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«Comprehensive Security: Challenge For Pacific Asia♠ James C. Hsiung New York University Abstract This study identifies the origin, components, and ...»

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Comprehensive Security: Challenge

For Pacific Asia♠

James C. Hsiung

New York University


This study identifies the origin, components, and significance of comprehensive

security (CS) and uses Pacific Asia as an illustration of CS practical implications

and challenges for policy responses as well as our conceptualization about security

studies. The study begins with a comparison of CS with traditional security (national

defense), both in its concerns and scope. It also notes two commonalities that CS shares with the post-9/11 modified traditional notion of security (antiterrorism).

Applying the CS perspective to Pacific Asia, this study finds that Pacific Asia longest suit is in the area of economic security; its record in human security is spotty;

and environmental security is the region Achilles’ heel. Many of the problems in the latter category, such as increasing terrorism and maritime piracy, not to mention the threats of sea-level rises due to global warming, would require collaborative solutions beyond the reach of any single nation. The essay ends with a speculation on the likelihood of these collaborative efforts.


Rise of Comprehensive Security A burning issue on the agenda of nations in the twenty-first century is the new meaning of security and its place in world politics. A nation security is no longer the traditional ational defense” (military security) but has economic, environmental, and human dimensions as well (separately known as economic security, environmental security, and human security). All three dimensions be subsumed under the rubric of omprehensive security,” a new umbrella concept that grew out of the post-Cold War debate over the ramifications of security and over security studies as a field of inquiry. 1 Olaf Palme, the late Swedish Prime Minister acific Asia,” as used in this paper, denotes what is usually known as Asia Pacific, less North ♠ Unknown America. Deleted: minus William T. Tow, ntroduction,” in William T. Tow, Ramesh Thakur, and In-Taek Hyun, Asia Emerging Regional Order (Tokyo and New York: United Nations University, 2000), pp. 1-10; James C. Hsiung, Twenty-First Century World Order and the Asia Pacific (New York: Palgrave, 2001), pp.

19; 26-34.

who headed the Commission on Disarmament and Security Issues created in 1981, is sometimes credited with having been the first one to adva

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conceptualization with traditional security and follow with a more in-depth discourse on the meanings of each of comprehensive security three named components. In the final section, I shall turn to the challenge that confronts Pacific Asian nations in the age of comprehensive security as the memories of the Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s (a breach of their economic security) and the recent SARS epidemic (an invasion of human security) still haunt many in the region. I hope this chosen regional focus will serve an illustrative purpose for other regions and will provide relevant insights for grappling with the new concept of comprehensive security.

Comprehensive Security versus the Traditional Notion of Security Security has traditionally been defined in terms of states and the qualities of statehood. The odern” science of security studies (in the traditional sense), as Steven Walt argues, has evolved around seeking umulative knowledge” about the role of military force.7 Until the end of the Cold War, ational security,” as it was known, always focused on the military defense of the state. 8 In contrast to comprehensive security, the traditional concept of national security embraces two distinct characteristics.9 First, security is commensurate with national survival in a system of world politics that is inherently contentious and anarchical;10 and the State is the central unit of analysis. Second, understanding force postures and capabilities is

a key tenet of traditional security. Sovereign states develop military doctrines:

weapons systems serve their defense but may also intensify interstate conflicts and fuel security dilemmas.11 In short, in the anarchical Westphalian system we live in, security in the traditional sense can be simply defined as the absence of physical

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threat to the territorial and functional integrity of a state.12 In this sense, all the antiterror concerns in a heightened-security-conscious world after September 11 are still largely within the traditional concept of security, as the term omeland security” implies, although antiterrorism may have implications for human security as well.

Comprehensive security, by contrast, demonstrates two distinct shifts away from the state as the central unit of analysis, representing two opposite but ultimately interrelated foci. The first shift is toward focusing on the external community at large, as it has been shown that the rampaging forces of the environment and the ravaging effects of globalization go far beyond the ability of the state to contain them by its own resources. Epidemics like AIDS and the recent SARS attacks in East and Southeast Asia in early 2003 are but a potent reminder of this new reality. Another such reminder is the series of financial crises hitting Europe (early 1990s), Latin America (1994-1995), and Pacific Asia (1997-1999), leaving no nation unaffected in their trail.

The other trend is a shift inward from the state toward the individual citizen in terms of human security. As defined by the United Nations Human Development Report of 1994, human security includes afety from chronic threats such as hunger, disease, and repression, as well as protection from sudden and harmful disruptions in the patterns of daily life.”13 In the growing literature, the concept of human security has been expanded to include economic, health, and environmental concerns, as well as the physical security of the individual.14 I might add that the post-9/11 atmosphere of ubiquitous terror, which threatens the peace of mind and quality of life of the ordinary individual, is a new source of sinister threat to human security, in addition to being a threat to a country national security in the traditional sense.

The various components of comprehensive security are intertwined. Global warming may have worldwide economic implications, and epidemics may ravage the physical and economic security of the individual (and society at large). While seemingly heading in opposite directions, both the globalization shift and the opposite shift toward the individual are ultimately interrelated because the individual is the ultimate beneficiary of both environmental and economic security. In either case, the

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state loses its previous salience as the central focus and unit of analysis.

In the next section, I will discuss each of the three components of comprehensive security from a broad perspective.15 Economic Security (Geoeconomics) Recently, geoeconomics has risen to rival, even outweigh, geopolitics as a desideratum determining a country national interest and its foreign policy behavior. This has come about not only because of the end of the Cold War but also, more importantly, because of the globalization of the world economy beyond the stage of complex interdependence. Although the term eoeconomics” has been much bandied about, it needs a definition.16 On the macro level, in the geoeconomic age, matters pertaining to manufacturing, marketing, financing, and research and development (R & D) are transnationalized and eventually globalized. On the micro level, national power is no longer measured exclusively, or even mainly, by a state military might, and economic security has eclipsed, though not displaced, military security on the scales of strategic importance to a country national interest.

