If fear is security’s foundation, then – honour (comprising the passions of culture, glory, and identity) – can be seen as the architectural rules for its construction.
Thucydides’ ‘honour’ and Hobbes’ notion of ‘glory’ have an old-fashioned flavour, which may be dispelled by thinking of them as ‘concern for reputation’. Such moral values play a role even if they are entangled with values and instrumental institutions, like what Van Creveld called the ‘war convention’ (1991, pp.87-94), e.g. concepts of ‘Just war’ (both Ius in bello and Ius ad bellum), and what we often refer to more in a moral than legal context as international humanitarian and human rights laws.
While concepts of honour and dignity have obvious importance for notions of sovereignty and independence, it is argued here that the most important element of this category is identity, particularly as it relates to concepts of community and the central political concepts of friend / enemy and loyalty. Identity is fundamental to the way security is felt, constructed and activated. This is true both in the sense of individual identity (in the sense of Giddens’ ontological security, or ‘basic trust in stable circumstances of self-identity and the surrounding environment’); and in community identity – i.e. identity as a cultural marker of belonging and political solidarity. So whatever effects identity indirectly affects security. This is the main point of this section, however the importance of honour, values and glory is also explored. The idea raised in the previous section regarding the role of security in community construction is also developed by looking at the way security action offers the state a way to mediate and to some extent control the inscription of national identity. Just as ideas of fear and interest form the basis of much realist theory, the theme of security’s relationship with identity is at the heart of constructivist theory (Wendt, 1992, Campbell, 1998).
The statement that ‘the issue of identity – what makes us believe we are the same and them different – is inseparable from security’ (Booth quoted in McSeeeney, 1999, 156) makes sense if we consider the interdependence of meaning between concepts of us and them or, as Carl Schmitt had it, between enemy and friend.
Schmitt suggests that the nature of the concept of the political is not to be found in the issues themselves, but in a particular way of relating to them. What makes an issue ‘‘political’’ is the particularly intense relationship that actors feel toward it. In its fullest form this intensification yields an absolute divide between friend and enemy in relation to a (any) given issue. ‘The political,’ as he puts it, ‘is the most intense and extreme antagonism, and every concrete antagonism becomes that much more political the closer it approaches the most extreme point, that of the friend-enemy grouping’. Or, as he phrases it even more starkly: ‘Every religious, moral, economic, ethical, or other antithesis transforms itself into a political one if it is sufficiently strong to group human beings according to friend and enemy’ (Williams, 2003, 515-6).
But what kind of identity is this? Can we treat a collective (e.g. national) identity in the same way as the identity of an individual? If so, how does it differ from role and character, and what does it owe to interest and structure? Although this is not the place to seek answers to such questions, they serve to underline the depth of importance identity has in our understanding of security.
Ideas like honour, passion and glory may sound rather out of touch with theoretical developments in the security studies field but history continues to testify to their importance. Take the role of reputation in obtaining security. On a strategic level, the value of alliances depends heavily on reputation.
While the imperial order is one based on command (“one- power” world), the interactions of two self-interested equals The importance of these ideas lies partly in the recognition that Wæver’s securitisation theory ‘bears the marks of engagement’ with Schmitt’s ideas on security, politics and sovereignty ‘…the specificity of ‘‘security’’ as a particular kind of speech-act in the work of the Copenhagen School is underpinned by an understanding of the politics of enmity, decision, and emergency which has deep roots in Schmitt’s understanding of political order. The focus on ‘‘existential threats’’ as the essence of security echoes Schmitt’s views on the specificity of ‘‘politics’’ as defined by exclusion and enmity. Equally, the definition of securitisation as placing an issue ‘‘beyond normal politics,’’ that is, beyond public debate, finds clear resonance in Schmitt’s stress on decision and the politics of emergency. Indeed, it might even be tempting to say that in the Copenhagen School the concept of ‘‘security’’ plays a role almost identical to that which Schmitt defined as his concept of ‘‘the political.’’ (italics added, Williams, 2003, 512) are likely to result in outcomes to which two-person game theory gives us important clues. Only in a three-power world does “reputation” become an important device for simplifying the complicated calculations of interactions that have no longer a logically compelling solution. The more participants enter the game, the more difficult the task of calculating one’s interest becomes, and the greater the role that precedents and rules play. This is the reason that such “cynical” statesmen as Richelieu maintain – and quite seriously so – that reputation, not solely military might, is the most decisive ingredient of a successful policy. Reputation here means not only prestige but a certain amount of trust, sympathy, and assurance among one’s peers that one is a bona fide “player” (Kratochwil, 1982, 16). 24
Strong powers may be willing to expose themselves to considerable risk in the course of standing by a ‘friend’ in danger, and will pay a disproportionate price to signal their dependability to friends and foes alike.
