Sei sulla pagina 1di 8









Martijn Dekker and Mient Jan Faber 1

Since Thomas Hobbes wrote his famous work Leviathan, 2 we are all aware of the importance of the state as the constitutional framework needed for citizens to live in peace together. The natural state of man — described by Hobbes as a war of all against all — has been pacified through a contract between the citizen and the Leviathan (sovereign, state), where the latter guarantees the former a certain degree of freedom which, however, should not undermine the necessary security and ability of the state to uphold law and order. In other words, state security and individual freedom are inversely proportional to each other. More security for the state implies less freedom for the individual, and vice versa. All the states of the world can be positioned on a freedom-security scale, extending from total freedom (for the individual) and total insecurity (for the state) at the one end towards total security (for the state) and no freedom at all (for the individual) at the other end. Somewhere in the middle, the right balance between state security and individual freedom can be found. In this paper, the two extremes will be called the Hobbesian State and the Orwellian State, respectively. The Hobbesian state is thus characterized by a war of all against all, while in the Orwellian state Big Brother (Leviathan) is watching you, wherever you go. For Hobbes the ultimate answer to the Hobbesian state was the Orwellian state. For others, sometimes the opposite is also true, as we will argue in this paper. Human security is neither guaranteed in a Hobbesian state nor in an Orwellian state. Indeed, if human security entails both freedom from want and freedom from fear 3 then it includes human rights as well. In an Orwellian state, there are no human rights. In his famous book 1984, 4 Orwell describes a world in which there is no individual freedom left. ‘The telescreen received and transmitted simultaneously. Any sound that Winston made, above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it; moreover, so long as he remained within the field of vision which the metal

1 Martijn Dekker studied social anthropology and has conducted research on non-violent resistance and community development on the Palestinian West Bank. Currently he is carrying out his PhD research on civilian initiatives in war situations, i.e. human security from below. Mient Jan Faber is Professor of ‘human security in war situations’ at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam. He has been the Secretary General of the Interchurch Peace Council (IKV) for 30 years and has regularly visited war regions.
2 Hobbes, T. (1651, 1968) Leviathan, edited by Macpershon, C.B. Middlesex: Penguin Books Ltd.
3 UNDP (‘94) Human Development Report 1994. New York/Oxford: Oxford University Press.
4 Orwell, G. (1948, 1990) Nineteen Eighty-Four. Penguin Books.

Human security from below in a Hobbesian environment


plaque commanded, he could be seen as well as heard. There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live — did live, from habit that became instinct — in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and except in darkness, every movement scrutinised.’ 5 In an Orwellian state the state is everywhere, while in a Hobbesian state the state is nowhere. Obviously, the Hobbesian state is not a real state; it is a state without functioning state institutions, a weak or fragile state at best. The real state that might have existed before is imploded by internal forces or exploded by external forces. When there is no state left, various groups take the opportunity to satisfy their primary instincts. These may include thieves, thugs, criminals, terrorists, separatists, sectarianists, extremists, fanatics, rebels, and so on, who, often organised in gangs, militias, insurgencies, cells, etcetera, are fighting whoever comes in their way. Iraq is a recent example of an almost Orwellian state that was transformed by an external explosion into an almost Hobbesian state. Indeed, the brutal regime of Saddam Hussein was spying on every human being who might be considered a risk to the state. A young theatre student from Baghdad recalled how her team prepared a play for which she herself had written the script. It was a careful mixture of Ionesco’s Renoceros and Pinter’s Silence, both of which were on the regime censor’s list. The first performances by the team at the university theatre were attended by a highly enthusiastic young audience. But then the secret police intervened and arrested the players. They disappeared. And nobody knows what happened to them. The removal of the Saddam regime forced the Iraqi people to be free 6 without a (mild) Leviathan to control them. In other words, the old regime was not replaced by a solid new successor, able to keep the country at peace. President Bush’s famous adagium: ‘We don’t do nation building’ had disastrous consequences and, indeed, a war of all against all broke out, in which the American forces were just one among numerous other warmongers.

