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Rethinking security

Robert Hall and Carl Fox argue that new, comprehensive and transnational strategies are required to deal with the security challenges of the 21st century.

n the day that terrorists struck the heart of the United States, an exhibition of modern military equipment was opening in the United Kingdom. The timing of the two events was coincidental. Yet, taken together, they are symbolic of fundamental shifts in the world of international security. The first of these is that today’s threats are of an entirely different nature and scale than hitherto. The second is that current responses to them appear increasingly inadequate. Weapons of war designed to counter dangers at the end of the last millennium will not be sufficient for the problems of the next. Yet beyond spe- cific technologies, fresh thinking is required to cope with the new environment. O

A new approach is critical because terrorism is just one of many, non-traditional security challenges. Examples include ethnic and religious conflict, drug trafficking, mass migration, environmental instability, corruption, money laundering, militant activism and information theft. Such threats — where conflict and crime often merge — respect no boundaries. All too often, there are no leaders or legions against which to focus attention or target a response. Moreover, the scale of these activities, both in terms of the multitudes caught up in them and the money diverted, is so great that it dwarfs the national economies of many coun- tries. The threats can undermine national and international institutions, as well as bring ruin to employers and employ- ees alike.

importantly, they seem constitutionally incapable of rising to the changing nature of the security challenges. As that inability becomes more apparent, disenchantment with the old system grows. And the cycle perpetuates itself to bitter effect.

To date, the remedy that has generally been prescribed in the face of these challenges is based on yet better intelli- gence-led activities by specific and official organisations, coupled with more cooperation and partnership between interested sectors. Recent events have given this approach added impetus. However, although there have been positive moves in these areas, they have not gone far enough or fast enough to meet the growing challenges. For instance, the law-enforcement agencies are at least a decade behind in acquiring and deploying the leading technologies available to new-age criminals, while intelligence-led policing seems to be capable of apprehending no more than ten per cent of the illegal drugs or illegal migrants coming into a country. As a result of such deficiencies, real power is now moving beyond the confines of the nation state and institu- tions like the G8 (the group of seven most industrialised countries and Russia) and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. The scale of the issues is making those organisations feel increasingly swamped, if not impotent.

A strategic approach

At the same time, legitimate organisations that operate without borders are also growing in power and influence and are therefore technically able to respond to the new environment. The currency speculators, the commodity traders, the multinational corporations and the internet service providers now have a profound effect on daily lives. Globalisation, coupled with the revolution in information technology, has given these private institutions the upper hand. Control is now directed more by way of financial markets than any precise geopolitical structures, and dis- ruption is created by the same route. It is perhaps not sur- prising, therefore, that traditional state mechanisms based on ideas of frontiers and order — monarchies, police, establishments of power — appear under threat. More

Robert Hall is project director of the LE&NS Global Forum and former head of analysis at the National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS). Carl Fox was a senior analyst with NCIS.

While local issues are likely to remain the bedrock of political actions and business success will always rest on being able to respond quickly to market changes, the importance of the bigger, strategic picture is often missed. This must change for two principal reasons. First, the per- vasive and pernicious nature of the new security challenges is universal in effect. Transnational assaults have transna- tional victims. Second, many of the issues are interconnect- ed. It is no longer possible to separate terrorism from money laundering or organised crime from drug traffick- ing. Similarly, it is impossible to “wage a war” against one to the exclusion of the other.

Migration is another example of the interrelationship of issues. Refugees and asylum seekers not only pose internal security concerns but may encourage xenophobia and con- flict, as traditional work opportunities appear threatened. At the same time, mass movement may bring with it the possibility of infectious diseases affecting both people and livestock. Migration is also exacerbated by environmental instability arising from climate change. A one-metre rise in

NATO review

Winter 2001/2002

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