds it, the meanings of "the state" and "security" must change as inevitably and unpredictably as the world itself.


(1)I wish to thank Jeremy Azrael of the RAND Corporation for lending this collector's item to me. I had last used it in the early 1980s as a graduate student concentrating in strategic studies.

(2)This quote has been attributed to former US Ambassador to NATO, Harlan Cleveland, who confirmed that the statement was his in a telephone conversation with the author on 21 November 1994.

(3)Joseph S. Nye and Sean M. Lynn-Jones, as quoted in Stephen Walt, "The Renaissance of Security Studies," International Studies Quarterly (1991): 212.

(4)Ibid., 213.

(5)John J. Mearsheimer, "Back to the Future: Instability in Europe After the Cold War," International Security (Summer 1990): 5--56.

(6)James Woolsey, as quoted in John Prados, Bulletin of Atomic Scientists (6 July 1993): 33--38.

(7)Boutros-Boutros Ghali, Agenda for Peace (New York: United Nations Report, 1992), 1, 2, 5.

(8)James Rosenau, "The State in an Era of Cascading Politics," in James Caporaso, ed., The Elusive State: International and Comparative Perspectives (London: Sage Publications, 1990), 25.

(9)Hurst Hannum, Autonomy, Sovereignty, and Self-Determination, The Accommodation of Conflicting Rights (Philadelphia, Pa.: The University of Pennsylvania Press, 1992), 15--16.

(10)Anthony Giddens, The Nation-State and Violence (Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 1987), 18.

(11)Barry Buzan, People, States and Fear: The National Security Problem in International Relations (Chapel Hill, N.C.: The University of North Carolina Press, 1983).

(12)Joseph Strayer, quoted in Ian Lustick, Unsettled States, Disputed Lands: Britain and Ireland, France and Algeria, Israel and the West Bank (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1993), 38.

(13)Michael Lind, "The Catalytic State," The National Interest (Spring 1992): 3--12.

(14)Kenichi Ohmae, "The Rise of the Region State," Foreign Affairs (Winter 1992--1993): 78--87.

(15)Alvin and Heidi Toffler, War and Anti-War: Survival at the Dawn of the 21st Century (Boston, Mass.: Little Brown, 1993).

(16)See Hedley Bull, The Anarchical Society: A Study of Order in World Politics (New York: Columbia University Press, 1977); Richard Falk, A Study of Future Worlds (New York: The Free Press, 1975); Charles Kegley and Eugene Wittkopf, World Politics: Trend and Transformation (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1985); and Henry Kissinger, as quoted in Kegley and Wittkopf, World Politics.

(17)For a trenchant analysis of this phenomenon in the post-Cold War era, see Robert H. Jackson, "Continuity and Change," in Robert H. Jackson and Alan James, eds., States in a Changing World (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993).

(18)Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origins and Spread of Nationalism (London: Verso, 1983).

(19)Stephen Krasner, "Economic Interdependence and Independent Statehood," Department of Political Science paper, Stanford University, July 1991.

(20)Arnold Wolfers, "National Security as an Ambiguous Symbol," in Arnold Wolfers, Discord and Collaboration (Baltimore, Md.: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1962), 10.

(21)American Heritage Dictionary (Boston, Mass.: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1981), 1173.

(22)Ernest May, "National Security in American History," in Graham Allison and Gregory Treverton, eds., Rethinking America's Security: Beyond the Cold War to the New World Order (New York: W. W. Norton and Company, 1992), 104.

(23)"United States Objectives and Proposals for National Security," Report to the National Security Council, 14 April 1950.

(24)Joseph Romm, Defining National Security (New York: Council on Foreign Relations Press, 1993), 5.

(25)G. John Ikenberry, "Theories of International Political Economy," graduate seminar lecture, Department of Political Science, University of Pennsylvania, 1 December 1994.

(26)Robert McNamara, The Essence of Security: Reflections in Office (New York: Harper and Row, 1968).

(27)Lester Brown, "Redefining National Security," WorldWatch Institute Paper # 14, Washington, D.C., October 1977.

(28)Richard H. Ullman, "Redefining Security," International Security (Summer 1983): 123--29.

(29)Buzan, People, States and Fear.

(30)Jessica Tuchman Matthews, "Redefining Security," Foreign Affairs (Spring 1989): 162--77.

(31)See Zbigniew Brzezinski, "The Cold War and its Aftermath," Foreign Affairs (Fall 1992): 31--49; Henry Kissinger et al., "East-West Relations," Foreign Affairs (Summer 1989): 1--20; Stanley Hoffmann, "A World Transformed," Foreign Affairs (Fall 1990): 115--22; James Schlesinger, "New Instabilities, New Priorities," Foreign Policy (Winter 1991--1992): 3--24; and Theodore C. Sorenson, "Rethinking National Security," Foreign Affairs (Summer 1990): 1.

