By Lori Yeni-Komshian
Staff Writer

After examining United States foreign policy and terrorism policy, it is evident that the challenges and threats that states face today are better served by recognizing that human security is in fact national security. Our government’s policy should in fact reflect the idea of “human security as national security” since a nation cannot be secure if its people do not feel secure. I will address the difference between the concept of human security and more traditionalist notions of national security. I will examine and evaluate security strategies suggested by authors Samuel Huntington and Fareed Zakaria. I will highlight behaviors which would corroborate both notions of security and I will emphasize United States foreign policy. I will prove that United States foreign policy is compatible with the idea of human security as national security, and I will argue that it should it be more concerned with human security.

First and foremost we need to understand what challenges and threats states face and why human security is necessary. Whether it is violent conflict, terrorism, poverty, health pandemics, human rights abuses these are all human security challenges.[1] Governments and authoritarian leaders often use these tactics to legitimize the use of repression and violence against opposition or minority groups so as to remain in power.[2] Human security in fact diminishes these security threats:[Most simply] it is difficult to deny the linkage between human rights, peace, and security. When individuals, peoples, and governments feel that their rights are protected, they feel secure and have little inclination to turn to violence and war. In fact, the 2010 U.S. National Security Strategy explicitly states that the United States supports governments that respect democracy and human rights because those governments “are ultimately more stable, successful, and secure.” (Reveron and Mahoney-Norris 60)

What is the distinction between traditional “national security” and “human security”? While national security is generally seen as military defense, human security seems to stress the welfare of ordinary people.[3] Instead of focusing on the “safety of threats from military aggression” like most conventional notions of security it concentrates on the security of the individual and their protection. According to the Commission on Human Security, the goal of human security is “…to protect the vital core of all human lives in ways that enhance human freedoms and human fulfillment. Human security means protecting fundamental freedoms – freedoms that are the essence of life” (United Nations Trust Fund 6). This includes protecting people from severe and widespread threats. Human Security brings together “security, rights, and development” and is characteristically people-centered, multi-sectoral, comprehensive, context-specific, and prevention oriented.[4] “Human Security complements state security, strengthens human development and enhances human rights…human security and state security are mutually reinforcing and dependent on each other. Without human security, state security cannot be attained and vice versa” (qtd. in United Nations Trust Fund 9). This means that traditional concepts of national security and human security are not mutually exclusive rather they are interrelated to one another.

Huntington and Zakaria both have very different ideas of what pose as threats and what security strategies they suggest in response. According to Huntington, there will be a clash of civilizations and cultural entities because cultural differences are becoming more evident as the world is becoming smaller through increased contact and interaction. “The most important conflicts of future will occur along the cultural fault lines separating these civilizations from one another” (Huntington 23). This cultural fault lines he explains, is the division between Western Christianity, and Orthodox Christianity and Islam. This fault line is replacing the political and ideological boundaries of the Cold war seeing as the division of the world into first, second and third worlds is no longer relevant. Huntington explains that groups belonging to a civilization naturally support members of their own civilization during war. This rallying of civilizations, called “Kin-Country Syndrome”, has been emerging since the Cold War. Huntington is not hopeful that societies can change, as he claims differences in civilizations are hardwired and generally identity and culture do not change much.

In responding to terror Huntington comes up with a short term and long term plan. First he advises that the West increase collaboration with each other. Nowadays the West is at a peak of power in relation to other civilizations because essentially all of its superpower opponents have disappeared, and Japan remains its only economic rival. On top of this the United States tries to mask its power as decisions made at the UN Security Council or in the IMF that reflect the interests of the West are presented to the world as reflecting the desires of the world community. He alludes to the fact that western ideals may not be as widely accepted as many believe and that certain civilizations and religions are incompatible with democracy. Specifically he alludes to Muslim, Confucian, Hindu and Buddhist societies, as opposed to Latin American and Eastern European countries who have fewer obstacles in joining the West. According to Huntington the West must limit the expansion of Muslim and Confucian societies that are developing arms. We (the West) should also increase our legitimacy as an international society. In the long run we should keep up economic and military power needed to protect our interests in relation to other civilizations and attempt to understand basic religious and philosophical assumptions in order to understand each other. [5]

Newsweek author Fareed Zakaria points to fundamentalist Islam and terrorism as the greatest security threat. “Terrorists are almost always misfits who place their own twisted morality above mankind’s…They come out of a culture that reinforces their hostility, distrust and hatred of the West –and of America in particular” (Zakaria). But Zakaria maintains that this does not represent Islam as a religion, but rather Islam condemns the slaughters of innocents and prohibits suicide and the religion itself is not incompatible with democracy. “Every religion is compatible with the best and the worst of humankind”. We must also remember that fundamentalism has emerged as a new phenomenon in the Middle East and is not connected to the majority of Muslims that live around the world or in populous Muslim countries. It is not Western culture that is breeding resentment in the Middle East rather it is failed modernization took place in the last thirty years.

