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Boomerang Effect: The Convergence

of National and Human Security

National Security Decision Making Department, Naval War College,
Newport, RI, USA
Partly as a result of the 11 September 2001 attacks on Washington and
New York, policy decisions and future choices may well be driven by a
blurring of concerns that involve state-centric security (in which military forces have traditionally been the best form of protection) and human security (in which instruments other than the military may prove
the primary means of protection). The implications for the analyst and
policymaker are tremendous. We may be witnessing a boomerang effect in which we must focus on both national and human security and
yet realize that excessive focus on one aspect of security at the expense
or detriment of the other may well cause us to be boomeranged by a
poor balancing of ends and means in a changing security environment.


OR THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA at least, the events of 11 September 2001 marked themselves as pivotal in history. On that day, the
USA joined numerous other nations in the so-called developed world in
facing the recognition that non-state actors could seriously affect and degrade
the capacity of a powerful state; at the same time, there should have come a
recognition that US citizens, their way of life, and the specific liberties they
had been accustomed to were now vulnerable and at risk, yet were not under
direct threat from a specific, identifiable enemy that military forces could confront and decisively defeat in direct combat.
Equally significant was the emerging understanding that aspects of nontraditional security issues that have long plagued the so-called developing
world could also increasingly affect the policy decisions and future choices of
powerful states and world leaders. As disparate as these non-traditional issues
may be whether linked to climate change, resource scarcity, declining productivity, or transnational issues of criminality and terrorism the developed
world was now confronted with human-centered vulnerabilities that had often
been present previously only in the context of non-traditional challenges for
developing regions.
Security Dialogue 2002 PRIO.

SAGE Publications, Vol. 33(4): 473488.

ISSN: 0967-0106 [031378]


Security Dialogue vol. 33, no. 4, December 2002

Inevitably, this article argues, the USA and other powerful developed states
may well witness a blurring of issues involving state security (where military
forces have traditionally proven the best form of protection) and issues involving human security (in which instruments and agencies other than the military may prove the primary means of protection). Increasingly in the future,
therefore, we may also see a blurring of foreign and domestic policy concerns.
These concerns will sometimes mesh seamlessly with each other, and sometimes clash.
In short, we may need to worry less about focusing on protecting the state
and more about protecting individual citizens, which means protection of individual rights and liberties as well as the way of life to which most have become accustomed in the developed world. The irony in this claim, of course, is
that many proponents of development in some of the poorest states have long
argued that the focus on the individual rather than on sustaining the powerbase of the state is the best guarantee for long-term stability, prosperity, and
The implications of the changing security landscape for the analyst and policymaker are potentially tremendous. In essence, we may be witnessing a
boomerang effect in which we must focus on aspects of both national security, in which military forces may continue to play a pre-eminent role, and
human security, in which non-traditional security issues predominate. Thus,
we may well witness renewed focus on failed or failing states, epidemiology
(as, for example, in the case of AIDS), environmental stress, resource scarcity
and depletion, drugs, terrorism, small arms, inhumane weapons, cyber-war,
and narco-trafficking. As disparate as these non-traditional security aspects
indeed are, they will all in one form or another and in multiple geopolitical
contexts increasingly have an influence on future strategic relationships and
decisions. The issue truly is not one of hard traditional security (often based
on state-to-state power relationships) or soft non-traditional security (that
can involve multiple transnational aspects). The future will require decisionmakers in both the developing and the developed world to focus on broad
and broadened understandings of the meaning of security. Focusing on one
aspect of security at the expense or detriment of another, nevertheless, may
well cause us to be boomeranged by a poor balancing of ends and means in a
radically changed security environment. Before proceeding further, therefore,
we may need to ask and to answer what it is we mean when we say security.

What Do We Mean by Security?

Traditionally, when we use the term security we assume three basic questions are being asked: Security from what? Security by whom? Security

P. H. Liotta Boomerang Effect: The Convergence of National and Human Security


achieved through which means? In making assumptions about security, various grand strategies seek to focus on what levels of security matter, which
are less relevant, and what means and mechanisms are best suited to fulfill the
basic need to be secure (such as the size of a states military forces, compliance with international regimes and arms control agreements, and membership in specific international institutions).
The various concepts of security that are most prevalent today are, in a simplified format, shown in Table 1. In the overall scheme of security alternatives
shown, what may well be changing is the notion that of all the issues of security, issues of national (read, state-centric) security matter most. Security
whether or not one insists on a distinction between hard and soft security
is about more than protecting a country from external threats; security may
well include critical infrastructure protection, economic security, social security, environmental security, and human security.
Yet although the idea of security as a basic concept is frequently applied
in international relations and in analysis of policy decisions, its essential
meaning is often more widely disputed than agreed upon.1 As one result, we
frequently see the proliferation of descriptors added to the basic concept itself.
Table 1. Alternative security conceptsa
Tradition and

Form of



Traditional and
realist- and

Specific emphases

What is at risk?

