A Tale To Tell & Remember
Monday, 30 March 2009
Sunday, 29 March 2009
Saturday, 28 March 2009
28 March 2009 - Everybody is talking about this liability. Everybody is not satisfied with UMNO Head Youth election result. Some people claim that it was pre-meditated result. I agree with this statement. The new president have a heavy task to do - to oust this liability from UMNO. Or else you would portray a bad image. An image that transpired as the new generation of UMNO can compromise with immoral activity - bribery/ money politics/ setiakawan/ rasuah. Remove this gangrene quickly as we had a nation agenda ahead of us.
Wednesday, 25 March 2009
Thursday, 19 March 2009
Wednesday, 11 March 2009
Tuesday, 10 March 2009
Thursday, 5 March 2009
By: Ahmad Syah Ejaz Bin Hj. Ismail
The study of the security studies had been a focal point for policy makers in formulating a comprehensive securities issues pertaining to an individual daily life especially in this post-Cold War period. The questions about security often arises in the three main questions which are 1) what is real? 2) what can we know? and 3) how might we act? In facing the new unconventional threats that can jeopardize not only the physical aspects of our life but also the intangibles criteria which we begin to define as a security issues.
Over the years students have been led where the ‘conventional convictions’ of their teachers took them, and this has meant that security became identified as essentially as a military terrain1. However the study of the security issues had became much more complex issues whereas it had been a critical study that deals with such topic less than seriously. Even though the security study has been one of those common-sense, pre-defined terms in international relations orthodoxy that appear to be unproblematic until examined with a critical eye, beginning with the late 1980s, there has been a swing from theological orthodoxy about security studies to heretical contention, but for the most part proponents of the differing viewpoints have engaged in monologues rather than dialogue.
This can be seen in the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks on the United States where the differences between the camps of traditional realism and critical theory grew even more than had previously been the case. The former would advocated the strengthening of conventional security instruments and the borders of states, while as people and governments felt intensified fears (and the political temptation for governments has been to indulge such fears, if not actually exaggerate them, in order to strengthen domestic control). The stark differences between the old traditional convictions and the new critical approach to security studies can be describe as below schedule2.
|Traditional realism||Critical security studies|
Schedule 1: Distinction between traditional realism and Critical security studies
Definition of security
Security is always a relative concept. Absolute security is a dream, or perhaps a nightmare, for absolute freedom from (any) fear is synonymous with absolute freedom from imagination, which is no freedom at all.
With the new threats arising due to the collision of politics and sometimes militarily, the contention arising from asking what security is all about. This offers some hope that security will be conceptualized as a challenge to innovative political theory rather than as insider problem-solving, and as philosophy-in-action rather than as strategy as instrumental technique. A reconceptualisation of security is one of the contributions the academic community can make to shaking up the complacency of the globally powerful in these critical times. These developments in the security studies according to Ken Booth had for the first time create an opportunity for the security study to be comprehensively mapped and explored for the first time3.
However, there were still difficulties in defining the term security. According to the standard dictionary, the word security means as an absence of threats. According to one of the International Relations scholars, Patrick Morgan, security is defined as a condition like health or status which defies an easy definition and analysis. Booth took an approach to support Patrick Morgan’s views where he stated that security is like health and status. Even though security is difficult to define, security in each case, the starting point should begin in the experiences, imaginings, analyses, and fears of those living with insecurity, ill health, or low status4.
What is striking about these definitions ostensibly to show the difficulty of achieving an agreed definition is actually their distinct resemblance. Ken Booth later emphasized that security however can be broken into three main component parts which are:-
- the existence of a referent object (someone or something that is threatened);
- the impending danger or actual danger; and
- the desire of the referent object to escape harmful possibilities.
Ken Booth later explained that security is a basic concept consists of core elements that are not essentially contested, but when it comes to world politics this core is then encased in layers of meaning that derive from different political theories, and that these are contested according to the ebb and flow of political theories, and the rise and fall of international political systemic paradigms5. In this write up, I would discuss the importance of considering which referent points or object is more précised? (States or individuals?), Which threat to the chosen referent should be prioritized? (Military or economic, short term or long-term?) How might the referent escape from the threats? (By force or negotiation?). Security for sure is a simple concept, not difficult to define, but how it is conceptualized and operationalised in the contingent contexts of world politics is not.
Security allows choice, and some choices (the result of security rather than insecurity) may be life-threatening. Elective danger is a privilege of the secure; direct and unavoidable danger is the determining condition of the world’s insecure.
Broadening and deepening
Ronald Paris, writing in International Security, noted that the subject matter of security studies had undergone both broadening and deepening since the end of the Cold War, and then said: ‘By deepening, I mean that the field is now more willing to consider the security of individuals and groups, rather than focusing narrowly on external threats to states6. It should be clear that broadening itself is not a radical move in security policy, whether or not it is depends on the underlying political theory that drives it.
