Non-Traditional Security threats are "traditional" in the sense that they require the nation-state to handle


INTRODUCTION The fourth is freedom from fear—which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbour—anywhere in the world. ~ Franklin D Roosevelt, 1941 Traditional security has always been discussed about in “geo-political terms, encompassing aspects such as deterrence, power balance and military strategy”1. It concerns with the preservation of state boundaries and sovereignty, and a standard way of life. It seeks to preserve the “freedom of fear” for the citizens of the nation from physical aggression against any neighbour. But with the rise of globalisation, an intricate nexus of shared interest between states is formed. This has made an inter-state conflict a less likely scenario.

Even though inter-state wars have receded into the background, preservation of this “way of life” is threaten by new, emerging, non-traditional security (N.T.S) threats. Increasingly, a nation-state is confronted with issues such as financial

meltdown, terrorism, environmental degradation, resource sustainability, all of which, threatens this expected “way of life” that a inhabitant of a nation-state is accustomed to.

This essay will start by (1) examining the notion of a “nation-state”, the actors involved in running this “nation-state” and the functions of statecraft. It will follow up by (2) discussing the two sets of threats, both traditional and non-traditional, that confronts and threatens the survival and existence of a nation-state. The paper will then conclude by (3) illustrating how a nation-state can utilise the entire repertoire of
1 Andrew T.H. Tan, J.D. Kenneth Boutin, (2001), Non-Traditional Security in the Asia Pacific, The Dynamism of Securitisation, Selected Publishing, pp1.


statecraft available in approaching N.T.S threats through an examination of Economic, Social and Security concerns, and draw similarities on how N.T.S and traditional security threats are handled by a nation-state. It will also very briefly (4) discuss the need for more than just nation-state level actors in handling N.T.S threats.


Defining Nation-State A “nation” is bounded by a political group, and understands its political identity and internal unity as being its principle marker for external relations.

States, on the other hand, are recognized as spatially defined territories under a single political authority of the nation. It claims compliance from its citizens for law, up to the defined state boundaries.

Running a Nation-State For the group with a political identity (nation) to function effectively within a defined territory (state), it needs to have various ministries or federal agencies to manage different affairs, both internal and external, of the nation-state. While the agencies may differ from nation-states to nation-states, most, if not all, nation-states would have the following ministries/ federal boards to look after the following sectors:


Defence, encompassing the safeguard and preservation of air, land,

sea territorial integrity and sovereignty;



External/ Foreign affairs, concerning with diplomacy and issues

surrounding sovereignty; (3) (4) Internal Affairs, such as infrastructural planning; Homeland Security affairs, including physical security, such as border

and immigration control, law and order, overt intelligence collection etc.; (5) (6) Health, ensuring access to affordable healthcare and reduce illness; Economic/ finance, concerning with issues on economic sustainability

and finance management of a nation-state.

Other agencies may be established to look at education, agriculture, national development, labour, justice system, information and arts, etc. However, for the discussion for this paper, only the above listed agencies will be used and referenced.

Point #1: A legitimate nation-state, and her principle federal agencies have a political/ moral obligation and a social contact to the constituents, to provide a safe and secure environment, and an expected way of life.

Statecraft and A Whole-Of-Government Approach “Statecraft” is defined as the art of managing a state through governance and diplomacy. And the “tools” or functions of statecraft available to a nation-state could range from diplomacy, economic power, foreign policies and military might, managed by the different political agencies discussed earlier. Statecraft entails to utilising these ministries and the functions it brings in a coherent and integrated manner to administer affairs of a state.


As the challenges that the world is confronted with today becomes increasingly complex due to globalisation, exercising statecraft can no longer be addressed by a single federal agency. This calls for a Whole-of-Government approach where multiple agencies work together within a nation-state in handling a state-level affair. The level of involvement across the ministries involved may vary, depending the type of crisis or threat to the nation-state.

Figure 1: Level of involvement of selected federal agencies in combating maritime piracy (Note that this is only a sample graphical representation. The level of involvement of each agency may differ between nation-state depending on the severity of crisis, the level of development of each federal agency etc.).

