Events in recent decades have transformed the international system and created new challenges for national security and diplomacy. Referring to the end of the Cold War, Richard Haas states: Todays world is different in fundamental ways from the one we knew for 45 years (1997, 1). One aspect of this transformation is the increased complexity in international relations, about which there is no shortage of articles, such as Security in a Turbulent World (Rosenau 1995) and The Era of Multiplying Schisms (Klare 1998). Similarly, Joseph Nye writes: September 11th was a terrible symptom of the deeper changes that were already occurring in the world (2002, 24). The current National Security Strategy of the United States of America affirms the changing international system: America is now threatened less by conquering states than we are by failing ones. We are menaced less by fleets and armies than by catastrophic technologies in the hands of the embittered few. We must defeat these threats . . . (2002, 3).
Understanding threats to American national security in this transformed international system can be difficult, since traditional descriptions of security threats tend to be linear. One common system identifies threats based upon the type of national interests at risk, such as vital interests, critical interests, serious interests, and other interests. Another depiction applies the conflict spectrum, which portrays potential threats along a continuum with points for nuclear war, major conventional war, low intensity conflict, special operations, and peacekeeping. The instruments of statecraft are also usually perceived linearly based upon some version of a ladder of escalation; steps along this ladder include persuasion, inducement, deterrence, coercive diplomacy, and finally force. These descriptions will continue to be useful; however, they cannot describe the complexity of the post-Cold War and post-September 11th security environment. Given the nature of the current international system, a valid depiction of threats to national security requires an analytical tool with explanatory power beyond that which is possible with linear, one-dimensional descriptions. What is needed is a new model that portrays the complex array of actors and issues in a comprehensive yet parsimonious manner.
Offering a new model is of course a risky endeavor. Scholars and policy makers are quick to point out inadequacies contained in any attempt to classify phenomena. Reality can sometimes be stubborn in conforming to systems of categories. Creating categories that are mutually exclusive and exhaustive can be problematic when dealing with complex events and circumstances that evolve over time (Williamson, et al, 1982, 64-65). Models can be useful, however, if they provide better understanding than would otherwise be available, and it is for this purpose that we have undertaken this project. For all classifications . . . are invented. They are constructs which permit us to take a first glance, to engage in a search, to make observations (Landau 1972, 50).
This paper proposes a bidimensional structure as a way to more accurately depict and analyze security threats. This model seeks to provide a framework that allows for analytical clarity by combining two conceptual dimensions. The two conceptual dimensions are actors and power. The first dimension, actors, is divided into the categories of states and non-state actors. The second dimension, power, is divided into the categories of military power and non-military power.
These two concepts, actors and power, form the axes for the bidimensional model. The intersection of the two categories of each dimension creates a four-fold typology of the security threat arena. The four quadrants are displayed in figure 1. Each quadrant represents a distinct foreign policy challenge to American interests. One can view Quadrant I as the traditional arena of international relations: states pursuing their national interests with the currency of military power. The United States must confront potential adversaries, such as Iraq, North Korea, China, and others who possess significant military capabilities and are seeking greater capabilities, especially in the area of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Quadrant II represents threats facing the United States from non-state actors who possess or seek to possess the capability to use lethal force in pursuit of their objectives. Terrorist groups appear the most obvious threat to the US in this quadrant, and the September 11th attack on American soil represents the United States most serious defeat. In Quadrant III, states employing non-military power make up the threat. Economic, diplomatic, cultural, and other elements make up the sources of power in this area. The OPEC oil embargo of 1973 illustrates this threat. Finally, Quadrant IV contains the assorted threats from non-state actors exercising non-military power, such as international drug cartels.
This paper argues that one can understand better the extensive threats to American security by using this bidimensional model instead of using a linear, one-dimensional depiction. Additionally, the four quadrants represent conceptually distinct arenas for US foreign policy. As such, various strategies, such as deterrence, intervention, development, and enforcement, should be crafted for each quadrant, respectively. Such a methodology may provide a higher level of conceptualization useful for policy analysis. The sections below examine each of these quadrants in turn and explore the nature of the actors and instruments of power employed. The intent is to show the unique characteristics of the threat in each quadrant. The final section discusses some implications for US foreign policy.
States use military power for a variety of reasons and to achieve different objectives. The more common uses of military power include prestige, deterrence, defense, or coercion. States using military power to pursue these objectives represent significant Quadrant I threats.