Since the late 1980s, broadening has generally been used to refer to the idea of including ‘non-traditional’ security issues on the security agenda (non-military threats). Barry Buzan had identified the issue areas for a broadened security agenda in relation to 7five ‘sectors’, each in identifying ‘specific types of interaction’:
- military sector (relationships of forceful coercion);
- political sector (relationships of authority, governing status, and recognition);
- economic sector (relationships of trade, production, and finance);
- societal sector (relationships of collective identity); and
- environmental sector (relationships between human activity and the planetary biosphere).
Buzan later wrote: ‘If a multi-sectoral approach to security was to be fully meaningful, referent objects other than the state had to be allowed into the picture’. The European Security Order Recast: Scenarios for the Post-Cold War Era, in which attention shifted from the state as referent and sovereignty as the value to be secured, to society as the referent and identity as the value to be secured8. At the heart of the matter is the concept of securitisation’, which is best understood as having been a reaction against the perceived danger (arising from broadening the security agenda) that the traditional security mindset (characterized by militarized, conflictual, and zero-sum thinking) will be extended into what hitherto had been regarded as non-military areas by labeling them ‘security’.
In the Universal Declaration of Human Rights challenged the 350 or so years of sovereign state dominance. As a result of the relentlessly top-down perspective, what is supposed to be a radical move actually works in the interests of power, because with power goes discourse making potential. Securitisation studies therefore suffer from being elitist9.
Survival is being alive; security is living. The implication of all this that security cannot be categorized as an essentially a conservative concept. As an instrumental value, security is politically neutral. Security and insecurity are ways of describing the conditions of existence. Security can never be for its own sake; it is always, to recall Robert Cox, ‘for someone and for some purpose.’
The relevancy of Clausewitzian
Clausewitz’s unfinished and posthumous book, On War (Vom Kriege) is a classic, a reference point for all thinkers about war and politics. His influence in particular situations might be problematic, but today the very relevance of his philosophy of war is under challenge. The Clausewitzian paradigm promises to remain directly relevant to states in the context of self-defense and resource wars.
However, in the long-term, the instrumentality of such states wars remains in doubt. Kuwait proved to be only the first round of what a decade and a half later appears to be a thirty-year Gulf War, long term ethnic harmony in the Balkans remains problematic, Kosovo’s status and inter-ethnic relations remain precarious, and the Coalition that moved into Afghanistan so successfully in the beginning, to bring about regime change, soon realized, like many invaders through history, that it is much easier to blaze into that inhospitable land with high hopes than to leave it with satisfaction about a job well done10.
With global issues having very local consequences (whether from international terrorism or the US global War on Terror), and with the number of civilian and military deaths in war inexorably rising, the space between the former spectators and contemporary violence began to get too close for comfort. Technological advantage can be subverted by the human factor, and history provides ample evidence of the way in which various asymmetrical responses, including terrorism that would enable the weak to employ ‘unconventional’ (though actually rather normal) strategies and tactics against the strong. Consequently, the future is likely to see a steady eclipse of Clausewitz and his ‘direct’ approach to war, and the rising star of the ancient Chinese strategist, Sun Tzu, with his ‘indirect approach’11.
The combatants in intra-state wars may be rather indeterminate political entities, such as the various paramilitaries, warlords, quasi-armies, and the rest in the Balkan wars in the first half of the 1990. Worse, the modalities of intra-state violence that took place in former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, and the DRC in the 1990s completely upturned the metaphors of a Clausewitzian game of chess, and replaced it with bloody images of extreme and often gratuitous brutality.
Such intra-state struggles will be defined by state collapse, extreme ethnic brutality, elite manipulation, narcissistic identity politics, historical propaganda, naked fear, religious revival, neighbor versus neighbor violence, fluid political entities, and ethnic cleansing which were all in the context of the unequal impact of the global economy and the lack of direct interest on the part of the major international players12. The face of eschatological violence will then look inwards, and the messianic madness of racial, nationalist, religious, or ethnic superiority will slide into the logic of genocide and insecurity.
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), proposed a shift in the focus of security away from the threat of a superpower ‘cataclysmic world event’. In 1994 UNDP identified four essential characteristics of human security where its issues are people-centred. In the subsequent decade, the UN Commission on Human Security chaired by Sadako Ogata and Amrtya Sen declared in the Human Security Now: ‘The international community urgently needs a new paradigm of security. The states would remain the fundamental purveyor of security. Yet it often fails to fulfill its security obligations – and at times has even become a source of threat to its own people’13. That is why attention must now shift from the security of the state to the security of the people – to human security.
