Conflict Security in the International System Term Paper

Pages: 6 (2130 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 4  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Drama - World


Security, at its most basic, is personal. People want to be secure, be it on a group, regional, national, or global level. And, while the most important type of security to most people is individual security, the freedom from threat of harm from outside forces, individual security is not a possibility without security in the larger arenas. In order to obtain individual security for ourselves and others, we must also obtain group, regional, national, and global security. That much is clear. Yet how we go about obtaining these types of security depends in large part upon how we view security on a large scale. What exactly does it mean for a nation or for the world to be secure? Is it the same "freedom from threat" that defines individual security? Or is it something more complex? Does security on a global level change the definition of security? There is currently no clear consensus on this among researchers in the field of security politics. And while there is no consensus, there can be no real plan put into place to ensure global security for all.

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One traditional definition of security, as it applies to the national and international arena is that national security is one nation having a monopoly on the use of violence within a given set of borders. One positive to this viewpoint is that any nation that has a monopoly on the use of violence within a set of boundaries will certainly be secure within its own territories; no other nation can utilize violence in the realm of that nation. The Soviet Union during the height of the Cold War was a good example of this type of security. However, a drawback is that this definition of security only ensures the security of a nation from outside forces, and even that is only for as long as no other nation becomes powerful enough to take that monopoly on the use of violence for itself; this definition of security does nothing to ensure individual security within the nation, as the government has the option to use violence within its borders, including against its own citizens.

TOPIC: Term Paper on Conflict Security in the International System Assignment

As national security can often be threatened by more powerful external forces, and even internal ones, some researchers are moving toward a different definition of security, this one focusing on the security of human beings rather than on nations. This concept is often referred to as "human security." This definition focuses on the definition of security being the ability of human beings to have access to basic needs, such as clean air and water, food, shelter, freedom from violence by others, and freedom from economic exploitation. While this is a noble definition, it is too broad and ambiguous to be used as an effective national or international security policy.

With the changing nature of warfare from the typical 18th and 19th century wars that took place solely between nations and that operated under clearly demarcated differences between soldiers and civilians to today's internal conflicts that threaten the stability of nations in which they occur and which offer no sanctuary for civilians, a new type of definition of security is needed. The concept of "intrastate security" is a possible way to look at modern security issues, though it involves the leaders of nations brainstorming together to come up with common ideas, the kind of group thinking that Janis urges caution on. Under this definition, by nations working together to focus on issues that affect all people, such as environmental issues, poverty issues, religious and economic issues, it can be possible to work out ways to increase internal stability in all nations, thereby stopping the internal conflicts that can destroy one nation and spill over into others. This, in turn, will help ensure the security of all nations, that is, if the nations are able to adequately plan together for the good of all.


Mary Kaldor draws a definitive distinction between "old wars" and "new wars." Old wars are the traditional type of war that nations have been fighting for centuries, the kind of conflict that occurs strictly between nations with each nation involved having a goal of inflicting the maximum amount of violence on the other nation or nations. Individuals and institutions played little to no role in the basis for these conflicts; old wars occurred due to disputes between the rulers of nations, and if individual citizens got caught up in those conflicts, then so be it.

New wars, however, are a different breed of war entirely. Modern wars, those fought in the most recent decades, are a mixture of traditional war, human rights violations, and organized crime. These modern wars encompass a variety of players, from rulers of nations to public institutions to private individuals. Everyone has the potential to participate in and make their mark in modern wars. Modern wars are fought not because of disputes between rulers but because of the political goals of people, groups, and governments. The tactics used in modern wars can range from traditional to terrorism to destabilization techniques designed to weaken the infrastructure of a nation, either economically, psychologically, or in some other way. Modern warfare is more sneaky and underhanded than traditional warfare. There are no protocols of battle in new wars, no code of conduct (at least not one that is followed). New wars are fought not on the battlefield but in the schools, churches, and homes of the citizens.

New wars can not be handled like old wars. Rather than being handled by vast armies with all the most sophisticated weapons trying to wipe each other out, new wars must be fought on a largely intellectual basis. New wars must be fought by creating international strategies for correcting social conditions that lead to the war and preventing them from recurring. Humanitarian policies and global peacekeeping forces can and should be employed toward fighting new wars. Superior firepower is not going to be much help in fighting a war caused by the drug trade or poverty. Other, more creative and less brutal methods must be employed for the battle to be successful.

In contrast, Paul Hirst looks at modern warfare much as traditional warfare, except with superior firepower. In fact, much of Hirst's view of modern society in general can be looked at through the lens of increasingly sophisticated weaponry. Great technological advances in weaponry and the machinery that produces it has united the already strong nations, and these nations will, in turn, use their sophisticated technology to intervene in the affairs of less advanced nations, perhaps helping to raise the quality of life in those nations, perhaps to absorb those nations into the larger ones. And, there is always the danger of a small nation or special interest group taking control of advanced weaponry to attack a large nation, thereby incurring the wrath of other advanced nations (Hirst, 98). This results in a system of assured destruction on the part of the lesser-equipped nations (unlike the system of mutually assured destruction that was commonly discussed during the Cold War, where both the United States and the Soviet Union had the power to destroy each other, so neither made any move to threaten the other).

Using advances in weaponry to fight modern wars (and with advanced weaponry and its use being the cause of modern wars), and looking at modern wars in this light, it does not appear that there have been many changes in the reasons for war throughout the course of human history. In this light, wars are still fought over perceived threats, the desire for dominion, and as pre-emptive strikes against potential enemies. Nations, not people, are still the actors in these wars. The modern world is a little more complex than this, however. Despite the fact that human beings have changed very little from ancient times, the issues we are dealing with have changed, and this requires a more sophisticated and nuanced view of the causes and proper handling of modern warfare than Hirst has to offer.


The foreign and security politics of the United States have undergone a variety of changes since the end of World War II in 1945. The end of World War II marked the beginning of the Cold War, the rise of communism as a global force, and also the rise of the United States and the Soviet Union as global superpowers. With such tumultuous changes happening in the global theater, the United States had its work cut out for itself in trying to navigate tricky and constantly changing international conditions, and its foreign and security policy changed often, according to external circumstances.

While officially taking a stand against communism after the end of World War II, the United States nevertheless adopted a somewhat Marxist stance in its agreement to participate in the United Nations. The United Nations was meant to act as a global peacekeeper, where member nations monitored the entire world, and while some… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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APA Style

Conflict Security in the International System.  (2005, November 6).  Retrieved August 4, 2021, from

MLA Format

"Conflict Security in the International System."  6 November 2005.  Web.  4 August 2021. <>.

Chicago Style

"Conflict Security in the International System."  November 6, 2005.  Accessed August 4, 2021.