Generally, prestige power would not have an adverse effect on the United States. A state may demonstrate prestige power by conducting foreign port visits or military parades, as the Soviet Union previously did and as North Korea does today, or by possessing aircraft carriers, as do China and Russia. However, a state also demonstrates prestige power by possessing nuclear weapons.
From a QI perspective, a hostile state possessing WMD presents a serious threat to the security of the US and must be dealt with expeditiously. In a resource limited world, such a potential threat deserves immediate, perhaps even pre-emptive attention. The attention given to pre-emption by the Bush administration has raised red flags worldwide and generated considerable debate.
In addition to prestige power, states use military power as a deterrent when they wish to convince a potential adversary that aggression on the part of the adversary will be met with unacceptable damage to the aggressor. During the last half of the 20th century, the Cold War, or the long peace as termed by John Lewis Gaddis (1987, 245), demonstrates the effective use of nuclear weapons as a deterrent to large-scale war between the two major opposing blocs, NATO and the Warsaw Treaty Organization.
The subcontinent of Asia is a volatile region of particular interest to the United States. Pakistan reacted to Indias 1998 underground testing of nuclear weapons by conducting its own underground test within a week of the Indian test. Obviously both sides had already spent years and invested large quantities of revenue in the development of these munitions; however, for the China, India, Pakistan region, the possession of nuclear weapons by all three may well assist in the stabilization of the region and prevent any actor from putting so much pressure on one of the other actors that the leadership concludes the survival of the state is at such a risk. Deterring states from the use of conventional military forces is, however, more problematic.
States rely on military power to defend their sovereign territory or that of their allies from aggression. Defensive military power includes repelling an attack. History is replete with examples of this form of a just war as defined by 17th century scholars such as Hugo Grotius and Emmerich de Vattel (Williams, et al., 1994, 14-17).
A pre-emptive strike is a form of defensive use of force. In addition to defending itself after an attack, a state may seek to limit the destruction it expects from an attacker by launching a pre-emptive attack. Such a pre-emptive strike is defensive if the state believes its national security is at risk without such a strike.
Compellent military power, better known as coercive diplomacy, involves a state that uses its military power to compel an adversary to stop doing something, to undo something, or to do something it would not do ordinarily. Coercive diplomacy includes both the threat to use force and the actual use of force. A state that attempts to use coercive diplomacy must have the military capability and the willingness to use the force, and it must communicate clearly the possession of both.
Quadrant I represents the traditional threats that have always confronted the United States. This arena includes balance of power, military alliances, regional stability, war, and the threat of war. Despite its preponderance of power and the emergence of a plethora of new threats examined in sections below, the United States overlooks Quadrant I threats to its peril.
Intra-state factionalism consists of a variety of conflicts. Irregular forces of non-state actors may engage the conventional military of the state, as in Chechnya, or several irregular units may fight each other, as occurred in Somalia. The armed forces of Colombia face both leftist guerilla groups and right wing paramilitary groups, most with ties to narcotrafficking. Known variously as ethnic militias, guerrillas, insurgents, warlords, terrorists, freedom fighters, and so on, they represent ethnic minorities, nationalities, religious factions, regions, and ideological movements. One rarely sees large scale battles; instead, skirmishes, ambushes, attacks on civilian populations, destruction of facilities, hostage taking, withholding food and other basic necessities, and other atrocities characterize these conflicts. Often the fighting results in humanitarian crises of hunger, refugees, and disease. Michael Klare (1998) warns of the increasing threat from these multiplying schisms.
Various causes contribute to intra-state factional conflict. In some states ethnic and religious groups harbor ancient hatreds for each other. Michael E. Brown (1996) argues that other factors are also important, such as weak state structures, elite politics, bad leadership, and economic problems. Ideology continues to embolden insurgencies in Colombia and Peru; however, ideology may be taking a back seat to financial considerations.
Regardless of origins, intra-state factionalism appears to be a growing phenomenon. The world faces an increased risk of ethnic, religious, and sectarian conflict . . . such as those now (or recently) underway in Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Bosnia, Burma, Chechnya, Kashmir, Liberia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, and Zaire (Klare 1998, 60, 61). Added to this list of course are the Palestinians, the Kurds, and rebels in the Ivory Coast who are waging internal conflicts against established governments.
International terrorism is a pervasive, transnational problem. Terrorist groups have considerable capability to inflict mass casualties and capture public attention. Examples abound. The 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, the sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway in 1995, the simultaneous explosions on US facilities in Nairobi and Dar Es-Salaam in 1998, and the attacks on the World Trade Center in both 1993 and 2001 illustrate the nature of this threat.