(32)See Ibid; Michael Clare, World Security (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1992); Peter Glieck, Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, April 1991; Ronnie Lipshutz, "Reconstructing Security: Discursive Practices, Material Changes, and Policy Consequences," address delivered at the 1992 annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, Chicago, Ill., September 1992; and Romm, Defining National Security.

(33)Walt, "The Renaissance of Security Studies."

(34)David Baldwin, "National Security Studies: Whence and Whither?," unpublished paper, Columbia University, Institute of War and Peace Studies, 1991.

(35)Gwyn Prins, quoted in "The Global Security Programme: A Key Emerging Initiative in the Campaign for Cambridge," Cambridge University Global Security Programme Document, 1992.

(36)Clare, World Security.

(37)"The Common Security Forum Population and Security" program of the Center for History and Economics, Kings College, Cambridge University, and the Center for Population and Development Studies, Harvard University.

(38)Norman Myers, Ultimate Security (New York: W. W. Norton and Company, 1993).

(39)Sir Julian Oswald, "Defense and Environmental Security," in Gwyn Prins, ed., Threats Without Enemies (London: Earthscan Publications, 1993), 116.

(40)Colin Grey, "Global Security and Economic Well-Being: A Strategic Perspective," Political Studies (March 1994): 27.

(41)Gywn Prins and Robbie Stamp, Top Guns and Toxic Whales: The Environment and Global Security (London: Earthscan Publications, 1991).

(42)Sorenson, "Rethinking National Security," 1.

(43)Edward N. Luttwack, "From Geopolitics to Geo-Economics," National Interest (Summer 1990).

(44)Stanley Hoffmann, "An American Social Science: International Relations," Doedalus 106 (3) (Summer 1977): 41--61.

(45)Kennette Benedict, The John D. and Katherine T. MacArthur Foundation Program on Peace and International Security Document, 1991.

(46)Theodore Moran, Economics and National Security (New York: Council on Foreign Relations Press, 1993); Romm, Defining National Security.

(47)Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Changing Our Ways: America and the New World (Washington, D.C.: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1992).

(48)Samuel Huntington, "The Clash of Civilizations?," Foreign Affairs (Summer 1993): 22--49.

(49)"The Bottom-up Review," report by Secretary of Defense Les Aspin, 19 October 1993.

(50)"A National Security Strategy of Engagement and Enlargement," The White House, July 1994.

(51)Jon Lottman, "Pentagon Passions," The Nation, 12 December 1994, 713. As this essay was going to press, the Republicans were beginning to moderate their earlier demands. See "House Panel Softens Defense Bill," The Washington Post, 1 February 1995, A1.


(53)Quoted at the Wingspread Conference on the New International Security Environment, Racine, Wisconsin, June 1991; original statement made in the summer of 1990.

(54)Thomas Friedman, "Post-Post Cold War," The New York Times, 13 July 1994, A12.

(55)J. Brian Atwood, "Suddenly Chaos," The Washington Post, 31 July 1994. For a longer analysis of the implications of failed states see Gerald B. Helman and Steven R. Ratner, "Saving Failed States," Foreign Policy (Winter 1992): 3--30.

(56)Jeremy D. Rosner, "Is Chaos America's Real Enemy?," The Washington Post, 14 August 1994, C1.

(57)Robert Kaplan, "The Coming Anarchy," The Atlantic Monthly, February 1994, 44--76.

(58)Robert H. Jackson, Quasi-States: Sovereignty, International Relations and the Third World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990).

(59)John Herz, International Politics in the Atomic Age (New York: Columbia University Press, 1959); and John Herz, The Nation-State and the Crisis of World Politics (New York: David McKay Company, Inc., 1976).

(60)Jackson, Quasi-States: Sovereignty, International Relations and the Third World.

(61)James Rosenau, Turbulence in World Politics: A Theory of Change and Continuity (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1990), 5.

(62)Paul Kennedy, Preparing for the Twenty-First Century (New York: Vintage Books, 1993).

(63)Myers, Ultimate Security.

(64)This view is reflected in Nicholas Eberstadt, "Population Change and National Security," Foreign Affairs (Summer 1991): 121.

(65)Huntington, "The Clash of Civilizations?"

(66)"Program of Action," A United Nations Document, The United Nations International Conference on Population and Development, Cairo, Egypt, September 1994.

(67)Henry Kissinger, Diplomacy (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1994).

(68)Bull, The Anarchical Society: A Study of Order in World Politics, 274.

(69)Michael Mann, "Nation-States in Europe and Other Continents: Diversifying, Developing, Not Dying," Doedalus 122 (3) (Summer 1993): 115--40.

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