For example, to combat maritime piracy, agencies from homeland security (immigration and checkpoint authorities, customs, defence ministry (military naval forces), foreign affairs (policy office, to deal with other nation-states) could be involved in varying degree, while, say, the health ministry may not be involved or have minimal participation in the solution. A possible graphical representation

depicting the level of involvement across selected government agencies is shown in Figure 1.


Point #2: Managing and administering the running of a nation-state is getting more complex, especially when juxtaposed with traditional and emerging threats that confronts a nation-state. A Whole-OfGovernment approach is needed to ensure a solution is enduring.

Having discussed (1) the nation-state, (2) the agencies involved in administering the smooth running of a nation, and also exemplifying (3) a W.O.G approach in handling a state-level affair, this paper will now take a closer look at the type of threats that would confront a nation-state in today's globalised world.


Globalisation and Security “Globalisation is a complex process, driven by a mixture of political and economical influences. It is changing everyday life, particularly in the developed countries, at the same time, as it is creating new transnational system and forces. It is more than just the back drop to contemporary policies: taken as a whole, globalisation is transforming the institutions of these societies in which we live in”

Up till the end of Cold War, the concept of traditional security is widely accepted to encompass realist or Westphalian terms such as state survival, balance of power and inter-state relationships. However, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the world has evolved and witnessed an unprecedented rise in economic progress and affluence. It has created a nexus of shared interest between states, societies, and individuals, and this in turn have increased international economic liberalization, trade and financial flows2. This “shared nexus” of interest have also

2 Ralf Emmers, (Mar 04), IDSS Working Paper, No. 62: Globalization and Non-Traditional Security Issues. A study of Human and Drug Trafficking in East Asia, Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies, Singapore, pp 2.


increased the “disincentives” for waging war3 and reduced the likelihood of an interstate conflict.

Security “Security, is about survival. It is when an issue is presented as posing an existential threat to a designated referent object (traditionally but not necessarily the state, incorporating government, societal and political security)”4

An interpretation of security concentrates on the state and its defence from external aggression. However, in response to this narrow definition, the study of security have widen to include non-military threats, such as threats to the environment, the economy and the society. The Copenhagen School categorises these threats into 5 main clusters of security5, both traditional and non-traditional (see Table 1), and each category poses a first-order threat to a referent object directly.
Category of Security Referent Object Military Environment Economic Societal Political State Species or habitats Economy Collective identities National Sovereignty/ Ideology Type Traditional Non-Traditional Non-Traditional Non-Traditional Traditional

Table 1: 5 categories of security threats (Buzan).

Point #3: A security concern must be expressed as an existential threat, i.e. it must threaten the continual existence of a referent object.

3 Abdur Rob Khan, (2001), Globalisation and Non-Traditional Security in South Asia, Academic Press and Publisher Limited, Dhaka, for Regional Centre for Strategic Studies, Colombo, pp16. 4 Barry Buzan, Ole Waever, Jaap de Wilde, (1998), Security: A New Framework for Analysis, Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, pp 21 5 Barry Buzan, Ole Waever, Jaap de Wilde, (1998), Security: A New Framework for Analysis, Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, pp 22-23


Traditional Security Threats Preservation of the State and National Sovereignty has been a long standing, traditional concern of a nation-state for, the failure to preserve these two referent objects, i.e. the territorial integrity and sovereignty, would result in the nation-state ceasing to exist. Traditional security is military-centric where issues touch on

territorial integrity, preservation of state boundaries and sovereignty and concerns about power balance and providing a secure environment for her citizens, a free from fear against a geographical neighbour. Hence, in view of such traditional

threats, a nation-state would, as a last resort, employ the military to preserve and protect these two referent objects.

However, as today's world is far more complex with inter-correlation implications, even a threat to the state or national sovereignty needs a W.O.G approach. Taking the recent conflict in Libya as an example, economic sanctions were imposed on Libya Investment Authority and the employment of Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operatives to gather intelligence were underway before the implementation of the No-Fly Zone and commencement of military ground operations in Tripoli. This was also evident in the economic sanctions imposed by members of US Security Council on Iraq before the first Gulf War in the August of 1990. Traditional security is no longer discussed at the military/ defence ministry only, but a slew of government organisations is at work to provide a W.O.G approach.