National power in this context is not only military might but also the aggregate of a number of components such as human and technological resources, exportable capital, efficient production of modern goods, influence over global economic decisionmaking that affects one own vital interests, and the will to mobilize economic capacity for national ends.17 This formulation, which combines both macro-level economic power management and micro-level implications for individual states caught in the shifting power game, captures the essence of geoeconomics as we use the term in this discourse. In addition to redefining power and what the new era power configurations imply, the formulation also points up the paramountcy of geoeconomic calculations in the concerns of nations in world politics.

For an example of how geoeconomic desiderata may compound a country foreign policy priorities, one need only recall Japan response to the 1990–1991 Persian Gulf crisis, precipitated by Iraq invasion and annexation of Kuwait. That event taught the Japanese a potent lesson on economic security and its geoeconomic

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imperative. The invasion exposed the vulnerability of the Japanese economy because of its total dependency on extra-regional supplies of vital resources. As the event woefully demonstrated, access to these supplies could be disrupted at any flare-up of a crisis in a far-off place, and Japan was at the mercy of forces beyond its control. Thus, while the world industrial nations were carrying on the post-Tiananmen sanctions against Beijing, Japan began in the fall of 1990 uring the height of the Gulf crisis o switch gears and be the first industrial nation to return to China in a deliberate effort to uplift its ties with the Chinese, thus breaking ranks with the rest of G-7. It not only resumed bilateral trade but even extended to China US$54 billion in credits.18 Another instance demonstrating how the geoeconomic reflex held sway was the decision of the Hong Kong SAR government to intervene in the market in August 1998 during the course of the financial crisis hitting the Asian region. Although well-intentioned critics condemned the move as a betrayal of Hong Kong long tradition of laissez-faire, the SAR government reacted in the same fashion as would any traditional government when its national security was breached by external military encroachments, considering the dictate of economic security in the age of geoeconomics.

As a caveat, I would reiterate for emphasis that geoeconomics have not replaced geopolitics. The competition between geopolitics and geoeconomics, in fact, offers an unavoidable complication to countries in figuring out their external friends and enemies. For instance, a foreign adversary in the geopolitical sense may very well be a great economic partner, such as in the case of China. Conversely, an ideologically-defined ally like Japan may prove to be a potential economic rival, even a threat, despite its protracted economic downturn over a decade.19

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ecopolitical revolution on a par with the two preceding human revolutions: the Agricultural Revolution (c. 8,000 B.C.) and the Industrial Revolution, which began in earnest in the eighteenth century and culminated in the rapid advance of technology that was characteristic of the twentieth century (p. 4). As such, the ecopolitical revolution encompasses a number of developments affecting all nations, subsumed under what Pirages calls a ew scarcity,” resulting from the exponential growth of population. The ecopolitical revolution includes resource depletion, energy shortage, water shortage, and scarcity of food and nonfuel minerals, further compounded by a related issue atural waste disposal (pp. 8-9). In our usage, copolitics” refers to only the ecological and political dimensions of the concept because we discussed the economic component in the preceding section, in the context of geoeconomics, which was a term unknown when Pirages published his study.

Our concerns here are not merely with how environmental degradation affects the ecosystems, but also with the challenge it presents to nations in their mutual relations.21 I wish to note that a dual linkage exists between international conflict and the environment. Disputes over control of shared resources (such as shared waters of international rivers) may lead to conflict while hand renewal of resources (e.g., fish stocks) may be depleted as a result of conflict.

The threat of environmental degradation is far more serious than generally realized. Lester Brown has warned of the danger to humanity of climatic rise (global warming) due to increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2), which had by 1998 hiked 131 percent in the two centuries since the Industrial Revolution. If CO2 concentrations double preindustrial levels during the twenty-first century as projected, global temperature is expected to rise by at least one degree, and perhaps as much as 4 degrees, Celsius (or 2-7 degrees Fahrenheit). Sea level is projected to rise from a minimum of 17 centimeters to as much as 1 meter by 2100. As Brown summarizes, his will alter every ecosystem on Earth.”22 The modest but steady temperature rise in recent decades is already melting ice caps and glaciers. Ice cover is shrinking in the Arctic, the Antarctic, Greenland, the Alps, the Andes, and the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau. If anyone still has doubts as to the long-term consequence of global warming, two recent bizarre incidents should serve For a discussion of global warming, for example, as an environmental issue that deserves attention

on the international agenda, see James Sebeniius, esigning Negotiations Toward a New Regime:

The Case of Global Warming,” International Security, Vol. 15, No. 4 (Spring 1991), pp. 110-148.

Lester R. Brown, hallenges of the New Century,” in Lester R. Brown, et al., eds., State of the World 2000 (New York: W.W. Norton, 2000), pp. 5-6.

as reminders. In the fall of 1991, hikers in the southwestern Alps near the border of Austria and Italy discovered an intact human body, a male, protruding from a glacier.

The considerably well-preserved body was believed to have been trapped in a storm 5,000 years ago and quickly covered by snow and ice. Also, in the late summer of 1999, another body was found protruding from a melting glacier in Canada Yukon territory. As Brown half-facetiously suggests, our ancestors are emerging from the ice with a message for us: Earth is getting too warm (p. 6)! His conclusion, however, is not frivolous: We should be eplacing economics with ecology” (pp. 8-10).

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