In the customary sense, security refers to freedom from danger or risk of destruction and annihilation. As such, national security is the freedom of a nation from the danger of destruction by aggression, war or hostility from an external entity. The government has the responsibility of defending its citizens since they lack the power to protect themselves against aggression. In the past few decades, the conventional nation-centric sense of security has been challenged by more expansive approaches to security. For example, countries nowadays must not only fear possible aggression from other nations but also from international terrorists and transnational organized criminals. Meanwhile, a number of countries have to grapple with insurgencies. In this article, I will reflect on the insight I have gained while exploring the topics of insurgencies and international security.
From my research, an insurgency is a prolonged political-military struggle aimed at subverting or displacing the authenticity of an occupying power or a constituted government. In most cases, an insurgent group completely or partially controls the resources of a particular territory within a nation. These groups use illegal political organizations or irregular military to attain these resources. The common denominator for majority insurgent groups is the goal of gaining control of a particular territory or population and its resources (Kress & Szechtman 2009, 579). I believe that this objective is what precisely differentiates insurgent groups from terrorists and other organized groups such as militias and guerilla warfare groups. In some cases, insurgencies are not driven by pure greed for control of resources or attaining power (Muckian 2007, 16). There are many reasons why their attacks might be warranted even though they are considered illegal by the governing authority.
Even though insurgencies have political agendas, it is too simplistic to think that insurgents are mainly motivated to topple the government. While doing research, I came up with five categories of insurgencies: revolutionary, reformist, separatist, resistance and commercialist. Revolutionary insurgencies aim to substitute the present political arrangement for a completely different system. Reformist insurgencies seek to force the governing authority to alter its policies or carry out social, economic and political reforms. Separatist insurgencies aim to obtain independence for a particular region while resistance agencies aspire to force an occupying power to pull out from a particular region (Harris 2010, 352). Commercialist insurgencies are more motivated to acquire wealth and material resources and use political power only as a tool to achieve their objective.
Insurgencies have proliferating over the past thirty years, especially since the end of the Cold War. In fact, I believe that the post Cold War environment has facilitated the emergence of insurgent groups in countries that lack effective political and economic structures. After the Cold War ended, the world entered a period where sustained, large scale traditional war between independent nations became highly unlikely. In addition, international organizations such as the United Nations and NATO have ensured that countries cannot fight each other as it used to be in the past. However, global discontent has been mounting. Presently, people are not afraid to show their displeasure when they perceive that their governments are not providing effective public services. Furthermore, people are more aware of their rights. The failure of a government to keep pace with economic expectations; population pressure; environmental decay; the collapse of traditional economic, political and social orders; the widespread availability of weapons; the presence of weak governments; the growth of international organized crime have all contributed to the growth of insurgent activity over the past years (Phillips 2010, 261).
Considering that drawn out wars among countries is highly unlikely in the 21st century, I believe that insurgencies and non-state conflicts are the most important security threat faced by international militaries. In the recent past, insurgents have arose in Syria, Libya, Egypt, Mali, the Philippines and South Sudan. Many other Asian and African countries have been fighting separatist groups over the years. Presently, Ukraine is under crisis since some territories want to join Russia. The Central African Republic has been embroiled in a civil war for the past three years after insurgents toppled the government. In many of these cases, international militaries have deployed to either back up the government or support the insurgents. I expect the number of insurgencies to increase in the coming years.
In my thinking, nongovernmental organizations have an important role to play when dealing with insurgencies since they mostly appear impartial to both the governing authority and the insurgent groups. Even though I had identified five types of insurgencies, a common denominator for all of them is that they believe that they are being denied important social and economic services. Consequently, they suppose that by getting into the leadership position, they would be able to provide these services. This is where I believe that nongovernmental organizations need to come in. For example, they can raise resource allocation issues with the government and convince it to offer appropriate public services to the disgruntled population. They can also raise awareness to the international community, who will compel the government to provide these services to avoid sanctions. Some organizations can also offer some essential services if the government is unable to do so. I believe that if such services are offered to disgruntled groups, they will not turn violent.