According to Caroline Thomas, human security is a condition in which ‘basic human needs are met, and in which human dignity, including meaningful participation in the life of the community can be realized’14. This new concept represent a new paradigm for thinking about security, focusing on the threats in ‘daily life’ that dominate most people’s existence (food, crime, and so on); it shifts focus to ‘human’ rather than ‘state’ referents; it underlines ways in which security and insecurity are interlinked across the world; it might help stimulate the minority (rich) world to feel a greater sense of responsibility for the immiseration of the majority (poor) world15.
What is true of states and nations is also true of individuals and families. Just as a condition of war determines the behavior of states, so poverty determines the lives of individuals and families. Individual human beings should be regarded as the ultimate referent for a theory and practice of politics (including security) because, as the irreducible units of human society, they are both the start of agency and the litmus test of the health of society16.
Like health and status, security is a condition that is not difficult to define; in each case, the starting point should begin in the experiences, imaginings, analysis, and fears of those living within security, ill-health, or low status.
The ‘security dilemma’ is the idea that irresolvable uncertainties arising out of the ‘other minds problem’, and the ambiguous symbolism of weaponry, tends to produce strategic competition between states (and also ethnic groups under conditions of emerging anarchy).
Specific security threats to these referents include: the erosion of local cultures and economies, the spread of pandemics, the growth of radicalization and terrorism, human rights abuses, political disempowerment, environmental degradation, and economic downturns or collapses interacting with ethnic and other insecurities. A law-governed world is one of the conditions for world security. Among those whose interests it serves are states and groups of states that are presently dominant but may not be in future.
The concept of world security is more encompassing than the notion of international security. It includes a more extensive range of referents, above and below the state level, and wider range of possible threats and risks. World security refers to the structures and processes within human society, locally and globally, that work towards the reduction of the threats and risks that determine individual and group lives. The greater the level of security enjoyed, the more individual and groups (including human society as a whole) can have an existence beyond the instinctual animal struggle merely to survive. The idea of world security is synonymous with the freedom of individuals and groups’ compatible with the reasonable freedom of others, and universal moral equality compatible with justifiable pragmatic inequalities.
- Ken Booth, Theory of World Security, Cambridge Studies in International Relations, 2007;
- Barry Buzan, Peoples, States and Fear, Harvester-Wheatshef, 1991;
- Caroline Thomas, Globalization, Thomas-Wilkins, 2001;
- Barry Buzan, Morten Kelstrup, Pierre Lemaitre, Elzbieta Tromer, and Ole Waever, The European Security Order Recast: Scenarios for the Post-Cold War Era, London: Pinter, 1990; and
- Roland Paris, Human Security: Paradigm Shift or Hot Air? International Security, 2001.
Wednesday, 4 March 2009
By: Ahmad Syah Ejaz Bin Hj. Ismail
The concept of power and balance of power has definitely played an interesting and complex role in international relations theory than is generally recognized. Power in international relations means the ability of a national state to control other states. Such control can also be meant as influencing others to act or behave in a way that will fulfill ones need or ones strategic interest. Often this power was transpired in a form of war such as describe by Clausewitz in this work On War1.
There are four main theoretical frameworks that had previously discussed the concept of balance of power. The four main theories were as follows:-
- Hans J. Morgenthau’s Politics Among Nations (1948);
- Hedley Bull’s The Anarchical Society (1977);
- Kenneth N. Waltz’s Theory of International Politics (1979); and
- John J. Mearsheimer’s The Tragedy of Great Power Politics (2001).
The above four main balance of power studies had been the referent or focal point for scholars to understand the concept of balance of power in international relations for the past five hundred years in details. It has also played a key role in some of the most important attempts to develop a theory of international politics in the contemporary study of international relations.
The traces of the idea of balance of power can be tracked back to the Renaissance era where it is viewed as a ‘metaphorical concept’ that treats balancing behavior as a response ‘driven by a law of nature’. There were views by contemporary scholars such as Schweller that emphasized the contemporary balance of power theorist presuppose that the balance of power represent a natural law and that, as a result, the subscribe to a view of the international arena as a machine ‘created and kept in motion by the ‘divine watchmaker’2.
Approaches to the balance of power
The four main theories mentioned above had a different approach to the concept of the balance of power. Hans J. Morgenthau is more interested in the way that the operation of the balance of power has changed across time. This can be seen through his seminal work in the Politics Among Nations that emphasized the rise of nationalistic universalism in the twentieth century, in conjunction with the erosion during the nineteenth century of the factors that had helped to maintain what can be translated as an associational balance of power.
Although Morgenthau accepted the idea of the creation of a global world society preconditioned for the formation of a world government that could eradicate international war, Morgenthau still skeptical of this preconditions in the near future. This can be translated into a lay man term as a disagreement with the emergence of United States as a global hagemon with equanimity and unquestionably would lead to US unilateralism with alarm.