Point #4: A W.O.G approach is adopted to address a traditional security concern of the referent object of the state and national sovereignty.


Non-Traditional Security While it is clear that globalization has enhanced security by reducing the likelihood of an inter-state conflict, globalisation has broaden the understanding of security and added a non-traditional dimension to the mix. Although the likelihood of traditional threats like an inter-state conflict, has reduced, new, non-traditional security (N.T.S) threats have emerged. N.T.S's influence in de-stabilising a nationstate and threatening the way of life, has taken a more pronounced angle. However, N.T.S threats remains an “iffy” term to define and academic literature review only offers a limited list of examples.

If “Traditional” and “Non-Traditional” Security are 2 diametrically opposing concepts, then by methods of elimination, it can be inferred that any security threats that do not fall into traditional security realm as articulated above (i.e. not a threat to the existence of the referent object of the state and national sovereignty) would hence be considered as “non-traditional” in nature. One way of adding clarity to the study of N.T.S threats are to examine the characteristics.


N.T.S threats are contextual and lies in the “eye of the beholder”, that

is what one nation-state view as an N.T.S threat, may not be an N.T.S threat to another nation-state; (2) N.T.S threats are transnational in nature, and hence affect more than

one state at the same time. The issue also need to be large in magnitude and of sufficient importance to a country or a region;



N.T.S threats “often occur quietly and inconspicuously in the form of

faint signals masked by noises and are often hard to detect, causing surprise when they are detected”6; (4) N.T.S threats focus on non-military challenges to security and extend

beyond the military sphere. Consequently, military options alone will seldom achieve the required effects; (5) N.T.S threats have 2nd order, 3rd order effects that impacts other

referent objects; (6) N.T.S threats are frequently interwoven with traditional security threats

and usually emanate from non-state actors7;

The last 2 characteristics are somewhat correlated as the 2nd order or 3rd order effects to a N.T.S threat could endanger the referent object of the state and national sovereignty, i.e. what started out as an N.T.S treat could end up endangering traditional security.

Referring back to the earlier example, in May 1990, then Iraqi President Saddam Hussein accused Kuwait of over-producing crude oil and threatening Iraqi economy (economic security). This was followed by a military incursion into Kuwait in August (military security). A more recent example took place in January 2011 in Egypt, where peaceful demonstrations by Egyptians concerning economic security issues such as corruption, high unemployment rate, low minimum wages, and societal security issues like lack of freedom of speech, food price inflation. This

6 COL Ong Yu Lin, (2011), The Utility of Military Force Against Non-Traditional Threats, Pointer, Vol. 36, No. 3-4, pp 15. 7 COL Ong Yu Lin, (2011), The Utility of Military Force Against Non-Traditional Threats, Pointer, Vol. 36, No. 3-4, pp 15.


resulted in violence and the overthrowing of then incumbent President Mubarak (political security).

Both examples serves to illustrates that what started out as a N.T.S threat, have resulted in a threat to traditional security threat of the state or political security threat to national sovereignty/ ideology.

Point #5: N.T.S threats could affect traditional category of security, i.e. military security and political security; and both traditional and nontraditional security causes instability to a country and threatens the existence of a nation-state.

Category of Security Referent Object Military Environment Economic Societal Political State Species or habitats Economy Collective identities National Sovereignty/ Ideology Type Traditional Non-Traditional Non-Traditional Non-Traditional Traditional

Table 1: 5 categories of security threats (Buzan).

Based on the Copenhagen School's clusters of security, N.T.S threats endanger the existential survival of the referent objects of the habitat, the economy and the collective identities of a society. In handling the 3 clusters of N.T.S threats, similar to how a nation-state handles traditional threats, a W.O.G approach is needed.


Environmental Security

Figure 2: Level of involvement of selected federal agencies in combating environmental security.