Security and identity politics In cases of state collapse, the people who were not able to flee quickly seem to fall back to the Hobbesian state of nature — back to the phase in which they start to build new security communities, with new power structures. Where people have no faith in a weak substitute state as their new ruling power and source of security, they tend to focus more on religious, ethnic and local ties to form new social contracts on another, often more localised, level — a phenomenon that is

5 Ibid:4

6 Applbaum, A. (2005) Forcing a People to Be Free, Paper presented at the Intervention Seminar, Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, Spring 2005.

Security and Human Rights 2008 no.1


Martijn Dekker en Mient Jan Faber

often referred to as ‘identity politics’. These processes also constitute the surge of ethnic violence and nationalism as seen in the former Soviet republics, the former Yugoslavia and several African countries, amongst others. Although these outbursts of violence can be traced back to pre-Soviet times, the First World War and the colonial era respectively, the direct cause was the collapse of existing political structures and the subsequent emergence of rival social groups, due to the urge of people to form their own groups of like-minded citizens in order to feel more secure. The result is a variety of security zones spread all over the country. 7 There are scholars who assert that the emergence of rival social groups is part of the larger process we have come to know as ‘globalisation’, 8 but that in itself would be too incomplete an explanation. For they might help to explain the outrage caused by the Danish ‘cartoon incident’, but they do not count for the unbelievably fierce struggles within and between villages or neighbouring tribes that previously coexisted more or less peacefully. In From Beirut to Jerusalem, Thomas Friedman 9 describes this process, giving an eye-witness account of Lebanese society falling apart in a myriad of micro-societies. The city he lived in, Beirut, was heavily fragmented and consisted of separate neighbourhoods held together by religious, family and friendship ties. When, during the civil war in the 1970s and 1980s, the Lebanese government and national institutions ceased to function and the security situation spiralled downwards, people immediately reacted by organising themselves in local communities within security zones. These local groups were able to provide people with a sense of security, where state institutions were not. 10 In war situations 11 , when security is no longer entrusted to the sovereign power, people thus tend to take matters into their own hands. Instead of the top- down approach and the state’s monopoly on the use of force, a new method to ensure security is adopted: human security from below. The aim is still ‘freedom from fear and freedom from want’, so in that sense the end terms do not differ from those of UN or national human security operations. The addition ‘from below’ merely means that these initiatives are instigated by people, groups of people, or communities on a sub-state level, ranging from regions, cities and

7 Dekker, M. and Faber, M.J. (2008) ‘Winning the hearts and minds of the foreign protectors’, in: Gelijn Molier and Eva Nieuwenhuys (eds) Reconstruction after Violent Conflicts. Leiden:

Brill Academic Publishers (in press). 8 Castells, M.(1997) The Power of Identity. (Volume 2 of The Information Age: economy, society and culture.) Oxford: Blackwell; Huntington, S. (1997) The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of the World Order. London: Touchstone; Kaldor, M. (2006) New and Old Wars, Organized Violence in a Global Era. 2 nd edition, Cambridge: Polity Press. 9 Friedman, T. (1989, 1990) From Beirut to Jerusalem, First Anchor Books Edition, New York: HarperCollins Publishers. 10 Ibid: 51-56 11 Normally, a war situation occurs when the number of casualties due to the fighting is over 1000 per year.

