The CSS Blog Network

The Era of Mutual Assured Disruption

Courtesy of brillianthues/Flickr. (CC BY 2.0)

This article was published by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) on 16 February 2017.

The five forces that are ‘liquidising’ global security.

As the liberal order frays and geopolitical competition returns it is natural that people turn to Henry Kissinger.  No one has a more finely-grained understanding of power politics, and his treatise on World Order sits on the bed side tables of many global leaders (even if few have actually read it).

But Kissinger’s ideas of order represent an impossible aspiration in the world of ISIS and fake news. They are designed for a slower world and powerful states, rather than our age of permanent uncertainty, rapid change and disruption.

Many traditional concepts – even well-tested ones – have been overtaken by events. Deterrence, alliances, even diplomacy seem out of fashion; old certainties are gone. Kissinger’s order was based on two pillars: legitimacy and balance of power. The defining moment of his world view was the Peace of Westphalia. He laments the disappearance of the split between domestic and foreign policy. But, in spite of the return of power politics, the world is not Kissingerian any more.

» More

Against the Merger of Humanitarianism with Development and Security

This article was originally published by the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) on 8 June 2016. 

In the recent World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul 23-24 May, the interconnections between humanitarianism, development and security were highlighted. Recognising that humanitarian assistance alone cannot address ‘the needs of over 130 million of the world’s most vulnerable people’, the conference chair’s summary report states: ‘A new and coherent approach is required based on addressing root causes, increasing political diplomacy for prevention and conflict resolution, and bringing humanitarian, development and peace-building efforts together’ (page 2). Similarly, the background report of the UN Secretary General – One Humanity: shared responsibility – prescribes the merger of humanitarian policies with peace and development agendas. These agendas include the prevention and management of conflict and disaster, the building of institutions conducive to ‘the protection of civilians’, the fight against terrorism, and the building of ‘resilient societies’.

Yet, while coordination across these policy domains is certainly needed, the current challenge for humanitarianism is rather to establish a clearer division of labour between them, where humanitarian relief retains its political neutrality, development aid its concern with justice, and where policies of peace and security maintain focused on the mitigation of international and civil war rather than a broader humanitarian agenda of ‘human security’.

» More

Orbiting Around a Public-Private Strategy for Space

Earth and International Space Station (ISS), courtesy NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center/Flickr

This article was originally published by War on the Rocks on 6 May 2016.

In the latest sign of how new entrants are upending the space launch industry, the Air Force announced last week that an $83 million contract awarded to SpaceX to put a GPS satellite into orbit would cost the government 40 percent less than the competing bid from United Launch Alliance (ULA), a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin. As impressive as that is, SpaceX’s competitiveness is set to increase further after the firm achieved a milestone in the history of space exploration. After numerous failed attempts, SpaceX successfully landed the first stage of one of its rockets on a “drone ship” floating in the Atlantic Ocean. The rocket’s payload, a cargo delivery to the International Space Station (ISS), was successfully lifted into orbit.

The achievement is a first step towards the reuse of SpaceX rockets (or more precisely the first of the rocket’s two stages), which previously would be lost after a single use. The next step will be to attempt to refurbish and reuse a rocket — potentially many times over — at acceptable cost and risk. The Space Shuttle’s solid rocket boosters parachuted to sea and were recovered by ship, but they did not themselves lift payloads into orbit and were very expensive to refurbish. Another rocketry firm, Blue Origin, has also managed to safely land its rockets after launch, but those are sub-orbital vehicles not meant to reach the ISS or place satellites aloft. ULA has studied reusability but has not implemented it.

The major implication of rocket reusability – and the reason it has been so feverishly pursued — is to reduce the price of placing a payload into orbit. SpaceX’s per-launch price is reportedly $60 million, well below the $200 million charged by ULA or the $137 million charged by Europe’s Arianespace launch consortium. Rocket reuse stands to reduce SpaceX’s price even further, to perhaps just $40 million. To put that in perspective, it is about the same as it costs to stage the Oscars.

» More

Hidden Dangers: The Implications of the Global Health Security Agenda

Ebola Virus

The Ebola virus

This article was originally published by the Harvard International Review on 15 April 2016.

On the heels of the annual International Monetary Fund/World Bank conference and an Ebola-ridden year, the world is reminded of the significance of global health policy, not only for disease prevention but also for international relationships and the future direction of health care. Recent international health initiatives  have pragmatically stressed the importance of defense and economics. This slant, particularly in the relatively new Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA), raises questions about future approaches to global health. The GHSA has acquired significant funding for outbreak response, but its treatment of global health as an international security issue rather than a humanitarian one warrants a cautious assessment. » More

Posthuman Security: Reflections From an Open-ended Conversation

A toy camera illuminating blue light, courtesy Garrette/flickr

This article was originally published by E-International Relations on 25 January 2016.

A couple of years ago I invited a group of scholars (including several of the authors in this E-IR series) to get together and share their views on something called ‘posthuman security’. While we all had different disciplinary backgrounds, expertise, questions and commitments, we shared the intuition that international security is not solely a matter of securing human lives and bodies. Instead, we contended that diverse beings other than humans are implicated in the conditions of (in)security. With this in mind, we wanted to think collectively about what the notion of ‘security’ means in worlds intersected and co-constituted by various kinds of beings: humans, other organisms, machines, elemental forces, diverse materials – and hybrids of all of the above. In turn, we wanted to think about what the ‘posthuman’ means when we bring it into the realm of security. For instance, does embracing a more-than-human or post-human ontology mean giving up on notions of security as stability, sustainability or resilience? On the other hand, does  embracing such concepts forces one back into a humanism that reinforces rigid and exclusive understandings of what ‘humanity’ is, and what is worthy of being security? Over the last two years, we have met to hash out these issues with a widening group of interlocutors in workshops and panels in the UK, Australia, Italy and the US. So what kinds of insight have these discussions inspired? » More

Page 1 of 9