On Global Security Models and Their Functionality

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The fundamental aim of the text below is to deal with the concept and models of global security as one of the crucial topics of global politics studies. The question of Security Studies as an academic discipline within the scope of Global Politics has been the subject of much debate and one of the most prosperous ways to deal with global security is firstly to analyze different standpoints which are existing within the research discipline. The article, in one word, will try to provide the readers with basic approaches in the academic field of Security Studies with some necessary personal remarks by the author. 

The Security Dilemma and Global Security Model

The security dilemma is based on the idea that security is a goal for which states struggle and compete between themselves. In principle, the states have to look to their own protection, especially in an “anarchical“ world system in which does not exist any supranational authority (like the UN or OEBS, for instance)[i] to be capable to impose and/or to ensure regional or global order of IR. In practice, traditionally, the states in order to achieve their security goals were striving for more and more power for the reason to escape the impact of the power and foreign policy of other states especially of the neighbors as European history clearly shows. However, such practice in turn makes the other states or other actors in IR to feel themselves more insecure and therefore it encourages them to be prepared for the worst scenario (conflict, aggression, war). As any state cannot ever feel entirely secure, the security competition among the states is an endless process that is resulting in constant power rising. In other words, a security dilemma provokes a policy to firm the security of a (nation)state which has a direct effect of threatening other states or actors in IR and, thereby, provoking power (usually military) counter-actions. This endless process is, in fact, decreasing security for all states especially if we know that in many cases offensive (imperialistic) foreign policy is justified by national arming with “defensive“ weapons (the case of the US, for instance).

Global security as a concept has to be essentially founded on the idea of human (individual and group) security. However, IR in practice are based on the right to self-preservation of the states (i.e., of their political regimes and social elites in power). This idea is born by Englishman Thomas Hobbes (1588−1679) who argued that the right to self-preservation is founded on natural law, requiring at the same time a social harmony between the citizens and state authority. Therefore, global security has to be founded primarily on the concept of (a nation)state security as the states are natural forms of political associations by the people and still are the fundamental actors in IR. The idea is that, presumably, both the individual and civil rights of the citizen would be effectively secured only if the individual consented to the unchecked power of the state ruling elite. Therefore, we can say that a modern philosophy of state totalitarian regimes is de facto born by Th. Hobbes.

Based on Th. Hobbes’ security philosophy, states will stress the necessity of social collectivization for the protection of their security interests – it is how the concept of Collective Security (CS) was institutionalized as a mechanism that is used by the states in one bloc not to attack or proclaim the war to other states within the same bloc of coalition.[ii] The member states of the same bloc accept the practice to use their collective armed forces and other necessary capabilities in order to help and defend a fellow member state in the case of aggression from outside. Such “defensive“ collective action has to continue until the time when “aggression“ is reversed. The essence of such a concept, therefore, is a claim that an “unprovoked“, aggressive attack against any member of an organization is going to be considered as an attack on all member states of that organization. In practice, any really provoked attack of aggression can be easily claimed as “unprovoked“ as it happened, for instance, with the case of Pearl Harbour in 1941 as we know today that the US regime did everything to provoke “unprovoked“ Japanese action on December 7th. Nevertheless, while the concept of CS became the tool to count state aggression, it left a very open question of how best to promote individual or group (minority) security.[iii]

It has to be clarified that the very idea of human security is not opposing concern of national (state) security – the requirement that the state must protect its own citizens from aggression from the external world, i.e. by a foreign actor. The human security idea argues that the most important focus of security has to be put on individuals, not on the state but the state has to protect all its citizens as the protection umbrella from the outside threat. This approach takes an individual-centered view of security that is a basis for national, regional, and finally global security. In essence, the protection of human (individual and group) rights is giving the main framework for the realization of the concept of human security that advocates “protection against threats to the lives and wellbeing of individuals in areas of basic need including freedom from violence by terrorists, criminals, or police, availability of food and water, a clean environment, energy security, and freedom from poverty and economic exploitation“.[iv]

The chief purpose of collective security organization is to provide and maintain peaceful relations within the bloc which is composed of sovereign states but dominated by a hegemon. The concept of CS has declaratory as a main task to maintain peace between the key actors in IR which practically means the states, but in practice, the real purpose of the CS system is just to maintain peace and order among the members of the system, however not between the system and the rest of the world. The best example of a CS system today is the NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) which is not any kind of global security bloc but rather only a political-military alliance that is primarily serving the US national interests (global imperialism) across the globe. Nevertheless, the practical implementation of the concept is fluctuating between two models:

1. Traditional and more realistic model of Balance of Power; and

2. A new post-Cold War and more utopian model of World Government.

The idea of CS is for sure very attractive for academics as it seeks to bring about important benefits of a “global government“ but without altering the fundamental essence of the traditional state-system of anarchy. The concept of CS from a global perspective, therefore, means a “system of international security under which all states agree to take joint action against states that attack“.[v] Anyway, formally, the concept of CS wants to apply a set of legally established mechanisms that are designed to prevent possible aggression by any state against any other state at least without the formal permission of the UN.[vi]