Terrorism is the use of violence against civilians to achieve political ends. Terrorism is employed as a strategy or tactic to instill fear and to communicate a political message. Some of the goals of international terrorists include statehood for nationalist groups (such as the Basques in Spain and France), political liberation from existing governments (the IRA in Northern Ireland), anti-capitalist ideology (the Baader-Meinhof Gang and the Red Brigades), anti-Israeli Islamic fundamentalism (Hamas and Hezbollah), and anti-American Islamic fundamentalism (Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda).
Technology has dramatically increased the terrorist threat. Global transportation and communication networks allow for the dispersion of terrorists groups making them harder to track and subsequently attack. Terrorists employ cellular phones, Email, laptop computers, web sites, encryption equipment, and other modern technologies.
The greatest concern regarding international terrorists is the possibility of their obtaining weapons of mass destruction. The attack on the Tokyo subway illustrates this threat. The instability of the former Soviet Union raises the specter of WMD proliferation around the world. The weakening of legal and military control over unconventional weaponry in the former Soviet Union increases the possibility of terrorists access to such deadly resources. Chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons in the hands of terrorists is the QII nightmare. Another significant concern is the ability of terrorist groups to attract recruits, whether in the Middle East or in Western countries.
The threats posed by intra-state factionalism and international terrorism have profound implications for United States security. It is not possible to deal with these threats by QI great power alliances alone. The crises are too complex and involve too many types of non-state actors. To confront these challenges the US must develop new strategies of cooperation among many participants, including states, intergovernmental organizations, non-governmental organizations, and transnational institutions. Quadrant II describes a distinct and dangerous category of security threats for the United States.
OPEC provides an example of one of the threats to the US as envisioned in Quadrant III. As a collection of oil exporting countries, OPEC attempted to use negative economic sanctions in 1973, first in an attempt to change US political and economic support of Israel and, when this failed, to punish the US for its support to Israel in the Yom Kippur War. OPEC increased the price of oil from $2.70 a barrel in October 1973 to $10.50 a barrel by March 1974. OPECs ability to significantly increase the price of a barrel of oil created crises for the Nixon and Ford administrations. OPEC again exhibited an effort in 1979 to change the US policy of support for the Shah of Iran and, subsequently, created crises for the Carter and Reagan administrations when, after the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979, OPEC raised the price of oil from $13.00 to $25.00 a barrel, and then raised the price to $34.00 a barrel by the end of 1981 (Amstutz, 1999, 374).
Another element of Q III that can adversely affect the US rests in the fact that the US is a major player in global financial markets. By 1997, investors and speculators had lost confidence in the financial policies and economic structures of South and East Asia. The currencies and stock markets of several countries, including Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, and Thailand, fell from 20% to 40% of their previous value. These economic declines impacted negatively on the US stock market, causing it to fall some 6%, but the greater impact came to countries like Brazil which suffered a 20% loss in its stock market, causing it to turn to the US, the IMF, and the WB for assistance (Amstutz 1999, 334).
In addition to various types of economic pressure, states use the soft power of diplomacy and moral persuasion to pressure the United States into modifying a position or changing a stated objective. France, Germany, Belgium, and other states normally allied with the US continue, in March of 2003, to place diplomatic pressure on the US in order to convince the US president and other US government officials to give the UN and IAEA inspectors more time to determine whether or not Saddam Hussein has complied finally with UN Resolution 1441, as well as the 16 other UN resolutions that pre-date 1441. States have used diplomatic soft power to pressure the US into signing a host of international agreements, from the 1982 Third UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, to the 1987 Montreal Protocol on ozone, to the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity, to the 1992 Climate Treaty, derived from the Earth Summit of that same year, that attempts to reduce the greenhouse effect, to the 1994 International Tropical Timber Agreement, to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol on atmospheric pollution. The international community brought considerable pressure on the US in 1997 to sign the Land Mine Treaty banning the use of antipersonnel mines. Due to the unique situation of US troops serving near the DMZ in South Korea, the US government could not, in good faith, support this treaty without an exception to the situation in Korea, and the rest of the world community refused to grant any exception.
Failed states also pose a threat to the US and to other advanced countries. Rather than power projection, these states suffer from power implosion and may end up requiring expenditures of significant US (and allied) resources to stave off worse consequences. One thinks of Somalia and Haiti and the assistance efforts undertaken on their behalf. Failed states can threaten regional stability, they can provide safe haven to international terrorists, and they can assault human dignity and our values to such an extent that some level of US involvement becomes inevitable.
