Monday, May 5, 2014


Security has been defined by Wolfers, “as a value which a nation can have more or less, which it can aspire to have in a greater or less measure”. (David A. Baldwin, p14). (Wolfers, National Security, p485). Bernard Brodie disagreed with this proposition of Wolfers as he considered security is not a matter of degree. To support his argument he quoted General Jacob L. Devers when he said “National Security is a condition which cannot be qualified. We shall either be secure or we shall be insecure. We cannot have partial security. If we are only half secure, we are not secure at all. (p14) (Bernard Brodie)
      David Baldwin took the position that security “has recently become something of a cottage industry” (p5). In other words it is ignored or neglected. Why did he take this position?
      Buzan made a proposition that “security at the individual level is related to security at the level of the State and the international system” (p3). Ulman, on the other hand took security from the perspectives of democracy and freedom, when he observed, “one way of moving toward a comprehensive definition of security is to ask what one would be willing to give up in order to obtain more security” (p8). 
      Both these propositions did not premise them on the understanding of what the “concept of security” is. Baldwin was of the view that this approach did not help in understanding what security is (p9). Baldwin puts it that “security as a policy objective and proceed to specifications for defining policies for pursuing that objective”. (Baldwin, p12). This will allow for the objective to be stated and the processes then can be put in place to attain the objective.
      Individuals, states and other social actors have differing values on what they consider as security which would include physical safety, economic welfare and autonomy, psychological well being (Ibid p14). 

      The concept of national security would traditionally include political independence and territorial integrity as the values that need to be protected (p13). Joseph Nye when asking about what Americans want most answered the question by stating “most want a sense of security – the absence of threats at home or abroad”. According to Nye American people share an interest in world order and they want their foreign policy to contain values on democracy, human rights or a sense of national pride. Realist FP scholars took the position that national interest should only be identified with strategic interest not values and disagree with moralising the concept. (National interest in determining foreign policy (p2)). 
      Furthermore, order is of fundamental importance to achieve the shared interests in security, economic well being and identity (p2). In an interdependent world, events in the external domain could have an impact on the domestic front. 

      Moving from the above stated premise, what states need to address are their security concerns, as they affect the national interests. Failure to do so could threaten the very survival and sovereignty of the States. However, due to the multidimensional changes and developments in international relations a broader definition of security has to be found. What’s obvious is that in the Post Cold War period the notion of national security cannot be limited to traditional military security that is to prepare against external aggression. Robert O’Neill (Security Challenges for South East Asia after the Cold War, “the nature of security issues has changed considerably from the more military confrontations of huge blocks to the more political, economic and social challenges” (p.16 – in his thesis on Master Degree) 

