THE world is divided in two camps: those who believe that “hard security”, armies, guns, aircraft carriers and boots-on-the-ground are primordial in defining national power. And those who take a broader view of security, believing in the significance of so-called “soft” issues, which link security to development, health, resources, environmental degradation and governance — as well as gender and values.
New US President Donald Trump is clearly a hard security man. He talks and tweets tough. The men surrounding him are hardened ex-military officers and even those who are not clearly think wearing a uniform is the best thing in the world.
In Pakistan and in many other parts of Asia, hard security is also the name of the game. In many South Asian nations, defence spending takes priority over health and education. Military men loom large on the political landscape. Countries — Pakistan and India for instance — appear to be only a heartbeat away from war.
But other Asian countries, including in Southeast Asia are also focusing on what many call “non-traditional security” — which Singaporean expert Mely Caballero-Anthony defines as “challenges to the survival and well-being of peoples and states that arise primarily out of non-military sources, such as climate change, cross-border environmental degradation and resource depletion, infectious diseases, natural disasters, irregular migration, food shortages, people smuggling, drug trafficking, and other forms of transnational crime”.
Soldiers can defend borders against invading armies but they can’t fight climate change or pandemics — although they can be useful in delivering disaster-related aid and getting food to people in need.
Clearly, security and development are inextricably linked: there can be no sustainable development without peace and security while development and poverty eradication are crucial to a viable peace.
Which is why the recent transatlantic row over US demands that the EU spend more on defence is so interesting.
The message from the US over the last few days has been very clear. Europe is not spending enough on defence, with many countries still not meeting the target of two per cent of GDP expenditure earmarked for building up the military. The target is being met only by Britain, Greece, Poland, and Estonia, say experts.
“America cannot care more for your children’s future security than you do,” US Defence Secretary James Mattis told Nato defence ministers in Brussels, warning: “If your nations do not want to see America moderate its commitment to this alliance, each of your capitals needs to show support for our common defence.”
Europe’s response has been two-fold. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has said he wants the EU to set up its own army.
Significantly, he has also insisted that Europe must not cave in to US demands to raise military spending, arguing that development and humanitarian aid should also count as security.
“I don’t like our American friends narrowing down this concept of security to the military,” Juncker underlined, arguing it would be sensible to look at a “modern stability policy” made up of several components.
“If you look at what Europe is doing in defence, plus development aid, plus humanitarian aid, the comparison with the United States looks rather different. Modern politics cannot just be about raising defence spending,” he said.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel also resisted the US ultimatum, claiming Germany will not speed up on any existing plans to ramp up the country’s military budget by 2024.
said Germany had already increased defence spending by 8pc in this year’s budget, adding: “We must do more here, no question, but the matters of development aid and crisis prevention are also important.”
Development aid was crucial to ensure security, said Merkel. “When we help people in their home countries to live a better life and thereby prevent crises, this is also a contribution to security,” she said at the Munich Security Conference. She added: “So I will not be drawn into a debate about who is more military-minded and who is less.”
The debate is, in fact, even more complicated. European non-governmental organisations have criticised EU governments over the growing use of foreign aid budgets to meet refugee costs at home and say that the EU is backsliding on its aid spending commitments, having again failed to meet its pledge to spend 0.7pc of gross national income on development aid last year.
Only five countries were found to have met their 2015 targets: Denmark, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Sweden and UK.
British ministers are reportedly eager to divert aid from “wasteful” projects in Africa and Asia to allies in eastern Europe in a bid to get a better deal on Brexit.
In any case, the definition of development aid is becoming wider and more fluid than many like.
The OECD’s development assistance committee has expanded the definition of overseas aid to include limited forms of counterterrorism and military activities or training.
Funding towards activities that prevent violent extremism will now be ODA-eligible, as long as the activities “are led by donor countries and their primary purpose is developmental” and they respect the “peaceful exercise of political, social and economic rights”.
Interestingly the debate ignores the fact that while ODA is still important, it is being dwarfed by private sector investments, remittances and the mobilisation of domestic resources in developing countries.
Like other tough guys, Donald Trump clearly does not like soft power. But at least some Europeans think it is time to rethink the notion of global security.
—The writer is Dawn’s correspondent in Brussels
Published in Dawn, February 25th, 2017