Security and Human Rights 2008 no.1

Human security from below in a Hobbesian environment


neighbourhoods to small, local organisations or even extended families and individuals. They do have a common feature: the people belonging to the group or community share a common identity. They initiate security zones and the main characteristics of these self-organised security zones are this group identity, and also political interest and often well-marked geographical and social borders. Indeed, the particular identity shared by the inhabitants of the zone creates trust among them and forms the basis for their new social contract. This shared identity can be a religion, tribal background, common professions, or another common value system. Moreover, they also share an overriding political interest, which is physical security — in other words, to be protected against an external enemy. The overriding political interest, physical security, may be what brought people together, but the group identity cements the self-organised security zone. Obviously, individual members of the group do have several other identities than the unifying group identity, but those should not undermine the one that keeps the community together, although they can sometimes look at odds with it. A striking example is a KLA fighter 12 from Mitrovica, Kosovo, whose nickname was ‘the Computer’ because he was the best sniper from his unit. When he received the news that Arkan, a notorious Serbian paramilitary leader with an extensive war crimes record, had been murdered in January 2000, he burst into tears. The reason was that ‘the Computer’ was engaged in one of the many illegal business networks in the Balkans where he had met Arkan in lucrative deals. The business network was what they had in common, although in the end it was subordinated to their national identities. Both were ready to kill each other, but not during business, so he explained. 13

Different levels of Human security Human security from below is paramount on three levels 14 . Each conflict obviously has its own dynamics, so the presence of security initiatives on each level differs, but on the whole, they can all be placed under one of the following categories. The first level is self-protection. When people are threatened by physical dangers, numerous activities are undertaken to improve the security situation. While fleeing may often seem the best option in such a situation, some people stay put, whether willingly or not, and are forced to protect their family, community, neighbourhood, or even their village, city, or larger geographical

12 KLA stands for Kosovo Liberation Army. 13 Dekker, M. and Faber, M.J. (2008) ‘Winning the hearts and minds of the foreign protectors’, in: Gelijn Molier and Eva Nieuwenhuys (eds) Reconstruction after Violent Conflicts. Leiden:

Brill Academic Publishers (in press). 14 Faber, M.J. (2008) ‘Human Security from Below; Freedom from Fear and Lifeline Operations’, in: Monica de Boer and Jaap de Wilde (eds) The Viability of Human Security. From Concept to Practice. 147-172. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.

Security and Human Rights 2008 no.1


Martijn Dekker en Mient Jan Faber

area. Security measures include, for instance, ‘emergency schools for the children, neighbourhood protection by vigilance units, emergency care, communication with the outside world, etc.’ 15 In Baghdad, whole neighbourhoods, like Sadr city, are not only cleansed ethnically and on a sectarian basis, but the inhabitants have organised their own security systems with institutions like the traffic police consisting of teenagers, many of them under the age of fifteen, or the Mahdi army patrolling the area. These groups often prevent official national police units from entering, since nobody trusts them. 16 Sadr city has become a self-organised security zone. An example of a state-organised security zone was the UN safe area of Srebrenica, which started out as a self-organised security zone. The common identity of the overwhelming majority of the inhabitants was being Muslim refugees and their shared goal was to keep the Bosnian Serb army out. They were temporarily successful, but at the beginning of 1993 they were seriously threatened with annihilation. The Bosnian Muslim government cried wolf and upgraded the local fighters to an official division of the national army, which, however, did not make a great difference in terms of human security - the added value from above, the state, was negligible. The locals themselves then forced the UN(PROFOR) 17 — Canbat and thereafter Dutchbat — to protect them against the Bosnian Serbs. Thus, the UN upgraded the self-organised security zone to a state- organised security zone. The borders of the so-called UN safe area of Srebrenica were marked by UN observation posts. The second level of human security from below is horizontal protection. In war situations, it is very important for people to be connected to so-called lifelines, in particular with non-state actors. Concerning ‘freedom from want’, humanitarian organisations of all kinds will try to connect with (besieged) people in war zones and provide them with food and medicines. Addressing ‘freedom from fear’, however, is more complicated. Obviously, for people in war situations it is essential to be in touch with the free world in order to sustain hope that one day the war will be over. Today, there are a growing number of lifelines that address ‘freedom of fear’ problems, including email networks, activists acting as messengers or couriers, radio broadcasts, and others. 18 Such lifeline operations, which we call horizontal protection, have been present since time immemorial and are applied in each and every war situation. They have become a new focus point for peace and human rights activists:

citizens protecting citizens. 19 But besides these peace activists, groups like Al