Threats to security


Sovereignty, territorial

Other states (and nonstate actors in post-Cold

War period)


Nations, societal
groups, class and
economic focus, political action committees/interest groups

National unity, quality

of life, wealth distribution

States themselves,
nations, migrants, alien



Individuals, mankind,
human rights, rule of

Survival, human development, identity,

and governance

State itself, globalization,

natural catastrophe and




Global sustainability

Mankind: through resource depletion, scarcity, war, and ecological


This table is partly inspired by the presentation by Bjrn Mller of the Copenhagen Peace Research Institute
(COPRI) on Global, National, Societal, and Human Security: A General Discussion with a Case Study from the
Middle East at the Fourth Pan-European International Relations Conference, Canterbury, 810 December 2001.
This presentation will form part of Mllers chapter in Hans Gnter Brauch, Antonio Marquina, Mohammed
Selim, Peter H. Liotta & Paul Rogers, eds, Security and the Environment in the Euro-Mediterranean in the 20th
Century (Berlin: Springer, 2003).


Security Dialogue vol. 33, no. 4, December 2002

Each of these descriptors also lends a perhaps slightly different connotation.

When we speak of economic security, geographic security, gender security,
cultural security, environmental security, ethnic security, military security,
physical security, psychological security, political security, social security, or
human security, do we speak of a common identity or do we simply fragment
security identities into separate categories, each clearly distinct from the
other? This broadening understanding of security, of course, is part of the
problem. In essence, the meaning of the term security becomes so wide that it
becomes all things to all people or nothing to no one, as the case may be.
As Emma Rothschild argued in a pivotal 1995 essay, the principles and definitions of security, though well established in international politics, have traditionally been of greatest importance for the ceremonials of reconstruction
after large international wars.2 If this is true, then the environment we entered
after the Cold War which both was and was not a large international war in
the traditional sense is radically different than any other experienced in recent history. In terms of military power, the USA remains pre-eminent; in
terms of economic and political power, however, the USA is strategically dependent on any number of institutions, regions, and realities. Thus, while the
Asia-Pacific may offer future economic opportunities (and military threat), the
USA remains bound by alliance relationships in Europe and committed to engagements in Central and South Asia (where it would seem to have no basic
interests at all). Equally, the slow but certain emergence of the Western hemisphere leaves unanswered the question of whether or not US strategic priorities will shift from an exclusive EastWest orientation to one that includes a
NorthSouth dynamic as well.
Until 11 September 2001, most in the USA largely believed that the world
was nestled in a period of uncertainty that was uncomfortably and most often
referred to as the post-Cold War era. Yet, in the wake of the Cold War, we
have not seen one of the postwar settlements that, according to Rothschild,
traditionally occur after large international wars; as a consequence, there has
been no common agreement on principles of international security whether
the issue be arms control or climate change. Furthermore, the widely acknowledged though insufficiently understood process known as globalization has profoundly affected economic regional geographies, influenced interactions between
states, led to the process of both increased cooperation and conflict, and elevated
the status of new networks and actors in particular, nongovernmental organizations, the media, economic market forces, and public opinion.
Such influences seem only to be broadening and deepening, and they challenge
the traditional idea of states and governments as the sole guarantors of security.
The 1994 United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) report, for example,
attempted to recognize a conceptual shift that needed to take place:
The concept of security has for too long been interpreted narrowly: as security of territory
from external aggression, or as protection of national interests in foreign policy or as

P. H. Liotta Boomerang Effect: The Convergence of National and Human Security


global security from the threat of nuclear holocaust. It has been related to nation-states
more than people.... Forgotten were the legitimate concerns of ordinary people who
sought security in their daily lives. For many of them, security symbolized protection
from the threat of disease, hunger, unemployment, crime [or terrorism], social conflict,
political repression and environmental hazards. With the dark shadows of the Cold War
receding, one can see that many conflicts are within nations rather than between nations.3