      Dr. Mahathir acknowledged the position of interdependence when he said, “We can no longer regard many of our problems today as specific to a country or region. The future prosperity of a country is very dependent on other countries as much as the problem or potential destruction of a country is dependent on other countries”.1(Govin Alagasari (1994). Mahathir : The Awakening, p22)
      K.N. Waltz suggests a different approach to studying the concept of security, namely the analysis should be centred on individuals, states and the international system (p170). Whilst Buzan developed the concept of security of Waltz. He concluded that the concept could best be served at all levels by a multi-layered approach. The security interest in this case could begin from the defence strategy to include all segments of the community to participate in the National Security. The national security policy could than be crafted based on self reliance to resolve conspicuous vulnerabilities be it in the political, economic, social or military arena of the state. Additionally there could be security grouping among a group of States (such as the FPDA). These could take the form of alliances and defense communities formalised, like Malaysia/US bilateral defence debate cooperation, establishments of zones of peace (ZOPFAN, TAC, SEANFWEZ), arm purchase arrangements, dispute settlement procedures and arms production and purchase agreement. At the highest level of the multilateral process there is the UN. The UN is the focus for dialogues, interactions and mechanism for creating peace and security international law and order. 
      Abdul Menem M. Al-Marhat talks about challenges faced by Third World countries in national security (p18). According to him there is a need to create a balance between multifaceted requisites of socioeconomic and political developments and the problems of maintaining internal stability and national defence. This is exactly what Malaysia did in profiling its security interest requirements. In this situation, it will not be sufficient just to emphasize on the international security threats from war and violence without taking into account the socioeconomic vulnerabilities to attain development and well being of its citizens. 
      In Malaysia, there is the imperative of maintaining national unity and harmony of its diverse community in term of race, religion and culture as well as establishing international cooperation as part of its national security strategy. The national unity and harmony factor will ensure cohesion for consensus building efforts for national integration. (As prescribed under Vision 2020). In order for the government to be sustainable and obtain legitimacy, it has to satisfy the needs and wants of its people, socially and politically. In this regard the policy option available is through induction of a national ideology and laws that will ensure order and political stability. Examples the (Sedition Act) or (Internal Security Act to sustain political stability and law and order). In a democratic system this approach is considered as coercion by means of oppressive laws that limits freedom and democracy. However, the outcome from it was the political stability and internal security. Security in this context was taken from the couple of the domestic, regional and international perspectives (p19). 
      Mohammad Ayob says like any other Third World country that possessed diversity, the domestic dimension of security plays a most significant role. Vulnerabilities left by itself can explode into internal strife and conflicts (May 13, 1969 racial riots). These internal conflicts can end up into interstate conflicts which may cause instability. In some instances it might bring about neighbouring countries to intervene in the internal affairs or under the international humanitarian law by major powers either unilaterally, which action would subsequently then be legitimized through the UNSC. (The bombing of Afghanistan and the invasion of Iraq by US/West and its coalition partners). In the era of Dr. Mahathir the NI and FP of Malaysia was strongly grounded on the principle of non-interference on the domestic affairs of another nation state. Malaysia also refused to accept the right of pre-emptive strike. The Civil War in Pakistan between East and West Pakistan, caused India to intervene. The conflict was finally resolved through the establishment of the state of Bangladesh. 
      William Asher and William H, talks about strategic planning based on a fixed interests, juxtaposed with a fixed environment, to craft a strategy taking into account the national interests subject to the constraints of the geopolitical environment. 
      Malaysia’s security interest, thus its strategy was based on the threats perception confronting it. These mostly involved non-traditional rather than traditional security threats. A comprehensive definition of national security to incorporate current developments had been suggested by Nayef Al Rodhan, under his “Multi Sum Security Principle” which states “in a globalised world, security can no longer be thought of as a zero sum game involving states alone. Global security, instead, has five dimensions that include human, environmental, national, transnational, transcultural security and therefore, global security and the security of any state or culture cannot be achieved without good governance at all levels that guarantees security through justice for all individuals, states and cultures. (Al Rodhan, Nayef R.F., The Five Dimensions of Global Security: Proposal for a Multi Sum Security Principle, LIT, 2007). 
      The “Multi Sum Security Principle” provides the most holistic approach towards understanding the meaning of national security as well as how global security can be maintained. It encompasses the internal as well as the external dynamics pertaining to traditional and non traditional security issues. Hans H. Indorf” said, “….for small states, the philosophical foundations of security must be viewed in the total context (p__). A small state cannot afford to get involved in conflict”. It is for this reason, Malaysia has always employed the tool of diplomacy, dialogue and third party mechanisms to resolve disputes on the overlapping claims such as in the case of Ligitan and Sipadan with Indonesia and Batu Puteh with Singapore. 
      Malaysia as a multiethnic, multicultural and multireligious nation is very sensitive to any forms of extremism. For example, the Al Mauna or the Al Arkam.  “But building a nation out of a diverse people with differing historical, ethnic, linguistic, religious, cultural and geographical backgrounds is something more than just fostering consensus on the basic character of a nation state. It involved fostering shared historical experiences: shared values; a feeling of common identity and shared destiny that transcends ethnic bonds without undermining ethnic identity, loyalty, commitment and an emotional attachment to the nation; and the flowering of distinctly national ethos .....”.2 (Govin Alagasari (1994). Mahathir : The Awakening, p119). Both, perceived and the real threat had been handled firmly and decisively in the name of security and stability. 

