GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

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Title of Paper:
Collective Security, Security Communities, the ASEAN Experience and the Gulf Region
Paper Proposal Text :
This paper is intended to provide a framework for discussion for the workshop, making use of theoretical and comparative literature to suggest what options are available for resolving issues of security in the Gulf region. The record of the past 45 years in the Gulf has been one characterised by tense relations, confrontational attitudes and at times open conflict. The parties to conflict have changed over time, but the confrontational environment has remained. The involvement of outside powers, while formally intended to provide protection, has frequently fed into the instabilities – creating division rather than helping to avoid it. The paper starts from the premise that new ways must be found to move beyond the confrontational policies and approaches of the past. For as long as the Gulf is caught in a web of confrontation, the energy, inventiveness and resources of the peoples of the area will be distracted from the more edifying tasks of nation-building, development and the creation of socially-inclusive societies. Expenditure on weaponry, caused by the perceived need which regional states have to protect themselves from eachother, currently ranks as among the highest in the world, wasting resources which are needed for the sustainability of the populations in the post-oil era. It will be contended that new structures of interaction and cooperation are needed in order to break out of this pattern of confrontation and conflict.
The experience of collective security, in a variety of different contexts dating from WWI, will first be examined. The writings of Inis Claude, especially Swords into Ploughshares will be given particular attention in this analysis. Contrary to some of the ways in which the term has been used, it will be stressed that collective security is a separate – and in fact antithetical – concept to that of alliances. Critical to the notion of collective security is the idea that all states within a particular system should form part of it. In the Gulf region, therefore, a collective security framework would bring in all 8 states of the Gulf. It would take the form of institutions intended to ensure interstate understanding, develop common norms of behaviour (such as non-interference in eachothers’ affairs, inadmissibility of the use of force to resolve conflicts etc), establish agreed procedures for dispute settlement, and promote security cooperation among the member states. It would also concern itself with the security interests of the 8 states collectively, perhaps with regard to the safety of the sea lanes into and out of the Gulf. No external power would be a member of this entity, but support could be sought from external powers for particular dimensions of the collective security organisation’s activity – as agreed by the 8 states collectively.
While such ideas provide a notional framework within which the states could cooperate, the contention of this paper is that an approach based on reconciling the different interests of Gulf states is not in itself sufficient. It neglects the fact that the states concerned may continue to conceive of their interests as conflicting, such that there will continue to be the temptation for any state to seek support from outside. A more productive approach is suggested by constructivist theory, where cooperation among states is understood as a social process where the adoption of common norms can redefine the interests of states in matters of war and peace. Rather than starting from the basis of conflicting interests, this approach emphasises compatible values and the possibility of collective identity. By internalising regulatory norms, states can develop a common habit of peaceful interaction, and can develop a sense of common purpose through that. A grouping which comes together and operates on this kind of basis is a “security community”.
Perhaps the best example of a security community today is that of ASEAN, which since its establishment in 1967 has evolved and developed, bringing together states with very different political systems and apparently different interests. The organisation has worked by focusing on defining and redefining Southeast Asia’s regional identity and creating norms of collective action based on that. It is possible to see how through these processes ASEAN has shaped the attitudes and behaviour of its members about conflict and order in the region. There have come to be common understandings, expectations and practices about peaceful conduct.
While collective security may suggest the kind of institutions which may be needed in the Gulf to ensure security, therefore, the longer term need is for the reshaping of norms of interstate conduct, where the states give priority to their collective identity and interests over the particularistic security needs which hold the centre of the stage at present. The experience of ASEAN will be used to suggest how the Gulf states could work towards the kind of security community which currently exists in ASEAN.