In the classical sense, security from the Latin securitas refers to tranquility
and freedom from care, or what Cicero termed the absence of anxiety upon
which the fulfilled life depends. In the once most accepted realist understanding, therefore, security extends downwards from nations to individuals; conversely, the stable state extends upwards in its relations to influence the security of the international system. In contrast, individual security, stemming
from the liberal thought of the Enlightenment, has always been treated as both
a unique and a collective good. Therefore, within this approach, it is often unclear where responsibility for the guarantee of the individual good lies.
These perhaps artificially dissimilar distinctions have helped fuel the division between so-called traditional and non-traditional understandings of security. But such distinctions are not discrete, and suggestions that terms such as
environmental or human security are new concepts are not entirely accurate.
Equally, it seems a bit of a distortion to claim that security only implies the absence of fear. At the height of the Cold War, the maintenance of both stability
and parity between the USA and the USSR was based on what was in fact a
balance of terror stemming from the threat implied by nuclear weapons. As
such, this basic state of insecurity drove the international system toward, rather
than away from, stability. This insecurity also influenced the recognition that
risk was as much a driving force in the guarantees of basic security as the absence of fear or the desire to be free to make choices on behalf of the collective
Arthur Westing widened the notion of security beyond state-centric identities by focusing on comprehensive security in 1989.5 Comprehensive security
demands a multifaceted recognition of multiple levels of interaction. Military
and political security are therefore not the only, or perhaps even the best,
means of enhancing the security of individuals, states, and regions.
Table 2 illustrates the complexity that occurs when various security aspects
and levels interact. In practice, then, we must distinguish between where interests and effects both overlap and where they conflict with each other. While
some of these categorizations are certainly open to debate, Table 2 demonstrates that there are levels of interdependence and interaction that go beyond
a more traditional state-centered security. Comprehensive security, in addressing the concerns of levels of interaction of various security aspects, seeks
to resolve the traditional security dilemma that was a common subject of focus in the 20th century.


Security Dialogue vol. 33, no. 4, December 2002

Table 2. Vertical and horizontal dimensions of security: aspects and levels of interaction
Level of

z An influence

Security aspects















~ Partial influence

{ No influence

There is, however, a further crucial distinction between national and human security issues that appears to be frequently overlooked. Specifically, national security based on a state-centric identity meant to protect physical
sovereignty and territory is mostly intended to address largely specific
threats; disparate human security issues, by contrast, are more often tenuously
related to issues of vulnerability and only involve direct threat in the most extreme circumstances. Thus, aside from a broad discussion of the meaning and
general understandings of security, it might also prove useful to appreciate,
both conceptually and in application, the difference between threat and vulnerability when considering how future national and human security issues
will overlap and potentially converge in some instances.

Threat Versus Vulnerability

When the 1994 UNDP report emphasized that in the post-Cold War era we
may be witnessing a shift from conflicts between nations to conflicts within nations, this recognition hinged partly on the difference between threat and
vulnerability and how each factor potentially affects the understanding of security. Although few policymakers can immediately recognize the difference
between the two terms, both concepts suggest different realities.
A threat is identifiable, often immediate, and requires an understandable response.
Military force, for example, has traditionally been sized against threats: to defend a state against external aggression, to protect vital national interests, and
to enhance state security. (The size of the US and Soviet nuclear arsenals made
perhaps more sense during the Cold War because the perceived threat of

P. H. Liotta Boomerang Effect: The Convergence of National and Human Security


global holocaust in the context of a bipolar, ideological struggle was far

greater then.) A threat, then, is either clearly visible or commonly acknowledged.
A vulnerability is often only an indicator, often not clearly identifiable, often
linked to a complex interdependence among related issues, and does not always suggest a correct or even adequate response. While disease, hunger, unemployment,
crime, social conflict, terrorism, narco-trafficking, political repression, and environmental hazards are at least somewhat related issues and do affect the security of states and individuals, the best response to these related issues, in
terms of security, is not at all clear. Even though Canada, for example, recently
emphasized the relevance of human and environmental security to high politics and attempted to restructure its armed forces to meet these challenges,
the relevance of state-centered military forces for addressing or solving nonstate-centered issues is questionable.6
Further, a vulnerability (unlike a threat) is not clearly perceived, often not
well understood, and almost always a source of contention. While it would
probably be incorrect to claim that the Age of Terrorism has now supplanted
the post-Cold War era, as a result of the 11 September 2001 attacks it is correct
to suggest that the USA is vulnerable to terrorism in ways never previously
understood or commonly acknowledged. Despite the USAs isolated physical
geography (in relation to Europe, Asia, and the Greater Near East), its citizens
are now vulnerable in ways never directly experienced before. Terrorism has
become both a driving force and a critical uncertainty in security decisions.
The time element in the perception of vulnerability can also further confound the problem. Some scholars suggest that the core identity of a security
response to issues involving human or environmental security is recognition
of a condition of extreme vulnerability.7 Extreme vulnerability can arise when
individuals are living under conditions of severe economic deprivation, are
victims of natural disasters, or are caught in the midst of war and internal conflicts. Long-term human development attempts thus make little to no sense
and offer no direct help. The situation here, to be blunt, is one not of sustainability but of rescue. R. H. Tawney, describing rural China in 1931, described the
security dilemma there among peasants through a powerful example: There are
districts in which the position of the rural population is that of a man standing
permanently up to the neck in the water, so that even a ripple is sufficient to
drown him.8 In such instances, the need for intervention is immediate.
But there are also cases of long-term vulnerability in which the best response is
uncertain. Given this uncertainty, the frequent and classic mistake of the decisionmaker is to respond with the gut reaction. Thus, the intuitive response to
situations of clear ambiguity is, classically, to do nothing at all. The more appropriate response is to take an adaptive posture; to avoid the instinct to act
purely on gut instinct; and to recognize what variables, indicators, and analogies from past examples might best inform the basis of action.9 Environmental
and human security, since they are contentious issues, fall victim to the do


