Security Culture History

Revival of the “Red Booklet”

Civil Defense was published in Switzerland in 1969 (left, courtesy of Histamut/Wikimedia Commons) and re-published in Japan for the third time in 2003 (right, courtesy of

The question intrigued me. When abroad, I am used to being asked whether it was true that all Swiss men had a military rifle at home.  But, before a Japanese friend asked me about it the other day, I had never heard about a book called Civil Defense, which in the 1960s was apparently handed out to every household by the Swiss government. What was she talking about? And why on earth is a dated Swiss book, unknown to me, popular among the Japanese?

The volume was known in Switzerland as the “red booklet“, which is a double irony: the ‘booklet’ is 320 pages long and full of anti-communist ideology. Zivilverteidigung (Civil Defense) was published in 1969 and 2.6 million copies were distributed to Swiss households for free. It served two purposes: 1) as a guide for the Swiss population about how to behave during, and prepare for, national disasters, including nuclear war; and 2) to instill a spirit of patriotism and resistance towards everything foreign and dangerous (at that time, mainly communism).

The red booklet included lyrics of patriotic songs and, most interestingly, two versions of a story in which Switzerland is threatened by revolutionary forces supported by an outside power. In the first version, written on the right-hand pages of the book, the Swiss people resist and save their country; in the second version, written (of course) on the left-hand pages, the revolution succeeds and Switzerland collapses.

Just a year after its publication in Switzerland, in 1970, Civil Defense was translated into Japanese, and that’s not all: Minkan Bōei (民間防衛), as it’s known in Japanese, was re-published in 1995 and again in 2003. With 150,000 copies sold in all, it isn’t quite a best-seller. Nevertheless, the red booklet remains popular in Japan.

Not so in Switzerland, where it was already out of fashion at the time of its original publication:


A Reading List on: Corruption and Asset Recovery

“Corruption undermines Governments’ ability to act and serve their people. It siphons off the finance intended to reduce poverty and discourages investment in economies,” (Helen Clark, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP))

There is no doubt: the existence of corruption can poison the legitimacy of otherwise stable and secure governments. When the state itself is corrupt, how can it hope to encourage the rule of law among its citizens? Furthermore, corruption is directly linked to poverty and insecurity, and can severely stifle development in education and health. This syllabus on corruption and asset recovery aims to share some insight into the issue of corruption and efforts to combat it across the globe.


This Week at the ISN…

It's week 35 on the ISN's 2011 editorial calendar, Photo: cloud_hopper/flickr

We’ll take a closer look at the following topics this week — among many others:

  • Tuesday’s ISN Special Feature offers up a reading syllabus on corruption.
  • On Thursday, we examine Bangladesh’s special dedication to UN peacekeeping in our ISN Special Feature.
  • And in Friday’s ISN Podcast, Dr Thitinan Pongsudhirak discusses domestic politics in Thailand.

And in case you missed any of last week’s coverage, you can catch up here on: European Central Bank policy failure; astonishing facts about water to commemorate ‘World Water Week’; South Africa’s Zuma and the future of the ANC; water security including an interactive map; and exploring the ‘fusion alternative’ to enhance energy security.

International Relations Business and Finance Development

Cricket Diplomacy in the 21st Century

International cricket in Barbados
International cricket in Barbados. Photo: flickr/phik

Cricket, as they say, is a funny old game.    Few sports can claim to inspire, in equal measure, its extensive and fanatical support — as the second-most popular sport in the world– and the blank incomprehension and derision of the uninitiated.  In India and Pakistan, the emotional lives of a billion people seem implicated in every flash of the willow on leather.  In the US, the game is often confused with (or willfully misunderstood as) croquet.


Environmental Security: “Caution(!) This Report May Contain Traces of Biased World Views”

Case studies show that water scarcity is just as likely to promote cooperation as to increase the risks of violent conflict. Photo: flickr/Jasper ter Schegget

What are we to believe about the relationship between environmental degradation and security?  Does environmental change open the door to conflict, or is it a force for cooperation? Is it best to manage environmental change by focusing on its role in security narratives; or, to the contrary, by keeping security out of it?

The relevance of these questions coincides with the “World Water Week 2011” conference in Stockholm, which the ISN has covered in its two previous Special Features. To round off our coverage, I will raise a caveat: questions like the ones posed above should always be kept in mind when discussing the political implications of environmental degradation.