Three Possible Models of Global Security

Different theorists explain in different ways using different arguments the benefits or disadvantages of one of three possible global security models: Unipolar, Bipolar, or Multipolar. Debates are, basically, going around the arguments about which one of these three models is the most stable and above all most peaceful in comparison to all other models.[vii]

Those who advocate the Unipolar Security Model (USM) claim that this model gives the most security guarantees as in this case there is simply one power (state) to be in a position of a dominant actor in global politics having a role of a global hegemon or world policemen. It is a belief that world politics can be mostly peaceful if there is a single dominant state that is strong enough to enforce peace as a global hegemon. The hegemon is going to be so powerful that no other global actor can challenge its superiority in world affairs and IR. This model of global security was adopted by the US administration immediately after the Cold War 1.0 and mainly was advocated by Zbigniew Brzezinski who was trying to lay down the academic foundations of the American hegemonic position in global politics which had the primary goal to destabilize, dismember and finally occupy Russia for the sake of free of charge exploitation of her natural resources according to the Kosovo pattern from June 1999 onward. If the US administration succeeds in the realization of such a goal, the global geopolitical game over the Eurasian Heartland would be finally resolved in favor of Washington.

NATO was, is, and going to be from the very beginning of its existence (est. 1949) the fundamental instrument of the US policy of global hegemony concept that is known also as Pax Americana. Up today, NATO remains the most powerful military alliance in the world that was allegedly established “…to provide security for Western Europe, NATO became an unprecedented peacetime alliance with a permanent secretariat and a military headquarters that represents the US commitment to deter Soviet aggression”.[viii] However, the very existence of the NATO after the dissolution of the Soviet Union clearly prove that the ultimate goal of its creation and functioning was not “to deter Soviet aggression” while its (only eastward) enlargement from 1999 onward indicates that, in fact, Russia was, is and going to be the chief object of the fundamental point of the NATO’s policy of the US expansionism and global hegemony. The 1998−1999 Kosovo War, in which NATO forces became deeply engaged for the first time after its establishment in 1949, marks the beginning of the direct US policy of brutal and open gangsterism (at least) after the Cold War on the global level of IR and world politics.[ix]

The USM is necessarily founded on an idea of hegemony in global politics. The word hegemonia comes from the ancient Greek language (as many other words used today by the Western academic world) with authentic means of “leadership”. In IR, a notion of a “hegemon” is used as a synonym for “leader” or “leading state” within the system (bloc) composed of at least two or several states. However, the bloc member countries have to establish and maintain certain relations between themselves which practically means that one of the member states became de facto a hegemon within the whole bloc concerning decision-making policy and procedure (for example, the USA in NATO, the USSR in the Warsaw Pact or Germany in the EU). A leadership or hegemony within the system implies a certain degree of order, collective organization, and above all hierarchy relationships between the members of a system. However, political hegemony in IR is not existing by itself as it is a phenomenon that exists within some interstate system, that is itself the product of specific historical, political, economic, ideological, or other circumstances. All hegemonic states within the system enjoy “structural power” which permits the leader to occupy a central leading position in its own created and run system. All other member states are collaborators to the leading role of the hegemon expecting to get a proper reward for their service. On the other hand, a hegemon has to mobilize its own economic, financial, technical, political, human, and other resources in order to perform a role of a leader and, therefore, this is why only some (rich) states have a real potential to be hegemons (like the USA in the NATO, for instance).

The USA is today the world’s most powerful and imperialistic single state ever existed in history. Washington is after WWII using NATO as a justification of its global hegemonic designs and the American ability and willingness to resume a hegemonic role in the world are of crucial importance for IR, world order, and global security. In principle, the majority of studies dealing with hegemony and imperialism point to the British 19th-century empire and the US empire after WWII as the two most successful hegemonic cases in the world’s political history.[x] Both of these two empires formally justified their policy of global imperialism within the framework of the concept of USM.

Probably the most important disadvantage of USM is that a unipolar world with a strong global hegemon will all the time tempt either one or several powers to try to challenge the hegemon by different means. This is, basically, an endless game till the hegemon finally lost its position as such and the system of security became transformed into a new form based on a new security model. That is exactly what happened with the Roman Empire as one of the examples of USM.

