- Security Studies and the End of the Cold War
The end of the cold war has generated numerous reflections on the nature of the world in its aftermath. The reduced military threat to American security has triggered proposals for expanding the concept of national security to include nonmilitary threats to national well-being. Some go further and call for a fundamental reexamination of the concepts, theories, and assumptions used to analyze security problems. In order to lay the groundwork for such a reexamination, the emergence and evolution of security studies as a subfield of international relations is surveyed, the adequacy of the field for coping with the post-cold war world is assessed, and proposals for the future of security studies are discussed. It is argued that a strong case can be made for reintegration of security studies with the study of international politics and foreign policy.
The end of the cold war is arguably the most momentous event in international politics since the end of World War II and the dawn of the atomic age. Paraphrasing John F. Kennedy on the advent of nuclear weapons, one scholar sees the end of the cold war as changing “all the answers and all the questions.” 1 Another scholar, however, denies that there have been any “fundamental changes in the nature of international politics since World War II” and asserts that states will have to worry as much about military security as they did during the cold war (Mearsheimer, in Allison and Treverton, 214, 235). Most of the fifty or so authors whose work appears in the books reviewed here take the more moderate position that the end of the cold war changes some of the questions and some of the answers, but they disagree over which questions and answers are at issue. [End Page 117]
Despite the disparity of views among the authors, three themes emerge. First, military power has declined in importance in international politics. 2 For some this means that military threats are less prevalent, while for others it means that military force is less useful as a tool of statecraft. Second, there is a need to reexamine the way we think about international relations and national security. 3 For some this need stems from the changed circumstances of the post-cold war world; for others it grows out of the collective failure of scholars to anticipate either the timing or the nature of the end of the cold war. And third, there is a need for a broader view of national security (see especially the essays by Schelling and Peterson, in Allison and Treverton). For some this means including domestic problems on the national security agenda; for others it means treating nonmilitary external threats to national well-being as security issues.
Each of these books raises fundamental questions about the theories, concepts, and assumptions used to analyze security during the cold war and about those that should be used now, in its aftermath. This review in turn seeks to lay the intellectual groundwork for a reexamination of security studies as a subfield of international relations. 4
The discussion is presented in three parts. The first surveys the emergence and evolution of security studies as a subfield of international relations. It suggests that scholars who wrote on national security at the beginning of the cold war had a broader and more useful approach to the topic than those writing at its end. The second part assesses the relevance of security studies to the new world order. It argues that the field’s treatments of the goal of security, the means for pursuing...