Hedley Bull’s approach to the balance of power in general has more in common with Morgenthau than is generally recognized3. For example, despite the centrality of the balance of power to their assessments of international politics, both scholars acknowledge the potential importance of world society in the future. Through Bull’s seminal work The Anarchical Society, he was cautiously optimistic that the United States and the Soviet Union could co-exist and indeed, the existence of the nuclear weapons had helped in stabilizing the relations between the two super powers although it can be said the nuclear arms build up was at the expense of establishing order on a more positive basis.
Bull’s also accepts the idea of states as an instrument of utilizing balance of power competitively to promote their own interests as well as cooperatively to help preserve a society of states. However, different from Morgenthau, Bull was more interested in interaction among the institutional dimensions of international politics and how this interaction affects and is in turn affected by both the adversarial and associational balance of power4.
For Kenneth Waltz, the balance of power emerges, in the first instance as an unintended consequence of states endeavoring to survive in the anarchic international system. Waltz seems to acknowledge the existence of an international society however the international society is more recessed and privileged by Waltz in his work5. For Waltz, the international society is subordinated to the international system. However, in his work, Waltz does mention that in the context of bipolarity, and adversarial balance of power was giving way to an associational balance of power.
The latest seminal works on the concept of balance of power were written by John J. Mersheimer in 2001 through his book The Tragedy of Great Power Politics. Mersheimer focus his work exclusively on the idea of an international system, but from a foreign policy as well as a structural perspective, privileges geography over polarity. Mersheimer considers the international system not in the context of the global dimension but more into a regional dimension.
Mersheimer boldly develops a stand that runs counter to Morgenthau, Bull and Waltz who all assume that the global balance of power takes precedence over regional balances of power. By contrast, Mersheimer argues that hegemony or unipolarity can emerge at the regional level and it is primarily, or to be precise, geography which prevents the emergence of global hegemony or unipolarity6. For an example, the United States only succeeded in becoming a regional hegemon because of a favorable situation that make US achieved such a status. And now the US will try it very best to prevent a hegemon from emerging in another region7.
Mersheimer does not only suggest that other states try to balance over United States, but that global geography inhibits any state from occupying a position of worldwide hegemony and it is this factor that is ultimately responsible for preserving a global balance of power.
What can be concluded from the four various theorists on the balance of power, the concept can be compared along three distinct dimensions (system/ society divide, polarity, geographical dimension). First, they vary in terms of the importance that can be attached to the system/ society distinction for understanding the balance of power. Bull formally draws attention to the significance distinction for our understanding of the balance of power; Morgenthau makes more effective use of the divide by arguing explicitly that the long-established (associational) balance of power was giving way to a new (adversarial) balance of power in the twentieth century. Waltz by contrast only draws on the distinction implicitly, while it plays no role at all in Mearsheimer’s thinking.
Polarity however plays a significant role in the way that all four theorists approach the balance of power. Bull associates polarity with complexity, while Morgenthau initially makes the argument that multipolarity is more stable than bipolarity in the grounds that it generates higher levels of uncertainty and therefore encourages caution. For Waltz, however, polarity is of overriding importance for his model of the balance of power because this is the factor that changes the structure of the system and as the structure of the system changes, so too does its impact on the constituent members of the system.
Polarity is also crucial importance in Mearshimer’s analysis, although it is impossible to disentangle this dimension from the third dimension that focuses on a global/ regional divide. He distinguishes between polarity at the regional and the global level. Waltz however disagrees with Mearshimer’s as he wants to exclude the geographical dimension from his analysis. Morgenthau and Bull on the other hand acknowledge the need to take geography into account and subscribe to a common image of the European international society expanding across the globe.
Although there were overlapping distinctions between the four theorists of the balance of power, the degree of the overlap had raises the question of whether or not it is possible to establish a composite model of the balance of power on the basis of three dimensions explained above. The concept of balance of power would be more interesting and complex in nature to understand as the world is moving from a different political background that would influence states to behave among each other.
1. Richard Little, Balance of Power in International Relations, Metaphors, Myths and Models, Cambridge University Press, 2007;
2. Carl von Clausewitz, On War, Wilder Publications, 2008; and
3. Ken Booth, Theory of World Security, Cambridge Studies in International Relations, 2007.
Monday, 2 March 2009
Sunday, 1 March 2009
I'm still thinking about the way to get out of this mess. One of the way the policy maker should consider perhaps to bring back opportunities for F class contractor perhaps starting with the refurbishment of the government offices. And Krugman did mentioned something about the long term project such as bridges, highways and fast train that would definitely bring positive effect in the long run while keep the populations occupied with work during hard times. God, I miss Galbraith advices. God bless you all great economic thinkers!