Nevertheless, in the unipolar system, a hegemon faces few constraints on its policy, determines the rules of the game in global politics, and restricts the autonomous actions of others as was exactly the case by the US as a “world policeman” at the time of the New World Order in 1990−2008.[xi] But on the other side, such a hegemonic position and policy of terrorizing the rest of the world (or system) provokes self-defense reactions by others which finally results in a change in the distribution of power among the states (or actors) that can be a cause of war on a larger scale of intensity and space. For the matter of comparison, the US hegemonic, Russophobic, and barbaric global policy at the time of the post-Cold War 1.0 New World Order can in the end cause a new world war with Russia (and probably China) as the Peloponnesian War (431−404 BC) were caused by the hegemonic policy of the Athens which provoked the fear and self-defense reaction by Sparta.[xii]

The champions of the Bipolar Security Model (BSM), however, believe that a bipolarity of global politics could bring a long-time peace and world security instead of USM. In the case of BSM, the two crucial powers in the world are monitoring each other’s behavior in the global arena and therefore removing the biggest part of the security uncertainty in world politics, international relations, and foreign affairs associated with the possibility of the beginning of war between the Great Powers.

A Multipolar Security Model (MSM) looks like the best option for dealing with the prevention of war and protecting global security as a distribution of power is as much as “multi” as there are lesser chances for the outbreak of war between the Great Powers. In essence, MSM can moderate hostility among the Great Powers as they are forced to create shifting alliances in which there are no permanent enemies. Nevertheless, for many researchers, MSM is, in fact, creating a dangerous uncertainty for the very reason as there is a bigger number of the Great Powers or other powerful actors in world politics.


Finally, there are many arguments over what the research and referent object of Security Studies have to be, whether military power is fundamental for state security, who is going to be mainly responsible for providing security, or what the studies as an academic field have to consider as its research subject matter and focus. The fundamental aim of this article was to present the main route through the (mine)field of Security Studies as an academic research discipline.


Dr. Vladislav B. Sotirović is a former university professor in Vilnius, Lithuania. He is a Research Fellow at the Center for Geostrategic Studies. He is a regular contributor to Global Research.



[i] Supranational means to be above the sovereign state or “over the nation”.

[ii] However, this mechanism is not providing absolute security within the same bloc as the case of Italy and Austria-Hungary showed in 1917.

[iii] According to the 1994 Human Development Report (an annual publication of the UNDP), human security is composed by the next seven elements: 1. Economic security or freedom from poverty; 2. Food security or access to food; 3. Health security or access to health care and protection from diseases; 4. Environmental security or protection from environmental pollution; 5. Personal security or physical safety from torture, war, and drug use; 6. Community security or survival of traditional cultures and ethnonational groups; and 7. Political security or protection against political oppression (Martin Griffiths, Terry O’Callaghan, Steven C. Roach, International Relations: The Key Concepts, Second edition, London−New York: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, 2008, 147).

[iv] Richard W. Mansbach, Kirsten L. Taylor, Introduction to Global Politics, Second edition, London−New York: Routledge, 2012, 578.

[v] Richard W. Mansbach, Kirsten L. Taylor, Introduction to Global Politics, Second edition, London−New York: Routledge, 2012, 574.

[vi] However, this concept lost its moral ground in 1999 when the NATO made an aggression on the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia for 78 days without a resolution by the UNO launching the “illegal war” on a sovereign state (Пјер Пеан, Косово: „Праведни“ рат за стварање мафијашке државе, Београд: Службени гласник, 2013, 95−105 [translation from the French original: Pierre Pean, Sébastien Fontenelle, Kosovo: Une Guerre „Juste“ pour Créer un Etat Mafieux, Librairie Arthème Fayard, 2013]).

[vii] Security Studies as an academic discipline belong to a wider subject of International Relations (IR) that is the study of total political relations between different international actors but fundamentally between the sovereign states. The main concern of Security Studies is the global securuty and its maintainance (Peter Hough, Understanding Global Security, Second edition, London−New York: Routledge, 2008, 2).

[viii] Richard W. Mansbach, Kirsten L. Taylor, Introduction to Global Politics, Second edition, London−New York: Routledge, 2012, 345.

[ix] As a direct result of the NATO’s aggression on Serbia and Montenegro in 1999, Kosovo became transformed into the American colony (see more on this issue in: Hannes Hofbauer, Experiment Kosovo: Die Rückkehr des Kolonialismus, Wien: Promedia Druck- und Verlagsges. m.b.h., 2008).

[x] For instance, Joshua S. Goldstein, International Relations, Fourth edition, New York: Longman, 2001, 92.

[xi] A term New World Order is originally coined by the ex-US President George Bush Senior in 1991as a consequence of the First Gulf War in 1990−1991 when the US administration started its post-Cold War imperialistic policy of a global hegemon hidden behind an idea of globalization of liberal internationalism that was allegedly impossible without the US hegemonic role in world politics. Nevertheless, the concept of New World Order „…was short-hand for US policy preferences and further American imperialism“ (Jeffrey Haynes, Peter Hough, Shahin Malik, Lloyd Pettiford, World Politics, New York: Routledge, 2013, 712). Many academics and politicians have at the beginning hopes that New World Order will bring a better future in IR and global politics but very soon the idea became very criticized and, therefore, the idea lost any rational and moral background.

[xii] Михаил Ростовцев, Историја старога света: Грчка и Рим, Нови Сад: Матица српска, 1990, 112−120; Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War, Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 1999.

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