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In a previous article we introduced the concept of state-centric security centred on state affairs versus human security, which takes into account human aspects of war and security. There is an ongoing debate in security studies about which is the best theory to use. As the previous article mainly focused on state-centric security, here we shall debate the flaws of a more nationalistic view on security.
A crucial argument against state-centric theory when it comes to non-state issues is that the traditional theory will never understand TCO fully as it disregards the primary importance of individuals as victims and does not advocate human rights as it should. Indeed whilst state-centric security studies focus primarily on military responses and national security, a new conceptualisation of security which acts upon the pain brought to humans has emerged.
Bill Durodie criticises statism for placing the state on a polished peddle stool when in cases the state is actually the source of insecurity both consciously – through military ambitions and state censorship – and unconsciously – in environmental and economic sectors that then project the insecurities elsewhere. Peter Willetts on the other hand (2008 331) drew attention to the fact that whilst there are only around 200 governments in the world tens of thousands of transnational corporations (TNCs) and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) exist albeit it is noted that many of these are probably organised by governments themselves. Many argue that TNCs and NGOs rather than state governments have been tackling human rights issues as the latter only focus their interests on ‘how the state will be threatened, instead of caring about how their people will suffer’ (REIAS 2011: 29).
In the case of human trafficking, the primary focus of states has been centred on border control security measures, therefore states view all those who trespass illegally into the nation as criminals. The issue with state-centred theory in this particular case is that many people that are being trafficked are not actually criminals but victims who are paying the ultimate price due to TOCs. It is in such stances that empirical evidence is found in favour of Durodie’s assumption that the government can actually harm its very own people instead of protecting them.
Whilst considering the specific case study of the rise of Al-Qaeda and the US nationalistic response to 9/11, it can be noted that the adoption of a militaristic state-centric approach to Afghanistan actually hindered the nation in terms of human rights. According to political analysts, Afghanistan is placed as an authoritarian regime and in 2012 it ranked at 152 of 167 states worldwide, yet in 2013 Afghanistan took a step back and shared the worst ranking in corruption out of the 177 nations with Somalia and North Korea. Whilst democracy was not on the USA’s initial agenda when invading Afghanistan, later it did become a stated goal for both Afghanistan and Iraq in accordance with American internationalism. In both cases of Iraq and Afghanistan the state-centric approach used did not take into account many social, economic and political factors embedded in the states and as a consequence it failed miserably.
The military approach which was used also meant that US officials and their allies were not focusing enough on the causal mechanism which characterised the attacks. One feature the US did miss with its state-centric theory was the globalised finance system related to Al-Qaeda which cleverly is divided into cells that can autonomously gain money. Only in 2004 did the Bush Administration decide it was important to form an Office of Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes (TFFC) to help cut off finance to terrorist groups and even to-date our knowledge of how these groups finance themselves is incredibly vague.
Had the US adopted a more human-security-friendly approach, it can be argued that it may have been able to cut of significant financing that was used to carry out 9/11. It is therefore evident that the state-centric approach adopted by the US continuously focused on terrorism as a non-state actor and the national security issue it brought about and was concerned less with its actual activity. Concerned with this reality, advocates of human security theory argued that traditional security should be expanded to englobe threats which venture beyond the established military and political domain in alignment with the shift in threats posed. Nonetheless state-centric security continued to undermine any non-political or non-military causes of the TCO such as cultural, economic and social changes which all inevitably played a large role in regulating Al-Qaeda’s activity and ignoring key aspects of human security.