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International Security: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) Paperback – 24 Oct 2013
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The book succinctly covers key issues, debates and challenges in international security. It is highly recommended for students of IR and general readers. (Zhiqun Zhu, Bucknell University, Political Studies Review)
About the Author
Christopher S. Browning is Associate Professor of International Security at the University of Warwick. He has published widely on his core research interests of identity politics, critical approaches to security and critical geopolitics and has a particular interest in the politics of civilisations, the performance of nationhood and the constitution of security communities in the Nordic region, Europe and the West. His most recent books include: Constructivism, Narrative and Foreign Policy Analysis: A Case Study of Finland (2008) and The Struggle for the West: A Divided and Contested Legacy (2010).
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I would urge the reader to avoid this book and to do a cursory internet search where you will find a plethora of more valuable information from a more balanced point of view.
In this very compact volume are introduced other concepts of security which we in the West might from time to time overlook; such as security from life-threatening poverty, or the ravages of fatal diseases endemic to some regions. Then ones which we should be giving thought to such as security of resources, of our environment and economy. All very much thought provoking. In addition there are very stimulating and challenging essays upon the traditional aspects of the subject, War, Terrorism and Geo-Political implications.
One thing to bear in mind when reading this book the use of some words might not be used in the conventional context you might recognise them. For instance `Regime' here is not relating to a government but a system of co-operation, such as the Non-Proliferation Treaty for Nuclear Arms. This I found challenging in the constructive way it stopped me skipping over a sentance and making me come back to read more carefully. (Another example is shown below)
I do like a book that gives me something of a metaphorical shaking out of my conceptions too. Turning to the subject of War; I was introduced to the concepts of `The Realists'; those who believe it is in human nature to engage in conflict and the `Neo-Realists' those who subscribe to the idea that the very existence of nations cause conflict in what the authors terms as an (quote to follow) `anarchic international system which militates against co-operation and fosters mistrust'. Oh, I thought, and here was me thinking I was an open minded thinking person, but by these standards I am a neo-realist. And the beauty of this was that I was not annoyed or disagreeing because of the explanation offered for the more optimistic view of the `Critical Approach' which suggests the two branches of the realists are not taking into account other variables and those in positions of power or influence fall into the trap of self-fulfilling prophecies. Made me think I tell you.
It says much about a book of but 117 pages that there is so much to consider and read over and over. The use of language is not overtly academic or arcane; it simply draws you into the truly thinking of the variety of issues contained within the word `Security'.
I would highly recommend this volume to anyone who has interests and concerns of a global scale; even if you have read books on this subject, as I have, there is much to learn and consider in this work. Even if you might end up not agreeing with the views I contend it will make you think about your position.
The key turning point in this book is Kosovo, where a series of reports reinterpret international law away from the UN's founding mission on international stability to a Responsibility to Protect (R2P) which enables coalitions of the willing to go above a vote of the UN Security Council where atrocities are being committed by a sovereign state against its own people. This represents a very substantial unfreezing of the post-World War II situation, which gave de facto authority to the Great Powers at the end of the war, since these were and are the permanent members of the Security Council, empowered to veto. While the original arrangements were made with a view to the kind of concerted action which defeated Hitler, their development during and after the Cold War made the Security Council a council of vested interests, at times working directly against the original aspirations with which it was set up.
As Browning explains and explores, R2P has been deployed selectively since then, always by NATO or NATO's key players, and leaves very significant questions about why there was intervention in Libya but not Egypt, and, one might add, not Syria as at present.
The book concludes with a look at terrorism after 9/11, and resource scarcity. However, its sobering conclusion seems to be that international security remains largely about the assessments made by today's Great Powers about what is economically most in their interests.
In the case of international security, Browning has attempted to frame the question in many ways beyond the narrow usage of the term in the widespread media. There are plenty of contentious subjects under such an umbrella and Browning gives highlights the key elements well.
The text is a little terse in parts and lacks the personality that might be found in a book with a less tightly constrained format but is an excellent primer to the subject and good for any reader who wants to have a wider perspective on the challenges facing the security of humans and nations (and the conflicting needs of each).
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