Andrew M. Dorman, Joyce P. Kaufman, eds. Providing for National Security: A Comparative Analysis. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2014. 338 pp. $27.95 (paper), ISBN 978-0-8047-9155-7; $90.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-8047-9066-6.
Reviewed by Robert J. Smith (Air War College)
Published on H-War (February, 2015)
Commissioned by Margaret Sankey (Air War College)
The editors of this work, Andrew M. Dorman and Joyce P. Kaufman, undertook a massive task. They examine how national security is conceptualized and provided in a variety of countries, with two goals: to increase understanding of national security and of the future utility of force. The book does a good job on the first goal, facilitating knowledge of how a country’s national security is both individual, because each has unique circumstances, and communal, in that it is dependent on the larger international environment. While it does an admirable job with the second goal, and the conclusion supports an assessment that force (military power) will be the go-to solution for national security, the multitude of references throughout the work to non-force solutions and to concerns that do not lend themselves to force as an answer make me wish more had been done to address why force continues to be the go-to response.
The book looks at thirteen countries: four groups of three countries and then the United States examined independently. Rather than looking at the world geographically, the editors chose to partition the world by typology: the Old World (old Europe, in particular France, Germany, and the United Kingdom); the new twentieth-century world (Australia, Canada, and Japan); the (re-)emerging twenty-first-century world (China, India, and Russia); and potentially (re-)emerging states (Nigeria, South Korea, and Turkey). The care with which each of the countries is selected is obvious. All should have significant roles in global security in the coming years. They are also representative of a wide variety of issues, structures, and constraints challenging national security planners and decision makers. The contributors to the volume are given wide latitude in addressing these factors for their specific country. This freedom allows the authors to cover the major concerns affecting their country of study. However, it also means that the information is not consistent across chapters. This is demonstrated, for example, by the inclusion of a subsection on the rise of China in the US chapter but little mention of the United States, other than as a foil in local, Taiwanese, and freedom of navigation concerns, in the China chapter. In the final section, the editors try to mitigate this disconnect by comparing the countries within each group and then examining similarities and differences across the groups. This creates a work in which each of the chapters offers a narrative, often compelling, about national security considerations and processes for that country, but there is little to weave the chapters into a single structure within their group or globally.
It is only in the final section where the book’s subtitle, “A Comparative Analysis,” comes into play. After clearly developing how thirteen individual countries with various amounts of hard and soft power and in varying stages of development address national security on distinct terms, the editors then present a conclusion which demonstrates that national security considerations are, in fact, similar for all. Each, regardless of typology, is faced with questions of identity, balancing internal security with external power projection, a relationship with the United States, economic concerns (both as power and resource), and some regional focus. Much, but not all, of this is laid out in the reflections across case studies. The editors’ conclusion that “the world is a less safe place” is somewhat of an unsatisfying answer, particularly given the limited discussion of how it could be made a safer one (p. 281). I would have appreciated a more analytical discussion on how we might expect unaddressed issues—such as terrorism, economic instability, resource battles (“wars” is the term used in the conclusion [p. 282]), the blurred line between domestic and international security, and emerging threats like cyber security—could be considered by the countries, given the unique circumstances of each.
In their final paragraph, the editors note that, despite all the changes in the international environment and all the effort expended to find reactions other than violence to address security concerns, “national security remains largely measured in terms of so-called hard power.... There remains uniform agreement that ... the more significant a state is the greater this [its military] capability should be” (p. 287). However, as many of the authors explain, national security has moved well beyond a traditional view of threat and in the twenty-first century requires responses well beyond military force. Kaufman makes this point in her chapter on the United States where she writes that the country must “adjust its thinking about what ‘security’ means” and stop thinking about military means as the primary response (p. 30). While beyond the scope of this book, the work clearly demonstrates the need for additional scholarship in these areas.
This book fits into a nice niche in both national security and more general policymaking literature. Through the individual country analyses, readers, both academic and practitioner, will develop a fuller understanding of the evolving priorities that must be addressed when developing, providing, and sustaining a country’s national security. I recommend this book to instructors who want their students to understand how culture and history influence and inform an individual country’s decision making and to desk officers and decision makers who need to understand that different countries address policy complexity in potentially very different ways.
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Robert J. Smith. Review of Dorman, Andrew M.; Kaufman, Joyce P., eds., Providing for National Security: A Comparative Analysis.
H-War, H-Net Reviews.
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