Security Dialogue vol. 33, no. 4, December 2002

nothing response because of their vulnerability-based conditions, in which the

clearly identifiable cause and the desired prevented effect are often ambiguous.
Some examples might help illustrate this claim. Although it is now well
known that the USA, among so-called developed nations, has spent billions of
dollars on studying the issue of environmental change particularly regarding the issues of global warming and greenhouse gases there still remain
linkage problems between cause and effect. By some estimates, if temperatures
were to rise by between 1.4 C and 5.8 C over the course of the 21st century,
there could be a concomitant rise in sea levels of between 9 and 88 centimeters.10 Such a rise in sea levels, although not of immediate concern to most
nations, would be the single greatest national security issue for a nation such
as the Maldives: in essence, such a sea-level rise would mean the end of the
Maldives, because the entire landmass would be under water.
A second example is equally striking. Because of rising temperatures
although no one precisely knows at what temperature, at what rate, and how
much the levels will fluctuate Canada faces a unique conundrum. Sometime
over the next 15 years, the Northwest Passage which Canada claims as territorial waters may become navigable. A navigable Northwest Passage (which
would cut the journey from Europe to Asia by 4,500 nautical miles, in comparison with transiting the Panama Canal) could lead to a rise in illicit crime,
human-trafficking, drug-smuggling, pollution of the fragile Arctic ecosystem,
human disasters at sea, and violations of Canadian sovereign territory.11
Given the amount of study that has been devoted to such vulnerabilitybased security issues, surprisingly little attention has been given to potential
strategic responses. The time for study has perhaps passed, and the time for
action, implementation, and preparatory responses may well have arrived.
Daniel Esty sums this up well when he describes how the notion of sustainable
development is rapidly becoming a buzzword largely devoid of content and
argues that new methods and ideas for action need to be quickly set in place:
[The] world needs concrete pollution control and natural-resource management initiatives for starters, a better global environmental regime, improved data and performance
measurement and dissemination of environmental best practices, and a beyond-Kyoto
climate change strategy.... The time for grand vision and flowery rhetoric has passed. The
challenges ahead require sharper focus, real commitment, and concrete actions.12

In essence, we have moved from the dynamic of the old security dilemma to encompass issues that will include a new survival dilemma in specific geographic
locations that require sustainable development strategies. These issues take
into account:

different levels of population growth in various regions, particularly between the developed and the developing world;
the impact of climate change due to increased temperatures, decline in
precipitation, and rising sea levels;

P. H. Liotta Boomerang Effect: The Convergence of National and Human Security


the scarcity of water in specific regions (such as the Middle East) for drinking and irrigation;
the decline in food production and the need to increase imported goods;
progressing soil erosion and desertification; and
increased urbanization and pollution in megacities around the globe, in
particular taking into account the probability that most people in the
CairoKarachiJakarta arc will migrate over the next two decades to urban
environments that lack the infrastructure to support rapid, concentrated
population growth.13

Compounding the problem is the reality that, in the wake of the Cold War, aspects of the security dilemma have not disappeared. In numerous regions in
which US interests are involved, we will see the continued reality of a (threatbased) security dilemma along with the rise of various (vulnerability-based)
survival dilemmas.
The internal security environment within the USA has now changed from
one of being vulnerable to one of being under direct threat. As a result, the argument that the US military is best sized for away games and not best suited
for the home game of internal vulnerabilities may be flawed. The USA is thus
driven to a reality in which the shifting balance of threats and vulnerabilities
and the focus on how best to solve these shifts will fundamentally determine
the future force structure, missions, and budgets of the armed forces.
Further, because internal vulnerabilities will likely dominate the security environment for the indefinable future, there is also the possibility that the distinctions between national and human security will increasingly blur. In short,
the protection of individual citizens (human security) will matter as least as much
as the more traditional defense role of protecting the state (national security),
and domestic policy concerns will drive external, foreign policy decisions.
Thus, the new reality dictates that interagency cooperation demanding
better integration, responsiveness, transparency, and almost seamless coordination between vastly different organizations will determine future functions, budgets, and structures for both the internal and external environments. If the armed forces cannot adjust to this changed environment, then
an external actor specifically, Congress will determine the necessary
choices to be made.
How long will internal vulnerabilities dominate the security template on a
level equal to, or perhaps exceeding, external threats? No one knows. The war
on terror could last only a few years, or could take the form of an ideological
struggle matching the Cold War in scale, commitment, and cost. Yet now is the
time to develop key strategic responses to these sets of emerging problems and
challenges. Even as policymakers find it difficult to think out of the box, there
are any number of key issues that need to be addressed in this environment.


