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Understanding Traditional Security Theory.

1- Posted by Karis; Traditional security is still relevant– I am arguing PRO
Wohlforth (2010, p. 17) claims that realism (a traditional lens through which we view security) is still important and relevant to security studies. Furthermore, Wohlforth (2010, p. 17) states that ‘the accumulation of new and important research by scholars working within the realist tradition has figured centrally in recent scholarship on international security’. Yeo (2018) also suggests that policy makers in IR still commonly utilise ‘grand theories’ such as realism to understand international politics. Kapstein (1995) states that traditional security methods (such as realism) are deeply and fatally flawed, but remain the cornerstone to IR theory as there are no adequate alternatives.


I am still a bit unsure about this, but I think that this article can be understood through a realist lens by referring to Merrilyn’s question list:


The actors are states (North Korea, South Korea and the US)
The threats are military (nuclearization)
And positionally related (neighbours)
Cause (nuclear threat)
Power balancing tactics (negotiation summits)
And the non-state actors have been ignored (traditional theory)
https://theconversation.com/as-north-korea-builds-a-season-of-summits-the-stakes-on-denuclearisation-remain-high-95221

2- Posted by Ryan; My last name is Sykes so I will argue that traditional security is not relevant anymore. I will argue this from a social constructivist perspective.


Traditional security is largely military-centric and state-centric, informed by the realist perspective (Collins, 2016). Non-traditional security considers threats that sit outside of these categories by looking at security looks from a range of different perspectives (Ibid). ‘New security’ issues come from a variety of sectors such as health, politics, energy, economics and the environment (Singh and Nunes, 2016). Due to globalization, and in part liberal-internationalism, these broader issues require a new international approach (Hameiri and Jones, 2015).


You can't hit everything with a big hammer! Non-traditional approaches tend to orientate themselves towards peace and cooperation more so than other approaches. Some approaches rely on non-state actors. Non-traditional solutions such as social cooperation, diplomacy, trade and open discourse can de-escalate tensions and resolve issues without resorting to violence (Ewing, 2017). In doing so, non-traditional solutions can render traditional concerns unnecessary and even counterproductive.

Additional information provided by our eLA that might help you with the report:

So this week we are already into discussion about what traditional theory is and what it isn’t. Readings will be useful, but also I have some core questions you may like to use in this course to help you understand ‘how’ to use these readings about theory to analyse examples. A theory is just a lens, but it offers a particular approach. What’s the approach you are taking? Think about...
What does the theory say:


1) Who are the actors in the security arena (e.g. state or non state, international institutions, individuals, etc)
2) How is security defined (e.g absence of direct threat to a state, economic, human/individual)
3) What are considered primary causes of insecurity (eg. direct threat of violence, social construction of threat, politicisation of threats, civil conflict, inter state conflict, or environmental and newer threats)?
4) Are there suggestions about how to achieve security (how can actors mitigate threat)?
5) Is this approach a critique of other theories and on what key basis (e.g. critical theories)?


When you use a theory, it’s good to know how it answers these questions (not all will be relevant in all cases, e.g. no 5). That gives you a way to analyse your case - the answers tell you what that theory will focus on.


So realism as a crude example.....ie. I’m not going in-depth.


The actors are states; threats are often military/defence and positionally related; cause could be geopolitical power changes or armed/nuclear threats; and power balancing tactics, military spending, etc are often favoured tactics by states. Think of battles like US and China - you could use realism and ideas around big power politics to explain them.


Most non state actors are ignored which is why it is called a traditional theory and not used for newer threats like the environment.

Understanding Traditional Security Theory.

Traditional security explores the capabilities of a country in defending itself against external threats. The theory is a realistic construct and holds that the only referent for security is the state. Taking security measures involves the protection of the country from invasion executed during conflicts through the military powers. This essay will provide a deeper approach to traditional security theory through analysis of various elements such as the primary cause of insecurity and suggestions on how to achieve security.

Traditional security is best understood by studying nuclear weapons and the reality of the cold war (Dhillon and Blackhouse 2001, p. 135). The political realism and strategy during this time were by using nuclear weapons, which was considered a form of military power. Nuclear weapon thus provided crisis stability, prevention against conventional war and foreign policy support (Wohlforth 2009, p. 30). From a moral point of view, even though nuclear weapons are fundamentally evil, they can contribute to maintaining stability between states. However, a nuclear weapon is not enough to maintain peace between states due to the nonstate actors. An example is the Indian and Pakistan conflict which despite the two trying to avoid the breakout of the nuclear war, actions from the terrorists or the nonstate actors triggered the conflict. Conflict arises because both parties blame each other for being the driving force in these actions.

Traditional security approach explores threats against the political integrity of the state, values, and sovereignty. This approach consists of military, weapons and armaments systems, which are aimed at building relations between the states for security purposes (Baldwin 1997, p. 15). However, due to the technological advances, the concept of the traditional approach is also changing as it is encamped with new ideas and political evolution. International Relations like EU has played a significant role in shaping the security agenda of the states. For instance, the United Nations promotes the concept of multilateralism as a form of security protection.

Karis, one of my fellow students posted that, traditional security is still relevant and that elements of realism form the foundation of International Relational theory. This is true to a great extent when looking at power nations like the US, South and North Korea and the nuclearization threat that they cause leading to the negotiation summits to avoid breaking of wars. However, at the regional level, there has been a new form of corporation that is growing not only in Europe but also in Asia. Weapons and armaments which are the core elements of traditional security are enormously more advanced than in the past (Barkawi and Laffey 2006, p. 335). For instance, nuclear weapons which are the most destructive weapons are also crucial by providing an umbrella for the security of the state.

According to (Willims 2004, p. 144), there have been major changes in the traditional security issues and these transformations of security have now become one of the public goods in the world under the UN umbrella. Previously, wars of the annexation of one state by another to bring about division in one state was considered legitimate. However, this concept is no longer acceptable. Failure in any form of defense against aggression causes the UN`s acting military measures to be taken with the goal of protecting the security of the aggressed state.

Post from Ryan, one of my fellow students hold that, from a socio constructive perspective, traditional theory is not relevant anymore. Ryans explain that security has an array of perspective and thus issues related to health, environment, and the economy would bring about insecurity. As a result, there is a need to apply the new international approach in the globalization era other than just orienting towards the use of a nuclear weapon and military power as held by the nontraditional approach. Use of trade, diplomacy, and the corporation can be used in the current era to enhance peace between countries instead of using non –traditional methods such as nuclearization threats.

In conclusion, the security of the citizens is not merely threatened by external aggressors but also internal activities and occurrences. These wars include poverty, eviction, hunger, despotism and climate change. These factors lead to economic, food, health, personal, political and environmental threats or insecurity. As a result, despite the fact that traditional security is still relevant, there has been a major evolution in the security segment as realities of security threats are socially and politically constructed and there are many approaches used to solve various perspective of insecurity.

List of References

Baldwin, D.A., 1997. The concept of security. Review of international studies, 23(1), pp.5-26.

Barkawi, T. and Laffey, M., 2006. The postcolonial moment in security studies. Review of International Studies, 32(2), pp.329-352.

Dhillon, G. and Backhouse, J., 2001. Current directions in IS security research: towards socio?organizational perspectives. Information Systems Journal, 11(2), pp.127-153.

Williams, P., 2004. Critical security studies. International society and its critics, pp.135-50.

Wohlforth, W.C., 2009. Realism and security studies. The Routledge handbook of security studies (pp. 25-36). Routledge.

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