The US faces a variety of threats housed within the environs of Quadrant III from economic coercion practiced in the past by OPEC; to unfair economic competition between the US and the EU, China, and Japan; to the adverse influence upon US economic prospects as a result of significant economic problems within other states that spill over into the US markets; to the impact of failed states. Other states even employ diplomatic soft power and moral persuasion to convince the US government to modify or abandon policy goals and objectives deemed important to the national survival of the state, such as the pressure the US received in late 2002 and early 2003 to refrain from attacking Iraq due to the non-compliance of Iraq with some 17 resolutions passed by the UN since 1991. States used, and continue to use, diplomatic soft power to press the US into accepting international protocols, treaties, and laws.
International criminal activity challenges the effective functioning of government, and drug trafficking in particular attacks the very fabric of civil society in the United States. The Reagan Administration designated drug trafficking a national security threat in 1986, and subsequent administrations concurred. In the 2002 National Security Strategy of the United States of America, President Bush writes, unrestrained narcotics trafficking could imperil the health and security of the United States. In addition to the drug trade, other menaces of international crime include trafficking in illegal immigrants, credit card fraud, extortion, money laundering, forced prostitution, slavery, illegal arms transfers, political corruption, and contract murders. Efforts to combat international crime face many challenges. Transnational criminal organizations pose serious threats to national and international security and are extremely resistant to efforts to contain, disrupt, or destroy them (Williams 1998, 249).
The global crime issue that has aroused the greatest trepidation, however, is the smuggling of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Poor security in former Soviet facilities, inadequate inventory control of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons materials in other countries, and the lure of tremendous profits make WMD trafficking a national security nightmare. International criminal organizations supplying WMD for terrorist groups represents perhaps the greatest security threat posed by non-state actors in the global arena.
Another Q IV security issue is the growing strength of multinational corporations (MNCs). The increasing incongruence between contemporary economic actors and traditional governmental structures jeopardizes the economic interests of the United States. Globalization enables multinationals to leapfrog the regulatory controls of governments in regard to the movements of people, goods, capital, and information across national borders. International collusion on prices and supplies, corruption, gouging, market sharing, insider trading, piracy of intellectual property, and other schemes threaten market efficiency and national sovereignty. US-based MNCs have incredible influence over US domestic and foreign policy and over the policies of other countries.
One finds non-state economic actors in all areas of the global economy. They include producers and marketers of goods and services, banks, investment houses, and money brokers. Robert Reich (1991, 87-135) refers to the multiple partnerships in numerous countries by MNCs as enterprise webs, which have huge advantages over supply and demand information, interest rates, and currency values. According to Seyom Brown, many multinational corporations have greater impact on the world economy than do some of the important nation-states (1998, 7).
Advocacy focused non-governmental organizations and interest groups are active transnational players. While these non-state actors are not usually perceived as security threats, these groups can generate opposition to specific US policies and objectives. For example, the environmental movement, anti-globalization movement, International Labor Organization, Greenpeace, Doctors Without Borders, and many other social movements all to some extent oppose US policies. During the early months of 2003, the world has witnessed a revitalized international peace movement protesting US policy toward Iraq.
The many global ecology issues are best placed within Quadrant IV. Some of the concerns include climate change, population change, disease, acid rain, marine pollution, endangered species, desertification, deforestation, hazardous waste, scarcity, and so on. It is beyond the scope of this paper to examine the legitimacy of each of these perceived threats; however, it remains clear that environmental politics is a growing field and that a tremendous amount of international activity focuses on these issues. A variety of actors participate, such as interest groups, businesses, MNCs, international organizations, regional organizations, non-governmental organizations, private volunteer organizations, sub-state entities, and states. The notion that environmental degradation threatens national security is not universally accepted within the field of security studies; however, should scarcity in water or other critical resources greatly increase, or should ecological disasters severely impact the national economy, then these issues will elevate rapidly in the policy debate.
If national security encompasses more than simply defense against external military threats, then the non-state actors and issues of Quadrant IV represent serious security threats. The extraordinary social, economic, and environmental transformations experienced with globalization have created a new set of security challenges for the United States. To confront these threats, Cold War strategies are not adequate. Remedies for threats in Q I, II, and III are clearly not adequate. New Quadrant IV thinking is necessary to develop strategies and assets that will effectively target Q IV security threats.
