Fear

Fear relates to security on three levels: the individual, the community and the inter-community (inter-state or international). On the individual level the emotion of fear is the oldest one in the book:

..fear is the first emotion experienced by a character in the Bible. Not desire, not shame, but fear. Adam eats from the tree, discovers he is naked, and hides from God, confessing, ‘I was afraid, because I was naked. (Robin, 2004, 1)

Expulsion from the Garden of Eden cast mankind into the ‘state of nature’; Hobbes’ vision of the moral and political climate in which individuals interact outside of a political order. Hobbes reasoned that life was the highest good because all other goods depended on it and so saw fear (of death) as fundamental to political order because it drove the individual from the state of nature into the protective arms of the ‘Leviathan’. However, he also acknowledged that man was not a perfectly rational creature. His willingness to sacrifice his life for honour or glory proved that he was prone to be carried away by his passions. Hobbes alighted on fear as the best of man’s passions because he thought it had the rare quality of being hospitable to reason, therefore capable of governing man’s behaviour by balancing his short term impulsive urges with his long term rational interests. He also recognised the type of fear that is most likely to support a stable political order could not be expected to arise by chance; it had to be manufactured. The greatest guarantee of order would come if fear of the ‘state of nature’ and fear of the power of the sovereign were to be built up to displace all fears (Robin, 2004, pp.34-40). This indicates that instrumental manipulation of the individual’s fear was present at the very origins of the modern nation state. Leviathan was published in 1660, and Hobbes’ ideas were no doubt influenced by the political climate of his time, namely the chaos of the English civil war and the religious wars that ended with the 1648 peace of Westphalia. The settlements of these wars are with us today in our modern systems of sovereign state interaction and secular citizenship. In considering the role of fear in sustaining these institutions, we will continue our investigation of how fear continued to play a role in evolving ideas related to security.

In the world of Hobbes’ ‘warre of all against all’, fear of the other is pervasive in an anarchical system (Wendt, 1992, 400). In Morgenthau’s view of human nature fear is also a given, and for structural realists and neorealists it is a moment of fear that comes between the apprehension of one’s vulnerability in a state of anarchy and the departure on a path to power through self-help. Were fear not to fill this moment, other responses might follow.22 This leads us into the world of the constructivists e.g. Wendt (1999) and Campbell (1998), where fear has an instrumental as well as structural manifestation – fear can be used to create and bind a community, or ‘to transform egoistic identities into collective identities’ (Wendt, 1992, 395).

While Montesquieu (b.1698) agreed with Hobbes that the political effect of fear was generated from above, perhaps because his family circumstances made him sensitive to the centralisation of aristocratic powers under Louis XIV, he shared Machiavelli’s appreciation of fear as a political instrument to be manipulated in the narrow interests of the prince or monarch, whereas Hobbes had praised the utility of fear in the pursuit of the common good of order. For Montesquieu ‘Political fear was no longer to be thought of as a passion bearing an elective affinity to reason; from now on, political fear was to be understood as a despotic terror’ (Robin, 2004, 52). This marks a departure from what Hobbes saw as the instrumental use of fear by the monarch in the people’s interests, to its manipulation for the sake of elite or institutional interests.

Montesquieu saw security as having a meaning for the state, but also as an individual objective: ‘political freedom consists in security, or at least in the opinion one has of one’s security’ (quoted in Rothschild, 1995, 61).

This underlines two things. First, the enduring importance of this subjective experience of security. As Booth said much later, ‘[p]eople understand what security is by understanding how insecurity feels (2007, 101). Second, that the security of the individual has been a reference point long before the notion of ‘human security’ arose in the 1990s.