For all their energy these regimes chose bad ideas and implemented them in worse ways. Socialism produced bureaucracy and stagnation. Rather than adjusting to the failures of central planning, the economies never really moved on. The republics calcified into dictatorships…Arab unity cracked and crumbled as countries discovered their own national interests and opportunities. Worst of all, Israel humiliated the Arabs in the wars of 1967 and 1973. (Zakaria)
One failure in modernity was followed after another, with socialism, secularism, and nationalism. Modernization takes more than “strongmen and oil money”. United States bias towards Israel and its support for royal families in the Middle East compounded the problem. “If poverty produced failure in most of Arabia, wealth produced failure in the rest of it” (Zakaria) since many Arabs believe that Americans support oil rich gulf sheiks. Israeli success only worsens the problem while radicalization increases animosity.

Zakaria suggests that the West should devise a strategy to deal with this form of religious terrorism. He lays out a military, political and cultural strategy which he claims will be a long war with many fronts and battles. Militarily, the goal is simply to destroy Al Qaeda, through war, covert operations and other forms of coercion. “Every person who plans and helps a terrorist operation must understand that he will be tracked and punished. Their operations will be disrupted, their finances drained, their hideouts destroyed” (Zakaria). Politically the strategy is to create an international coalition and cooperate with other states. This alliance will help “to make arrests, shut down safe houses, close bank accounts and share intelligence” (Zakaria). Zakaria also claims that masking United States power in the United Nations Security Council makes the strength of the US easier for the world to bear since it gives international legitimacy. Also there should be pressure put on Israel. The United States should be uncompromising on the right of Israel to exist, and should continue to try to solve the issue of occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

Culturally “the United States must help Islam enter the modern world…America – indeed the whole world – faces a dire security threat that will not be resolved unless we can stop the political, economic and cultural collapse that lies at the roots of Arab rage” (Zakaria). We must boost moderate Islamic regimes to prove that Islam is compatible with modernity, fund moderate groups and intellectuals, and pressure Arab regimes to liberalize to gain legitimacy. We should engage in business as a method of nation-building. The good news is we are more powerful than Al Qaeda and Islamic fundamentalism does not speak to the majority of Muslims.

Huntington and Zakaria have very different strategies, but they relate in that while they both encourage military force to achieve a means, they keep the wellbeing of humans in mind. Huntington’s claim sounds extreme in saying that certain civilizations are incompatible with democracy, and therefore the West must limit their expansion. But he says this with the welfare of civilians in mind. While Zakaria claims that fundamentalist Islam should be combated by destroying al-Qaeda, this again is with the intent of helping the people who are negatively affected. Both Huntington and Zakaria implement peaceful strategies of cooperation and attempts of understanding those viewed as threats, for the betterment of humanity.

Similarly, the United States’ National Security Strategy also uses traditional military force, but incorporates other strategies as well for the good of humankind. Security is defined as the security of the United States, its citizen, and U.S. allies and partners in the National Security Strategy of 2010. Therefore national security is human security since one of the objectives is to protect people—even in other countries.

If we look at the six security objectives this becomes evident. The first goal of the Obama administration is to strengthen security and resilience at home. The second goal is to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al-Qa’ida and its violent extremist affiliates in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and around the world. The third goal is to reverse the spread of nuclear and biological weapons and secure nuclear materials. The fourth goal is to advance peace, security, and opportunity in the greater Middle East. The fifth goal is to invest in the capacity of strong and capable partners. And lastly the sixth goal is to secure cyberspace by strengthening partnerships.[6] All of these goals are for the prosperity of people all around the world. Specifically the advancement of peace, security, and opportunity mentioned in the fourth goal portrays this spirit of betterment. President Obama depicts his concern for humanity in his Inaugural Address on January 20 2009,

We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense. And for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken – you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you. (qtd. in Obama 17). President Obama is correct in stressing human security, because in fact our nation should be more concerned with human security than with national or military security. Our priority should be the wellbeing of humankind. Military force is merely a means to achieve human security in some instances.

The concept of human security is often criticized as being a vague and ambiguous term that is often not understood. But after studying security strategies laid out by Huntington and Zakaria, and examining the United States Security Strategy under the Obama administration, the concept of human security is evident. Although these strategies introduce military force, the primary goal of any security is the welfare of people. These strategies expose the correlation between human security and national security, and the fact that they are not mutually exclusive. Therefore it is in the best interest of the United States to look at national security and human security congruently in order to combat the threats that our nation faces.


“Human Security in Theory and Practice.” United Nations Trust Fund for Human Security, 2009. Web. 31 Oct. 2012. .
Huntington, Samuel P. “The Clash of Civilizations?” Foreign Affairs, 1993. Web. 2 Nov. 2012. .

“National Security Strategy.” The Obama Administration, n.d. Web. .
Paris, Roland. “Human Security: Paradigm Shift of Hot Air?” N.p., n.d. Web. 8 Nov. 2012. .

Zakaria, Fareed. “The Politics Of Rage: Why Do They Hate Us?” The Daily Beast. Newsweek/Daily Beast, 14 Oct. 2001. Web. 02 Nov. 2012. .

[1] United Nations Trust Fund 6
[2] Reveron and Mahoney-Norris 61
[3] Paris 87
[4] United Nations Trust Fund 7
[5] Huntington 49
[6] National Security Strategy 2010

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