Implications and Conclusion
This paper offers a new way of thinking about security threats. Based on two dimensions, types of power and types of actor, four distinct threat arenas were examined. Quadrant I describes the traditional international politics of great powers, other states, and military power balances. Quadrant II portrays threats from religious and ethnic conflicts, international terrorism, and other violent clashes by non-state actors. Quadrant III depicts state-inspired economic and diplomatic threats facing the US, and Quadrant IV describes threats posed by international crime, multinational corporations, interest groups, and global ecology. Figure 2 briefly summarizes some key concepts within this bidimensional model.
The implications of this analysis are significant. The strategic challenge for the United States in the current security environment is to manage simultaneously multiple threats that are very different. Trying to fit one strategic template over the four vastly differing threat arenas is at best awkward and at worst doomed to failure. Strategy is the art of marrying the instruments of policy to the political ends. The instruments of foreign policy include traditional diplomacy, intelligence, foreign assistance, public diplomacy, psychological operations, economic power, and military force. The US should direct a robust combination of these instruments toward any threat to national security. In general, the complex challenges facing the US in the four quadrants make clear the need for a consistent, long-term strategy of building and maintaining alliances, accompanied by an equally farsighted international public diplomacy strategy.
Each of the security arenas depicted by the four quadrants requires a unique strategic approach. It is beyond the scope and intent of this paper either to fully develop these four strategic concepts or to identify all of the instruments and programs needed to respond to the threats within each quadrant; however, some brief suggestions follow.
Deterrence is the long-established response to the Quadrant I threat of states employing military force. The goal is to prevent military aggression from occurring by maintaining the capability for defense or to strike back if attacked. Presumably, states are deterred from military aggression if they perceive the costs or risks as unacceptable. Within the multifaceted world of Quadrant II, policy options are extremely complex. Relatively autonomous non-state actors driven by religion, ideology, or nationalism are not likely to be deterred. When necessary to protect its interests, the US must act proactively and adopt a strategy of intervention to overcome Q II threats. Such intervention is not limited to military force but should include the full complement of policy instruments. This may even include the much maligned policy of nation building to prevent internal conflicts from erupting into warfare.
Continued development within the global economy is the best response to the Quadrant III threat of potential economic and diplomatic coercion the US might face. As the global economy expands and more states have access to capital, technology, natural resources, and markets, US vulnerability decreases. American security is weakened to the extent that the US remains dependent on a few foreign sources for strategic resources. As the US develops new trading partners and agreements, it becomes less concerned about competing blocs, such as the EU. The US should pursue policies that promote global economic development as a way to safeguard American prosperity and avoid economic intimidation.
Countering the diverse challenges within Quadrant IV requires a commitment to the enforcement of national and international law. International criminal organizations and corrupt or polluting MNCs can be identified, prosecuted, and brought to justice. Cooperation by nations and international organizations can multiply the capabilities brought to bear against these threats. By providing other countries with intelligence, equipment, finances, and other resources, the US can have a significant impact on enforcement operations. Figure 3 depicts these strategic concepts just discussed.
Overall, this paper represents an exploratory assessment to create a new way of conceptualizing threats to American national security. The bidimensional model presented here examines specific challenges and suggests responses. This paper also explores some strategic concepts to correspond with the four quadrants. However, more work is needed to gain greater confidence in the effectiveness of the model. Additional case studies can validate the conceptual dimensions and characteristics of the separate quadrants. More importantly, further progress is needed on the strategic concepts to contribute to the design and implementation of effective policies.
Three years before 9/11, Michael Klare wrote: The post-Cold War era proved to be a relatively short-term transitional period . . . it is time to abandon this transitional mentality and look ahead to the challenges and crises that are most likely to preoccupy international policymakers in the twenty-first century (1998, 59). In looking ahead to the challenges and crises of the future, the starting point should be an appropriate mapping of the multiple security threats confronting the United States, which this paper provides with the bidimensional model presented here.
The authors wish to acknowledge Rachel Ziegler for providing the initial questions and concerns that led to this paper. The author would also like to thank Donald Gaylord, Ph.D., Regional Specialist with the U.S. 4th Psychological Operations Command, Fort Bragg, NC, and John Jandora, Ph.D., Intelligence Analyst with the U.S. Army Special Operations Command, Fort Bragg, NC, for their thoughtful review of an earlier version of this paper.
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