      Malaysia is also mindful of the presence of piracy on the high seas and regional waters. The maritime water that separates Peninsular Malaysia from Sabah and Sarawak is 600km long and the coast line of Sabah is 1400km long. Any security lapses can be costy. The Semporna and Lahad Datu aggression by terrorist group from Southern Philippines was a good example of this security lapses. For that matter any separatist movements or disgruntled groups in Southern Phillipines and Southern Thailand could pose security threats to Malaysia. In the rapid pace of Malaysia’s economic developments since the eighties and nineties, it had attracted a large number of legal as well as illegal immigrants seeking for employment and economic opportunities which already caused social problems to the country. This could also pose a security threat if not properly managed. 
      Malaysia’s security interest in the Mahathir era though not strongly focused on the traditional security issues, acknowledged the presence of a number of hot spots in the region that could change the security environment quickly. For example, overlapping claims in the South China Sea and Spratlys issue. China and other claimant states have agreed that the claims should be resolved peacefully through diplomacy and dialogue. The Code of Conduct on the South China Sea signed by all claimants is with the objective for maintaining status quo while a peaceful resolution are being worked out. But this is engulfed with a lot of difficulty and complex issues that need to be handled cautiously and prudently. Similarly the situation between Jepun and China Senkuku Island, in the Korean Peninsular and China – Taiwan issues are matters of concerns to Malaysia and other countries in the Asean region. Even though Mahathir had been vocal and critical about the negative effects of globalization on developing South Countries, he recognised that the process is unstoppable. 

      What Malaysia called for is a fairer and more equitable international system. It also acknowledged that the country had benefited from globalization. In the international politics realm, old conflicts between states and new ones (The Balkan War) caused resurface which lead to open conflicts. The other global security concerns in the non-traditional area is the threat of international terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. These are matters that could threaten international peace and security adversely affecting the regional, international and national security environment. 
      The economic and financial effects of globalization had hit harder on the developing South countries. East Asia suffered the most as a result of the financial crisis in 1997/98, which brought social misery and economic disaster as well as political instability. (Particularly in Thailand and Indonesia). Malaysia decided to pursue its own model in overcoming the financial crisis and succeeded. 
      Malaysia’s security interest requires it to formulate a security strategy, which is comprehensive and multilayered (Asian Security Practice, K.S. Nathan). Towards this end, Malaysia security interest would revolve around the factors of: 

1. Hanruh – a comprehensive security strategy undertaken through sustaining domestic social cohesion (national unity and harmony of its citizens) coupled with creating a stable regional environment. This is done through ASEAN, ARF and the Dialogue partners mechanisms and relationship. 

2. In its international relations, it considers diplomacy as the first line of defence. 

3. Adherence and commitment to the UN charter in promoting peace, security and development. (Its participation amongst others, in Bosnia, Lebanon are examples of its commitments). 

4. Encouragement of security dialogues to promote collective strategy (ARF). 

5. To promote CBM’s especially in the area of crisis management.

6. Military diplomacy through contacts, joint exercises, exchanges and training cooperation with US, Indonesia and Singapore. ‘

7. Promotion of bilateral and multilateral cooperation.

8. Modernization of the MAF – for defending national sovereignty which enhance national security. 

      When Mahathir announced his Vision 2020 on 28 February 1991 (Malaysia the Way Forward), the objective was for Malaysia to be a developed nation by that year. In this Vision, according to K.S. Nathan it has both the element of conception and strategy on the national security of Malaysia to create a united Malaysian nation, outward looking, the society has a strong moral and ethical values, to ensure that the state is democratic, liberal and tolerant, economically just and equitable, progressive and prosperous, and to develop an economy that is competitive, dynamic, robust and resilient. 

      This formulation of Vision 2020 contains the elements of a Realist, liberalist and constructivists combined together. This policy was premised on economic development policy based on values. 

In summary Malaysia’s security interest is hypothecated on the following security concept:

1. 1st Security Interest – Neutralizing Existential Threats – these are threats which threaten the very existence of Malaysia. Classic example is Confrontation when Indonesia threatened to Crush Malaysia as it was construed by Sukarno as a Western ploy to create hegemony and a neo-colonialist agenda. To neutralize in future such threats, based on NI, the FP maintains the Five-Power Defence Arrangement even during the rocky times in our relationship with UK and Australia. 