15 Ibid:154

16 Faber, M.J. (2006) Mission Report of a Visit to Baghdad, June 2006 (not published). 17 United Nations Protection Force 18 Faber, M.J. (2008) 19 Tongeren, P. van, Brenk, M., Hellema, M. and Verhoeven, J. (eds), People building Peace:

Successful Stories of Civil Society. Boulder, Colorado: Lynne Rienner Publishers.

Security and Human Rights 2008 no.1

Human security from below in a Hobbesian environment


Qaeda also supply people in need with means of protection. That these means are violent or maybe considered to be immoral by many people does not make a difference for the conceptualisation of horizontal protection, as its main characteristic is that it is initiated by non-state actors. Arms trafficking and even drugs trafficking, massively deployed during war situations, are also examples of horizontal protection. Diaspora communities are often the main agents in securing lifelines when their homelands are plunged into war. The third level is vertical protection. This refers to the interface between human security from below and human security from above. When state actors are challenged, or on their own initiative actively seek to cooperate with local actors from a security zone — enclave, neighbourhood, and so on — or with their companions from horizontal lifeline operations, we call this vertical protection. The UNHCR 20 , an international (state) organisation, frequently collaborated with civic lifeline activists. ‘During the wars in Yugoslavia (1991-1995), the UNHCR has shown a great interest in providing civic activists with identity cards enabling them to board on UN-planes and travel with UN-vehicles through war zones. Based on their reputation, some civic networks received the status of UNHCR implementing agencies, although they operated fully independent.’ 21 Sometimes state actors are even forced to deliver (human) security to a self- organised security zone. Indeed, the Muslim refugee community in Srebrenica actually took the UNPROFOR commander Morillon hostage and thus forced him to declare Srebrenica a UN-protected safe area, whereupon the UNSC declared Srebrenica a UN safe area. 22 To bring about an interface between self-protection and human security from above, external forces are very much needed, like for instance (favourable) international public opinion, the earlier-mentioned lifelines, an active diaspora community and so on. However, these forces are often not sufficient. There is no organic relationship between human security from below and human security from above, certainly not where state security is concerned, for the obvious reason that in a war situation the state does not function as it should do vis-à-vis its citizens. It is unable or unwilling to provide human security (from above), which is why people have to look for self-protection or are forced, either willingly or not, to cooperate with foreign actors. The success of this cooperation depends on many different factors and is unfortunately difficult to predict beforehand. An example of the local-foreign interface is the cooperation between Sunni tribes and the US army in parts of Iraq. There, sworn enemies were fighting shoulder to shoulder against their common enemy Al Qaeda — an alliance of convenience based on the adagium ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’. In an

20 The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees 21 Faber, M.J. (2008), pp.156. 22 United Nations Security Council, resolution 819.

Security and Human Rights 2008 no.1


Martijn Dekker en Mient Jan Faber

area south of Baghdad, known as the ‘triangle of death’, Sunnis organised themselves into neighbourhood watch groups, branded by the Americans as ‘Concerned Local Citizens’. They are now supported by the Americans, who hope to integrate them into the national police force. 23 In these cases, the interests of a human security from below initiative (tribe, neighbourhood) and a human security from above initiative (US) meet.