A more modern aspect of fear’s political value that also plays an important part in ‘risk’ theory (see below), is the bottom-up variety described in the writings of de Tocqueville (Democracy in America, 1835-1840) and Arendt (The Origins of Totalitarianism, 1951). The ‘mass anxiety’ appreciated by de Tocqueville was understood as ‘a vague foreboding about the pace of change and the liquefying of common referents’ (Robin, 2004, p75). Arendt later (1951) diagnosed a metropolitan form of mass anxiety as the source of Hitler and Stalin’s appeal. Emancipated from hierarchical relations by norms of secularism and constitutional equality, the 20th century masses felt an intense ennui of spiritual isolation, superfluity and loneliness which could only be alleviated by acts of allegiance to a totalitarian system (Robin, 2004, pp.99-105). In this sense, fear (whether it is objectively justified or instrumentally exaggerated) is an essential force for binding people together in social and political collectives, but one that can make them vulnerable to mass hysteria and extremes of hostility.

The final variety of fear that has political meaning and is of particular interest for our purposes is that which inheres in Beck’s ‘risk society’ (Beck, 1986). Beck’s concept of risk as a condition of modernity is a more intense form of de Tocqueville’s ‘vague foreboding’ that things are moving too fast to ‘keep up’. ‘Keeping up’ in conditions of contemporary modernity would mean keeping abreast of all the complexities of modern life – the ‘hazards of mega-technology’ (Beck, 1999, 50) – to an extent that one retains the ability to calculate the odds of danger arising from one’s decisions. At a certain point the pace of technological and scientific change makes this impossible, forcing you to turn to ‘experts and counter- experts’ (Beck, 1999, 55), making security largely a matter of confidence in who you believe. In the context of security this means that rather than dealing with the actual dangers or threats, decision-making energies are expended on ‘definitional struggles’ among the varied experts who are all striving to gain acceptance for their theory on how dangers and threats ought to be evaluated.

Such ‘risks’ are of our own making. What distinguishes risk from ‘threats’ and ‘dangers’, which are the product of external factors), is that risk is a product of the imagination in our own minds (Coker, 2009, 74). We shall return to this concept of ‘risk’ and the way it puts a premium on the constructivist approach to security studies later in this chapter. For now we simply note that the complexities of modern life are corrosive to what Giddens termed ‘ontological security’, defined as ‘basic trust in stable circumstances of self-identity and the surrounding environment’ (1990, 114).

The point to take from this detour into ‘history and philosophy’ is that a full understanding of security requires an appreciation of the political value and functions of fear. So far we have focused on the forms and functions of fear between the individual and the political community. Fear plays a binding role in creating community (Hobbes 1660; Campbell, 1998), but also leaves the individual open to abuse at the hands of his protector, whether the Monarch or the state (Montesquieu, 1698). Such dangers of manipulation and over-reaction are aggravated by conditions of modern existence (de Tocqueville, Ahrendt 1951; Beck 1999; Giddens, 1990).

Since we are ultimately concerned with defining the kind of ‘security’ that is pursued in the name of a community via a deliberate policy, history obliges us to look toward the most prominent and enduring human institution through which communities have organised matters related to security, which is war. By this I mean war in the Clausewitzian sense: a dual, in which each side uses an act of force to compel the enemy to do his will (Von Clausewitz, On War, Chapter I, paragraph 2). The pairing of security and war has fallen somewhat out of fashion, a process which we explore below. However, the fact remains that as well as being the most historically notable activity through which security has been contested, war has also provided the central reference point for the study of issues related to security. This is hardly surprising, since war has an intimate, but paradoxical relationship to security – as its denial and its deliverer. Perhaps the most famous study of this type – Thucydides’ history of the Peloponnesian War – contains an expression of how emotional, subjective elements combine with material and objective elements of security in the drive to war. Colin S. Gray mounts a persuasive case that this combination has not substantially changed since circa 400 B.C, when Thucydides identified ‘…three of the strongest motives, fear, honour, and interest’ as reference points to explain Athens’ drive to empire (C.S. Gray, 2005, 30). Gray returns again and again to this trinity, or ‘deadly trio’ to emphasise the essential and timeless character of man’s struggles for security. These timeless elements of human nature also serve to define three of the four dimensions of war’s object and antithesis: security.

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