Environmental security deals with issues ranging from resource sustenance, to management of natural disasters. It threatens the way mankind lives. In the Asian Tsunami, Singapore honoured ASEAN's non-interference pact and waited for the Indonesia Foreign Policy to accept SAF's offer of assistance before the first SAF troops set foot in Aceh. In addition, SAF equipment and platforms were used

extensively to provide the level one disaster relief operations. The Ministry of Health also released medical supplies, and home team also offered the expertise of the Singapore Civil Defense Force in the tsunami hit areas. Again, a sample of the degree of involvement across the various ministry may be depicted in Figure 2.

Economic Security Economic security ensures that the economy of a nation is sustainable and does not suffer from the ill-effects of a financial meltdown. Other than setting foreign policies and infrastructural planning through the internal and external policy offices, the military of a nation-state provides a stable environment which in turns would


boost the confidence and attract foreign investors. Homeland security forces, such as the police also have a hand in providing a lawful, secure and stable environment for the country to be attractive to foreign investors (see Figure 3).

Figure 3: Level of involvement of selected federal agencies in combating economic security.

Societal Security

Figure 4: Level of involvement of selected federal agencies in combating societal security.

Taking SARs crisis as an example, the Singapore's military was involved in establishing the contact tracing system, the health sector provided medical expertise, while homeland forces stepped up border enforcements by monitoring the flow of people, in and out of Singapore. The industry also came up with a


temperature sensor which was installed at various immigration checkpoints to monitor the temperature of the travellers. The economy also have to continue

running, and its people continue to work in order to prevent the economy from collapsing. SARs threaten the social existence of the nation-state of Singapore and the entire suite of statecraft were employed in a integrated W.O.G approach to solve the problem (see Figure 4).

Point #6: N.T.S threatens their respective referent object, in this instance, of the habitat, the economy and the collective identity of a society, and a W.O.G approach is adopted.


Both traditional and non traditional security threats requires the involvement of the whole nation-state, i.e. a whole of government approach to provide an integrated solution. In today's context, it is very unlikely that a singular nation-state agency would be able to solve a state-level problem. In the same breath, a nation-state

would also utilise the resource and niche expertise of other non-governmental organisations or interest groups in providing stability for a nation.

History have shown in numerous Humanitarian Assistance Disaster Relief operations, that Non-Governmental Organisations, Private Voluntary Organisations and International Organisations, such as Médecins Sans Frontières, or International Committee of Red Cross, have readily stepped up to provide the required expertise and resources in a natural calamity.



With globalisation, the threat of an inter-state war have receded into the background. This, however, does not mean that preservation of state boundaries and national sovereignty is irrelevant, nor does it signify a more secure and benign environment for nation-states. Instead, new non-traditional threats to security have emerged, to include environmental, social, and economic security. A group with a political identity (nation), functioning effectively within a defined territory (state) has the moral and political obligation to provide a secure environment for its constituents, and rightly so.

In summary, this paper opined that non-traditional security should be handled by a nation-state and her slew of legitimate federal/ governmental agencies because a nation-state, with the legitimate political entities and actors, have a social contract with her constituents to provide a safe and secure environment. The paper has also shown that that traditional and non-traditional security must be viewed in the same lens as both sets of security concerns share similarities, in that they both threaten the existence of a referent object and could cause instability to a nation-state. N.T.S could have potential spill over effects and threaten the referent object of traditional security. In addition, the approach to handling and solving traditional and N.T.S threats requires a Whole-of-Government approach, and should be handled by the nation-state.



Abdur Rob Khan, (2001), Globalisation and Non-Traditional Security in South Asia, Academic Press and Publisher Limited, Dhaka, for Regional Centre for Strategic Studies, Colombo. Barry Buzan, Ole Waever, Jaap de Wilde, (1998), Security: Framework for Analysis, Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner. A New

COL Ong Yu Lin, (2011), The Utility of Military Force Against Non-Traditional Threats, Pointer, Vol. 36, No. 3-4. Ralf Emmers, (Mar 04), IDSS Working Paper, No. 62: Globalization and NonTraditional Security Issues. A study of Human and Drug Trafficking in East Asia, Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies, Singapore.


Alan Collins, (2010). Contemporary Security Studies. Press.

Oxford University


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