Security Dialogue vol. 33, no. 4, December 2002

Key Issues
In the wake of 11 September 2001, the USA, Canada, Europe, and Japan understandably felt compelled to devote resources to their mutual struggle
against global terrorism. Yet whether one subscribes to liberal, realist, constructivist, Marxist, behavioralist, or interdependence theoretical perspectives,
there is a danger that the nature of the threats and vulnerabilities in this new
environment will be established too quickly and too myopically and the
strategic agenda and action will be determined on the basis of too rapid an assessment, and without taking due account of the arguments and logic of alternative perspectives.
In the decade after the Cold War, for example, one could argue that strategic
choices tended to be made as part of a balancing act that was set against a
backdrop of competing tensions and forces. Policy actions tended to flow from
efforts either to hedge against worst-outcome scenarios or to prioritize specific
issues and regions, often at the complete expense of others. However, it would
be dangerous to assume that similar fixes or approaches can be used in the
case of both national and human security problems. For policymakers, it
would be relatively easy to simply regard various human security issues as
threat-based realities rather than emerging vulnerabilities that require new
measures and methods of creative, adaptive thinking. Moreover, in numerous
past examples, decisionmakers have tended to think largely in terms of conflicts
and crises, targeting the problem, and using the military element as a viable
means in a conflict prevention strategy. Of course, there is an attractive aspect
to this. Geoffrey Dabelko notes that there is something appealing about taking aim at the root causes of conflict, [and taking] reactive steps aimed at the
symptoms (seal off the borders, and if that doesnt work, send in the troops).14
This seems to be the pattern both in foreign policy practice and in spending patterns: the USA, for example, spends 20 times more on military forces and intelligence agencies than it does on foreign aid which includes military assistance.
Yet there is a true need to allow alternative perspectives to corrupt ones
own thinking. Those who emphasize military security at the expense of other
security issues, especially US analysts and policymakers, may fundamentally
be walking into a self-fulfilling paradox: the more one seeks to avoid military
intervention, the more one is driven to intervene militarily because of the failure to recognize contrary security issues and deal with them in a pre-emptive
or preventive manner. The old clich that describes this trap provides an apt
reminder: If all you have is a hammer, then every problem begins to look like a nail.
Surely, as the interventions in Somalia and in the Balkans illustrate, traditional
applications of military security may not be the best, and are certainly not the
only viable strategic instruments.

P. H. Liotta Boomerang Effect: The Convergence of National and Human Security


Thus, while there is a recognized need to address specific aspects of human

security, there simply does not exist common agreement on what overall constitutes the driving forces and critical uncertainties of many human security
dilemmas. As Edward Newman and others argue this point, different conceptions of security and different security agendas can be present simultaneously.15 These conceptions identify aspects of human security in terms of:

basic human needs, as emphasized by the UNDP, which stresses basic/critical

economic, food, health, personal, environmental, cultural, and political security;
an assertive/interventionist focus, best illustrated by the 1999 NATO intervention in Kosovo, in which action is based on protecting citizens from
state-sponsored aggression, and which contravenes principles of state sovereignty, advocates individual sovereignty, and creates criminal tribunals
to establish connections between human rights and the maintenance of international peace and security;
a social welfare/developmentalist focus, which fundamentally views development as essential to long-term prosperity but also respects cultural diversity while recognizing that peace, development, and democratization are
interlinked; and
new security, which addresses non-traditional security issues and uncivil
society, with a focus on epidemiology (especially that of AIDS), drugs,
terrorism, small arms, inhumane weapons, anti-personnel landmines, cyberwar, and human-trafficking.

Yet one fact is so obvious that it seems almost always to be overlooked: military security, most especially intervention, can and often does aggravate
human security issues and can be more the cause of rather than the solution to
human security dilemmas. (The continuing debate over the Kosovo intervention
best demonstrates this paradox.) Furthermore, military security instruments
can be peripheral rather than always primary instruments for addressing
and perhaps solving human security issues. Thus, of the four alternative perspectives considered above, emphasis on the social welfare/developmentalist focus
in most regions in which US interests and actions will be affected whether in
the Balkans or in Afghanistan will offer the best strategic choice. While this
is admittedly a contentious claim, many would argue that the cost to the
West of not investing in the Balkans in the right way and early enough is likely
to be at least 50 years of political and military engagement and economic assistance.
To summarize, then, there are a number of key national and human security
issues that have tremendous policy implications. Some of these are listed below:

Global climate change could wreak havoc on coastal nations, particularly

those nations that lack the infrastructure and capacity to rebuild or recover
after catastrophe occurs.


