Civil War and Security Dilemma Essay

A security dilemma is a situation in which each party’s efforts to increase its own security reduce the security of the others. This situation occurs when geographical, technological, or other strategic conditions render aggression the most advantageous form of self-defence.
It is often difficult to separate security-driven and predatory motivations, since long-term fears may drive security seekers to take every opportunity to exploit others in an effort to build up their reserve of strategic resources even when they face no immediate security threats.

Fearon and Laitin (1996 APSR): violent ethnic conflict within states is rare; it often requires the disintegration of the state to set in motion the forces that lead to widespread ethnic conflict.

The security dilemma evaporates if the best defence is not a good offence but simply a good defence; if so, everyone can be secure simultaneously. This can be achieved by making the contending groups more compact geographically, by evening out imbalances of power and dramatic shifts in relative power, by deploying weapons that are most useful in positional defence and least useful in attack.

Power-sharing reifies the contending groups and ensures that all political mobilization must take place within the framework of the rival segments. Moreover, since power-sharing eschews the full participation of the polity in favour of continued political and economic integration, it perpetuates the mutual interdependencies and vulnerabilities that heighten the security dilemma.

The purest type of security dilemma is a situation in which security is the overriding objective of all of the protagonists, yet attempts by one party to increase its security reduce the security of the others. At the opposite end of the spectrum, some conflicts may be driven entirely by the desire of one or both parties to exploit or dominate the other for reasons that would not diminish even if security were not in jeopardy. In between are a variety of situations in which security and nonsecurity motives are both present.

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They argue that the security dilemma often tends to turn even security-driven actors into predators, defined as actors who prefer exploiting others to cooperating with them, even when short-run security threats are small. Thus, the security dilemma gives rise to predators, and predation intensifies the security dilemma.

Authors in the volume argue that predatory strategies can create, exacerbate, or take advantage of the security dilemma in yet another sense. That is, leaders often try to manipulate security concerns in order to solidify their positions and extract additional resources from society. To strengthen their hold on their followers, they may incite conflicts that make the latter more vulnerable and entice or force them to join in the enterprise of collective “self-defence”.

Kaufman 1996 argues that once inimical identities are hardened as a result of intense ethnic rivalry, it may not matter whether the strategic competition between them was triggered by a mere social construction.

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