Foreign intervention It is important to realise that in a Hobbesian war foreign intervening actors run a high risk of becoming part of the problem instead of contributors to a solution. In such cases, the foreigners are plunged into a situation where, for a certain period of time, they will function as one among many warriors, with their own security zones and switching alliances with other warriors. Pacification, the overriding objective of the international community (foreigners), often cannot be accomplished through free and fair elections alone. A balance of forces between the security zones has to be reached, while obstinate and persistent spoilers, like terrorist groups, have to be eliminated. Indeed, for a certain time the international community becomes part of the problem, as shown in countries like Somalia, Sudan, Bosnia, Afghanistan, Iraq, and others. Only when the international coalition is able to strengthen its position by creating powerful and sustainable alliances with local security communities or by deploying an overwhelming force of its own in order to get the upper hand, might it succeed in pacifying the situation and so enter a new period of consistent reconstruction. Forcing a people to be free by creating a Hobbesian situation and thereafter confronting the new situation with pacification strategies is an extremely difficult task. Part of the struggle is winning the hearts and minds of the locals. This is far from easy and always a quid pro quo business. Mistrust runs high in a Hobbesian state. When the Iraqi people were forced to be free in 2003, the American liberators were welcomed in Baghdad with the slogan ‘Liberation yes, Occupation no’. In other words, you have done a good job, thank you for that, now you can go. Immediately, various security zones emerged and only a few of them explicitly embraced the Americans. A wait-and-see attitude based on mutual suspicion was dominant in the first period and when the Americans failed to win the hearts and minds of the locals and vice versa, the war of all against all went on full steam ahead. Before the intervention, the Americans had made a half-hearted attempt to bring the main local opposition forces together and, of course, on their side, but it was by far not enough to prevent the total collapse of the state after the removal of Saddam. Even worse, a new local regime was not installed immediately, but left in the dark for quite some time. However, it is not only the Americans who

23 Gordon M.R. (2007) ‘Iraq hampers U.S. Bid to Widen Sunni Police Role’, The New York Times, October 28, 2007.

Security and Human Rights 2008 no.1

Human security from below in a Hobbesian environment


are to be blamed for that. Mutual distrust among the participants of the Round Tables that were organised by the Americans and the British in the year before the intervention prevailed and the price was paid soon after the intervention. The result was human security from below. The creation of various security zones in the cities and regions became the dominant, strategic trend and to a large extent determined the future configuration of the country.

Hearts and minds ‘Winning the hearts and minds’ of a local population in a conflict-ridden area seems to be the wrong approach to appeasement, while it is based on incorrect assumptions. As a foreign power you are not a non-partisan actor in the conflict, who can earn the trust of the warring parties and then convince them to stop fighting. Besides the difficulties of the incomprehensible situation that conflicts can be, it is also somewhat naïve to be fully convinced of one’s own capacities to bring peace. Bringing security is one thing, but the foreign troops have to secure themselves, too. No matter how much fire-power you bring with you and no matter how good your intentions are, being a foreign presence in a conflict situation means that you run risks. And to reduce these risks you have to cooperate with the local population — the people you are meant to protect. You are looking for allies to respond positively; allies with interests that may correspond with those of the foreigners at a certain moment. Whether this — often doubtful — alliance of convenience can be sustained for a longer period of time remains to be seen. The current counter-insurgency strategies in Iraq and Afghanistan very well resemble those used in the colonial era. The slight arrogance and patronising tone of the foreign protectors have also been heard before. But even when the foreign protectors clearly seem to be in charge, power relations are always a two-way street. US troops in Iraq, their Dutch colleagues in Afghanistan, and many others, have to be aware of the fact that ‘winning hearts and minds’ is not something they have an exclusive right to. The locals, too, are trying to gain the foreigners’ sympathy. The foreign troops are not impartial referees, but are actively engaged in a struggle for the pacification and reunification of a scattered society of which they have become part. Indeed, NATO’s Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Uruzgan is a Dutch security zone carrying out a ‘hearts and minds’ strategy in its surroundings. This strategy serves the self-security of the Dutch, first of all. And, it also hopes to pave the way for a more robust presence of national Afghan security forces (police and army), so far the only (dubious) allies of the Dutch in Uruzgan. It is a matter of time before it is possible to conclude whether or not this strategy is successful.

Security and Human Rights 2008 no.1