Security Dialogue vol. 33, no. 4, December 2002

A navigable Northwest Passage could increase crime, smuggling, and atsea environmental incidents while also positively increasing trade, investment, communications, and jobs and decreasing oceanic transit times.
While Canadian forces will likely retain their core missions of war-fighting
and homeland defense, it seems likely that Canadas maritime forces alone
could not handle the challenge of a free and open waterway. Given Canadas position as the USAs largest trading partner and closest permanent
ally, Arctic warming writ large will carry significant implications for all
circumpolar nations, including the United States.
The rapid spread of disease, particularly HIV/AIDS, will compound the
negative effects of rapid urbanization and destabilizing migrations.
Shifts in the balance of threats and vulnerabilities will require changes in
military force structures, missions, and budgets. Yet the notion of shifting
to a counter-value military, which some may call for in the immediate future, and shifting away from a counter-force military (which is how
forces are sized and structured today) could induce a catastrophic organizational shift that would equally involve perhaps unacceptably high levels of risk during the transition.
The role of alliances and coalition partnerships will be more critical than
ever for the USA in the future. Consequently, the notion of security communities and cooperative security principles will present opportunities
for resolving common/comprehensive security challenges.
The need for preventive action which in the past has often been referred to as preventive diplomacy or conflict prevention will become
imperative. Investing early may well prevent a number of future longterm multiple contingencies.

All of these policy implications suggest an increasing need for multilateral

rather than unilateral US efforts in the future. To date, however, US policy
actions have not been entirely promising in terms of securing long-term multilateral arrangements. The USAs rejection of a number of international agreements in particular with regard to the International Criminal Court, the
Kyoto Protocol, the Landmine Treaty, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the
Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, the UN draft accord on the control of small arms,
and the Biological Weapons Protocol have led some to expect that the USA
will always forgo international interests at the expense of national ones.
Thus, given that the United Nations will likely remain hobbled and incapable
of effective long-term security implementation actions, it may well be the case
in the coming decades that the European Union, under its emerging common
security and defense policy, may become the lead agency for long-term security initiatives including out of area operations.

P. H. Liotta Boomerang Effect: The Convergence of National and Human Security


The Boomerang Effect

If there can be agreement that achieving security is among the most basic and
vital interests of any nation, there may well be a new basis for action. The reality for the USA, post-11 September 2001, is that there is a foreground focus on
two specific issues: the war on terrorism and homeland security. At the same
time, there is also a backdrop of critical uncertainties, which, if ignored, can
equally boomerang and create ugly short-term and long-term outcomes.
Equally, in conceptualizing how realities and environments have changed
since 11 September 2001, it seems useful to recall James Rosenaus term fragmegration in which fragmentation and integration are simultaneous, often
intersecting, events.16 We may well see issues of localization and globalization
as well as forces of decentralization and centralization. Furthermore, if it is
true, as suggested by the Central Intelligence Agencys Global Trends 2015 report, that one out of two people on the face of the earth will live in urban environments and one out of two will live in water-stressed areas at some point
within the next two decades, then the complexity of intersecting forces can
bring about profound and often vicious consequences.17 These consequences might include critical infrastructure collapse, outbreaks of infectious
disease that cannot be controlled, and intrastate as well as inter-ethnic conflict.
What possible connection could the convergence of national and human security have with these uncertain outcomes? The debate could easily dwindle
into irrelevance by pitting liberal perspectives against those of realists. Yet
while such narrowly positioned arguments may prove of interest for academic
debates, they have almost no relevance to real-world challenges and problems.
As Robert Keohane and Joseph Nye pointed out at the height of the Cold War,
there will emerge numerous instances in which emphasis on realist-based
strategies that focus on power balances and military supremacy will simply
prove inadequate to the strategic dynamic at play, even while recognizing that
strategies focused on state-centric security (with a strong focus on the use and
purposes of military forces) will prove correct in some circumstances.18 Keohane
& Nye thus argue that when complex interdependence prevails between states
and regions, military force between those actors that are locked into complex
interdependence seldom, if ever, predominates.
For some, the notion that military forces should be used for anything other
than to fight and win a nations wars is anathema. For others, military security forms an integral part of a larger security backdrop and therefore has clear
linkages to environmental and human security. Ellen Frost, in considering the
dilemma that US policymakers face in merely addressing the future directions
of globalization, points to alternative pathways:
If globalization is making the world uniformly richer and safer, the US can gradually
wind down its defense spending and re-orient its foreign policy away from security