With transnational organized crime and terrorism becoming a common occurrence worldwide, almost all countries have tightened their borders as a way of ensuring security. However, I still find the concept of national borders in an increasingly international world not as relevant as it used to be. For example, the United States, a country that has arguably the tightest border security in the world, is still grappling with illegal immigration. Meanwhile, the number of immigrants in the country is 40.8 million, which is 13% of the total US population (Nwosu et al. 2014). Currently, the immigrant population is at an all time high. Therefore, the security concerns within the country are also high.
Even though countries have been investing more personnel, resources and technologies to secure their borders, transnational crime remains a big problem. One possible explanation is that criminals are also using innovative ways to outmaneuver the border security measures (Willoughby 2003, 114). In the same breath, countries are using different border security measures owing to their dissimilar economic capabilities and technology advancement. For example, Mexico cannot apply the same border security measures as the United States since it does not quite have the resources and technology. Therefore, transnational criminals will strive to enter Mexico first. From Mexico, they can find several ways of entering the US illegally (von Hlatky & Trisko 2012, 65).
The case of Mexico and the US demonstrate why international security has become a challenging issue. Organized criminals nowadays use less developed countries to enter neighboring developed countries. Therefore, as long as countries within a particular region collaborate and use effective and identical border security policies and systems, international security will remain a persistent problem. In order to deal with transnational illegal activities such as human trafficking, drug dealing, terrorism and organized crime, it is essential that countries within a particular region empower each other so that to have equal authority and capabilities to protect their borders (Tagliacozzo 2001, 255). Any loophole in any country poses a threat since it would be used to carry out violent activities.
Mass or irregular migration as well as forced displacement have posed another challenge to border security and human security. With countries such as Syria, Ukraine and the Central African Republic embroiled in fighting, it is only natural that some members of the population would escape the fighting by seeking refuge in another country. In other cases, people run away from tough economic conditions in their home countries. Humanitarian principles dictate that such persons cannot be turned away. However, some of these refugees may start criminal activities in order to attain the kind of lifestyle that they had been used to. In the recent past, France and England have recorded increased criminal activities carried out by foreigners from countries undergoing tough economic times.
Insurgencies and organized crime are posing great danger to the contemporary society. Many countries are grappling with small groups that want to control a territory that they feel should belong to them. However, I believe that most of these groups could be neutralized if their respective governments offered them effective public services that they need. On the other hand, transnational organized crime would be better addressed if countries collaborated their border security systems to ensure equality in implementation. I believe that if neighboring countries continue to use different tactics, criminals would use less stringent borders to carry out their attacks.
Harris, A.W. 2010, “Coming to Terms with Separatist Insurgencies”, Negotiation Journal, vol. 26, no. 3, pp. 327-356.
Kress, M. & Szechtman, R. 2009, “Why Defeating Insurgencies Is Hard: The Effect of Intelligence in Counterinsurgency Operations-A Best-Case Scenario”, Operations research, vol. 57, no. 3, pp. 578-585,796-798.
Muckian, M.J. 2007, “Structural Vulnerabilities of Networked Insurgencies: Adapting to the New Adversary”, Parameters, vol. 36, no. 4, pp. 14-25.
Nwosu, C., Batalova, J., Auclair, G. 2014. Frequently Requested Statistics on Immigrants and Immigration in the United States.
Phillips, A. 2010, “The Protestant ethic and the spirit of jihadism – transnational religious insurgencies and the transformation of international orders,” Review of International Studies, vol. 36, no. 2, pp. 257-280.
Tagliacozzo, E. 2001, “Border permeability and the state in Southeast Asia: Contraband and regional security”, Contemporary Southeast Asia, vol. 23, no. 2, pp. 254-274.
von Hlatky, S. & Trisko, J.N. 2012, “Sharing the Burden of the Border: Layered Security Co-operation and the Canada-US Frontier”, Canadian Journal of Political Science, vol. 45, no. 1, pp. 63-88.
Willoughby, R. 2003, “Crouching Fox, Hidden Eagle: Drug trafficking and transnational security – A perspective from the Tijuana-San Diego border”, Crime, Law and