2. 2nd security interest – Neutralizing Potential Sources of Armed Conflict with other states – these are threats which may lead to armed conflict although they do not threaten Malaysia’s existence. Some examples are overlapping claims on the China Sea and Spratlys. Malaysia’s FP emphasizes (i) the respect for the rule of international law in resolving such claims e.g. Sipadan and Ligitan with Indonesia, Batu Puteh with Singapore where both countries agreed to refer the disputes to ICJ to resolve. (ii) using mutual economic benefit e.g. JDA with Thailand. One was decided in favour of Malaysia (Ligitan and Sipadan) and the other against it (Batu Puteh). 

3. 3rd Security Interest – Neutralizing Threats to the Existing Socio-Political Order in Malaysia – one classic case of this is the Communist Insurgency or the current threats from international terrorism. This did not threaten the sovereignty of Malaysia but it threatened the Constitutional system of the nation. The FP posture in this respect is to pro-actively stop potential sources of support for such threat. E.G. The government used our diplomatic relations with China to stop not just China’s aid to CPM but also to stop party to party ties between CCP and CPM. Also even during low points of bilateral relations between Malaysia and Singapore, it never let it affect the security cooperation with Singapore at the bilateral level and the arrangement under the FPDA. 

4. 4th Security Interest – Neutralizing Constraints on Malaysia freedom of action – Malaysia want to prevent domination of the region by any one big power as this will constraint our own freedom of action. “This interdependence must be viewed as an asset for the good and prosperity of all, not an opportunity and framework for manipulation and oppression by the stronger nations”.3 (Govin Alagasari (1994). Mahathir :

The Awakening (p22)). Mahathir was vocal on Western domination and hegemony. In this regard the FP promotes a diversity of ties. Whilst Malaysia has strained political relations with US, it allows the visits by US Navy ships even though it can be stridently against many aspects of US policies. Malaysia did not join other Asian countries in demanding repeated apologies from Japan, as Malaysia wants Japan to play an active role in Malaysia. Malaysia diversified its sources of defence procurements such as buying military assets from UK, US, France and Russia. 

The main security interest of Malaysia is to defend and protect its national interest. The subject of security interest is very much interrelated to maintaining political stability and the societal harmony of its multi ethnic, multi religion and multicultural foundation and structure of its society. The defence of these interests and the security of the nation is inseparable from the issue of sovereignty, territorial, integrity and the economic well being. 

Malaysia security interests are not limited to the traditional security threats but also include non-traditional security issues. What are the non-traditional security questions that Malaysia has to address? These include terrorism, illegal immigrants and piracy. It is a phenomena that persists in the region which involves inter states conflicts and disputes and geopolitical concerns. Non-traditional security issues can be from state and non-state actors. 

Unresolved issues during the post Cold War could cause instability if not properly managed. For peace, stability and prosperity to exist it requires state not only to rely on acting alone but acting in concert and cooperation regionally in order to defence potential tensions that could jeopardize the whole region’s security. It is for this reason that Malaysia places regionalism as pivotal instrument in its FP postures and actions consistent with its NI. Any form of threat whether emanating from traditional or non-traditional sources in the region could have negative and detrimental effects in this globalised and interdependent world to Malaysia’ security, economic development and well being. 

5. 5th Security Interest – Neutralizing threats by non-state actors – which included Jemaah Islamiah, Al-Mauna, Arqam etc. Based on its NI, the FP emphasized cooperation with its neighbour e.g. Singapore, Indonesia, Phillipines, etc to reduce or neutralize such threats. 

      Within the above framework Malaysia’s adherence and support of the UN, the concentric rings of Malaysia’s NI and FP in the Mahathir Era are prioritised accordingly. ASEAN and East Asia, UN, OIC, NAM and Commonwealth. This served Malaysia’s security interest in a practical and pragmatic way. 

1 comment:

  1. Assalammualaikum sir, may i know how TPP can help Malaysia in achieve its national security interest.