Security Dialogue vol. 33, no. 4, December 2002

threats. If the world is splitting apart and becoming more violent, the US will have to become more security-oriented and more focused on its limited vital interests, with or without allies. If the world is reacting unevenly to globalization, then the US will need to remain globally engaged on more or less the same scale as it is now, but with somewhat
different priorities and missions.... US policymakers should forge a strategy based on
cross-disciplinary analysis informed by all aspects of globalization, including not only
commercial, financial, technological, military, political, environmental, and social aspects,
but also cultural, religious, psychological, educational, and historical perspectives. Holistic
thinking has become a national security imperative.19

Such emphasis on holistic thinking, of course, points directly to the emerging dynamic. Perhaps inevitably, then as various regions and environments
become increasingly interconnected, netted, or linked the distinction between national and human security will be blurred, at best. In particular, this
necessary perspective may prove critical in the area below the 30th parallel
that will come to be known the CairoKarachiJakarta arc of upheaval; this
region will likely enter a period of dangerous transition during the next two
decades and may well be where national and human security issues meet their
greatest point of convergence.
There are, of course, real dangers that will emerge during this convergence.
In particular, the danger that military forces will shift from being sized and
structured against traditional threats to suddenly becoming the foremost
means of protecting citizens and states from new vulnerabilities (whether
these be environmental change or critical infrastructure degradation) may, in
fact, lead to reduced levels of security.
Is there, then, a danger of a boomerang effect during this process and period of convergence? The answer is probably yes. However, just as the skilled
practitioner throws a boomerang in a trajectory that sweeps upwards in a
graceful arc and then returns to the thrower along the same trajectory, it is
balance and precision that will guarantee the outcome. The unskilled practitioner (perhaps like the unthoughtful strategist) will rely on the impulse to
act purely on gut instinct ... [and fail to] recognize what variables, indicators,
and analogies from past examples might best inform the basis of action.20 As a
result, the latter will stand just as good a chance of being clobbered by the
boomerang that is returning back along its wobbly, unpredictable trajectory as
of losing the throwing stick all together.
The implications for the analyst and policymaker are tremendous. If we are
witnessing a boomerang effect in which we must focus on aspects of both national and human security, we must realize that excessive focus on one aspect
of security at the expense or detriment of the other may well cause us to be
boomeranged by a poor balancing of ends and means in a changing security
environment. Just as the horrific attacks of 11 September 2001 pushed the recognition of new security relationships for the USA and the world, there remains
a pressing need to recognize both the continuing security dilemma of states and
the emerging survival dilemmas of regions. Equally, we must recognize and

P. H. Liotta Boomerang Effect: The Convergence of National and Human Security


employ specific strategies that deal not only with the discrete problems of
threats and vulnerabilities, but also with the convergence of various aspects and
levels of security. While the focus in the short term may shift to foreground emphasis on state security, the backdrop importance of issues such as the rapid
spread of disease, population shifts, destabilizing migration, resource scarcity
and depletion, technological change and influence, proliferation, criminality and
terrorism, identity and governance, and economic geography will continue. We
must not run the risk of ignoring the challenges that lie ahead.


* P. H. Liotta is Jerome E. Levy Chair of Economic Geography and National Security at
the US Naval War College. His recent publications include Dismembering the State: The
Death of Yugoslavia and Why It Matters (Lanham, MD: Lexington, 2001).
1 Although I do not intend to provide an exhaustive review of the literature in this article, I should mention work that has proved influential but has not been directly quoted
in this piece. Two of the most stimulating pieces are both from the forthcoming Hans
Gnter Brauch, Antonio Marquina, Mohammed Selim, Peter H. Liotta & Paul Rogers,
eds, Security and the Environment in the Euro-Mediterranean in the 20th Century (Berlin:
Springer, 2003): Bjrn Mller, National, Societal and Human Security: Discussion
Case Study of the IsraelPalestine Conflict; and Nils Petter Gleditsch, Environmental
Conflict: Neomalthusians vs. Cornucopians. Other works include Jorge Nef, Human
Security and Mutual Vulnerability: The Global Economy of Development and Underdevelopment, 2nd edn (Ottawa: International Development Research Centre, 1999); Roland
Paris, Human Security: Paradigm Shift or Hot Air?, International Security, vol. 26, no. 2,
Fall 2001, pp. 87102; Peter Stoett, Human and Global Security: An Explanation of Terms
(Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1999); Caroline Thomas & Peter Wilkin, eds,
Globalization, Human Security, and the African Experience (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner,
1999); Joseph Stiglitz, Globalization and Its Discontents (New York: W. W. Norton, 2002);
Majid Tehranian, ed., Worlds Apart: Human Security and Global Governance (London: I. B.
Tauris, 1999); Tatsuro Matsumae & L. C. Chen, eds, Common Security in Asia: New Concept of Human Security (Tokyo: Tokai University Press, 1995); and Yuen Foong Khong,
Human Security: A Shotgun Approach to Alleviating Human Misery?, Global Governance, vol. 7, no. 3, JulySeptember 2001, pp. 231236.
2 Emma Rothschild, What Is Security? The Quest for World Order, Ddulus: The Journal
of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, vol. 124, no. 3, June 1995, pp. 5398. See
also Emma Rothschild, Economic Security and Social Security, paper presented to the
UNRISD Conference on Rethinking Social Development, Center for History and Economics, Cambridge, MA, 1995.
3 UN Development Programme (UNDP), UN Human Development Report (New York:
Oxford University Press, 1994), pp. 3, 2223.
4 In this context, risk involves the ability to expose oneself to damage during the process
of change and the resilience to be able to sustain oneself during such change.
5 Arthur H. Westing, Environmental Components of Comprehensive Security, Bulletin
of Peace Proposals, vol. 20, no. 2, June 1989, pp. 129134. The use of the term comprehensive, nonetheless, is not original. In 1980, for example, Japans Prime Minister
Suzuki Zenko created a Cabinet Council on Comprehensive Security; see Robert Barnett,