Honour and glory also provide the grammar for claims of moral leadership, such as pledges to defend civilisation or human rights or to prevent genocide. Such commitments also incur a security cost not only in their execution (e.g. Kosovo), but also when failure to discharge them signals a form of moral weakness. For example, the failed operation to protect Bosnian civilians in the UN ‘safe area’ of Srebrenica resulted in 2002 in the fall of the Netherlands government. But for these ‘passions’, why would states volunteer troops for peacekeeping operations, where they are likely to face dangers with little reward but the aggrandisement of national prestige and ‘honour’? This also explains why the values that are used as referents for claims of honour and glory are sometimes securitised; as in commitments to use force to ‘protect’ human rights, or in ‘defence’ of civilisation – as if their ‘survival’ faced an existential threat.
Gray’s proposes to ‘update’ the Thucydidean concept of honour by including it in what we now term ‘culture’ (Gray, 2005, 394), but this risks obscuring an important distinction. Honour, glory and other issues of reputation are more or less consistent across space, while culture is more particular to geographical place, and perhaps more open to misunderstanding and miscalculation. A specific local culture provides the context in which fears are imagined, nurtured and expressed. History provides ample testimony of the role played by historical grievances, racist or other chauvinistic impulses against ‘foreign’ entities (or even the ‘enemy within’) in the generation and propagation of fear for purposes of political mobilisation. This helps to explain why genocides typically occur during war, and the enduring appeal of the ‘clash of civilizations’ paradigm (Huntington, 1993). Recalling Hobbes, it was regret for the role of the passions in religious wars that motivated the construction of a European state system where relations were to be conducted on a secular basis of cooly calculated sovereign ‘interest’ rather than passions.
Finally, there is evidence that security action plays a constitutive role in collective (such as national) identities. Campbell observes that much IR proceeds on a notion of state interest that is based on an assumption of a collective national identity which precedes and legitimises the state, even though there is much evidence to suggest that this relationship works the other way around: that nationalism is in fact ‘a construct of the state in pursuit of its legitimacy’ (Campbell, 1998, 11). Campbell focuses on an idea of state identity which is ‘performatively constituted’: ‘tenuously constituted in time… through a stylized repetition of acts’ in international relations (Campbell, 1998, 10), arguing that:
[t]he practices of Foreign Policy serve to enframe, limit, and domesticate a particular identity. The identity that is enframed refers to more than just the characteristics of individuals or national types; it incorporates, for example, the form of domestic order, the social relations of production, and the various subjectivities to which they give rise (Campbell, 1998, 139).
A final feature of this process is its open-endedness. Due to the ‘inherent tension between the various domains that need to be aligned for an “imagined political community” to come into being, this performance is fated to continue indefinitely. In this sense, Campbell:
‘…proposes that foreign policy be understood as a political practice central to the constitution, production, and maintenance of American political identity’ (p.8)… ‘Ironically, then, the inability of the state project of security to succeed is the guarantor of the state’s continued success as an impelling identity’ (p.12). ‘…there need not be an action or event to provide the grounds for an interpretation of danger. The mere existence of an alternative mode of being, the presence of which exemplifies that different identities are possible and thus de-naturalizes the claim of a particular identity to be the true identity, is sometimes enough to produce the understanding of a threat’ (Campbell, 1998, 3).