Security Dialogue vol. 33, no. 4, December 2002

Beyond War: Japans Concept of Comprehensive National Security (Washington, DC:
Pergamon-Brassey, 1984).
See, in particular, Brooke A. Smith-Windsor, The Canadian Role in Human Security,
in Stephen J. Flanagan, Ellen L. Frost & Richard L. Kugler, eds, Challenges of the Global
Century: Report of the Project on Globalization and National Security, 2 volumes (Washington, DC: Institute for National Strategic Studies, National Defense University, 2001),
pp. 10771092; also available on CD-ROM.
Astri Suhrke, Human Security and the Interests of States, Security Dialogue, vol. 30, no. 3,
September 1999, pp. 265276, on p. 271.
James C. Scott, The Moral Economy of the Peasant (New Haven, CT: Yale University
Press, 1977), p. 1; cited in Suhrke (note 7 above), p. 271.
Hugh Courtney, Jane Kirkland & Patrick Viguerie, Strategy Under Uncertainty,
Harvard Business Review, November/December 1997, pp. 6679.
These data are based on the Summary for Policymakers of the Intergovernmental Panel
on Climate Change (IPCC) that was approved in January 2001 in Shanghai by the IPCC
member governments. As such, they do not offer definitive, discrete proof. Final, convincing, and irrefutable data for these issues do not exist. Equally, the estimate of 5.8 C
exceeds the estimates of recent data from the UN and the American National Academy
of Sciences. These illustrations are meant to show the nature of security issues that arise
out of vulnerabilities rather than out of direct threats. The issues themselves and the
best responses to these issues lack the precision and clarity of threats; Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Climate Change 2001: The Scientific Basis (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 2001), pp. 1314.
Smith-Windsor (note 6 above), p. 1083; see also Alanna Mitchell, The Northwest Passage Thawed, Globe and Mail (Toronto), 5 February 2000.
Daniel C. Esty, A Terms Limits, Foreign Policy, September/October 2001, pp. 7475.
Hans Gnter Brauch, The Mediterranean Space and Boundaries, in Antonio Marquina
& Hans Gnter Brauch, eds, The Mediterranean Space and Its Borders: Geography, Politics,
Economics and Environment (Madrid & Mosbach: UNISCI & AFES-PRESS, 2001), pp. 2458;
Hans Gnter Brauch, Partnership Building Measures of Long-Term Non-Military
Challenges Affecting NorthSouth Relations, in Abdelwahab Biad, Hans Gnter
Brauch & Antonio Marquina, eds, Euro-Mediterranean Partnership for the 21st Century
(London: Macmillan, 2000), pp. 283286, 304306.
Geoffrey D. Dabelko, The Environmental Factor, Wilson Quarterly, vol. 23, no. 4, Autumn
1999, pp. 1419; available at
Edward Newman, Human Security and Constructivism, International Studies Perspectives, vol. 2, no. 3, August 2001, pp. 243247.
James Rosenau, Stability, Stasis, and Change: A Fragmegrating World, in Flanagan,
Frost & Kugler (note 6 above), pp. 127153, on p. 129.
Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Global Trends 2015: A Dialogue About the Future with
Nongovernment Experts (Washington, DC: National Intelligence Council, 2001); available
Robert O. Keohane & Joseph Nye, Power and Interdependence (Toronto: Little, Brown,
1977), pp. 335.
Ellen L. Frost, Globalization and National Security: A Strategic Agenda, in Flanagan,
Frost & Kugler (note 6 above), pp. 3574, on pp. 3536 (emphasis in original).
Courtney, Kirkland & Viguerie (note 9 above), pp. 7779.