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Transforming our vision of security

Admiral Giampaolo di Paola gives an Italian view of transformation.

Working together: Integrated and holistic approaches are needed to face the globalisation of insecurity and the drivers causing revolutions (© ISAF)

Although history continuously evolves, occasionally the pace of evolutionary change is so great that evolution becomes revolution, a phenomenon that changes well-established situations in an unpredictable, deep and irreversible manner. Throughout the centuries, evolution and revolution have characterised security scenarios, security concepts and the nature of conflicts. During the modern era, examples of revolutions with a military character include:

  • the building of nation-states after the Treaty of Westphalia;
  • the Napoleonic wars, when the confrontation between armies switched to a confrontation between nations;
  • the so-called industrialisation of warfare during World War I; and
  • the introduction of atomic weapons at the end of World War II, which resulted in the paradox of a conflict made impossible by the extreme consequences of its own effects (Mutually Assured Destruction).

Revolutions in the security environment share many common characteristics. First of all, they are characterised by an incubation period and by an often spectacular event, which is recognised - usually at a later stage - as the event that triggered the revolution. A second characteristic is the changing drivers which, in almost every revolution, are political, social, economic and technological and only partly military. Finally, one of the most complex aspects is the fact that not everything changes during a revolutionary phase: Many elements undergo major changes, while others do not change at all. The risk for those facing the revolutionary process lies in being unable to recognise until it is too late, which elements are changing and which are not.

Experience is a winning tool during periods of evolution. On the other hand, during a revolutionary phase, experience could prove to be not only a restraint, but could also lead to incorrect and dangerous evaluations due to the fact that it focuses more on conservation than on innovation. What was validated by experience during past revolutionary times may no longer be valid. It is therefore essential to act bravely, taking risks in the face of rapidly changing circumstances.

We are increasingly operating not only "against" someone or "in favour" of someone but also "among" them; often opponents are part of what has to be stabilised

When a revolution involves the security environment, life becomes very complicated and difficult. To rapidly modify a risk perception, to redefine well-known reference points, to produce coherent new strategies across government and to provide proper responses to all manner of threats are all difficult tasks for governments or organisations. Even the most complex or comprehensive of organisations would struggle to avoid making wrong choices or getting bogged down in details.

Drivers of change

We are currently living in one of these revolutionary periods in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States, an act that will remain known in history and in our collective memory as the event that initiated and characterised the new revolution.

The causes, like those of other revolutions, are very complex and can be found in the drivers that are changing the world:

  • the increasing gap between the developed and the underdeveloped world, which is causing an increasingly deep global divide between those with good prospects for increasing their wealth and those for whom the lack of any prospects makes it difficult for them to relate to their fundamental values;
  • the proliferation of technology, and more especially of information technology, the expansion of which is creating a giant divide between those who can access the digital world and those who cannot; and
  • the link between globalisation and interconnectivity that has caused an information explosion and is further shrinking the world.

To these causes can also be added the loss of sovereignty that is developing in two directions:

  • the first direction, a positive one, tends to modify the sovereign structure of states, reducing their power and their influence by moving towards wider and differentiated supranational aggregations; and
  • the second, negative, direction is towards bad governance: the decay of a state's ability to either handle its citizens' lives or its interstate relations, with all the consequences. This can lead - in the worst case - to the rise of criminal organisations which possess the capability to destabilise the situation by using violence and whose consequences are well known: ethnic-social-religious conflicts, terrorism, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

Core versus gap

All these factors tend to consolidate an integrated core of advanced nations which is globalised and has access to technology, while further marginalizing a disconnected periphery of poor and sometimes fragile states whose citizens have fewer and fewer opportunities to seize. This is the globalised core, including North America, Europe, Russia, China, Japan, South Korea, India and Australia that is highly connected economically and politically. The disconnected gap, by contrast, includes parts of the Balkans and Asia, North Korea, much of Africa (excluding for example South Africa), and the Central Western part of South America.

Close observation reveals that instability and present and future crises tend to occur in the belt containing the contact areas between these two contrasting geo-political entities. This belt runs through Europe and Asia, in some places reaching areas that lie very close to the Mediterranean Sea and EU territory. It also borders areas that are strategically important due to the presence of oil reserves and, especially in the Pacific area, of vital lines of communication for the world maritime trade.

In addition, in the current period of minimal state-to-state military confrontation compared to the war and peace of the last century, publics tend to perceive risks and insecurity to be much higher than during the nuclear confrontation of the Cold War.

Holistic approach

Facing this revolution in the security environment, there is a need for a revolutionary change in our approach to the basic concept of security: this is the first major transformation challenge we have to face. In order to face the globalisation of security and the drivers causing the revolution, we need to act in an integrated and holistic manner.

On the conceptual level, we should, first of all, be aware of the reduced weight of individual states when facing security issues and of the increasing role of international organisations like the UN, NATO, the EU, and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. We need to be similarly aware that the role of many other actors, such as non-governmental organisations and corporations, will increase.

In addition, with reference to the typology of the new risks and threats, we need to understand that the concept of security increasingly implies a world without borders in which internal and external security are no longer separated.

Multilateralism and an internal-external continuum need to be the basis for a new holistic and integrated approach that synergises capabilities, methodologies and tools. In order to face this revolution, we need to pursue more proactive strategies based on multinational and multidisciplinary stabilisation from the integrated core towards the disconnected gap.

This strategy will need to rely on the widest possible choice of tools and on the synergy between the political, diplomatic and socio-economic aspects of good governance, supported, where and when necessary, by a military component. This strategy requires a collective commitment and effort by the international community.

If it is self-evident that the Western world is called upon to lead the stabilisation process, it is similarly self-evident that a strong contribution should come from integrated members of the globalised core.

Even the United States, the reference point for stability and security at the global level, is perfectly aware that it cannot operate alone. The trend in Western countries towards using multinational security structures - NATO and the EU - to face the new global risks, with the resulting loss of sovereignty, makes it essential for these structures to evolve and structure themselves for an approach that is increasingly global.

Alliance transformation

This does not imply that NATO and the EU will intervene anywhere in the world; on the contrary, actions will be determined by the specific strategic situation and by political consensus.

The Alliance will have to:

  • give more consideration to the opportunities implicit in Article 4 of the North Atlantic Treaty that makes NATO a forum for consultations with other actors;
  • optimise decision-making processes and create the most efficient mechanisms in order to increase the availability of forces in line with transformation and usability concepts;
  • rethink partnership structures to make them more synergistic and more global;
  • deepen cooperation with Asian and Pacific countries, not with a view to being a future global actor, but towards considering possible interventions to support member countries' collective security interests, interacting, if and when necessary, within wide coalitions.

If NATO is, on the one hand, the politico-military incarnation of the transatlantic Alliance, the EU, on the other hand, needs to get ready to be a prominent actor dealing with transition and instability. This is possible because the EU has the requisite political-economic tools and, through the growth of the European Security and Defence Policy, is building its own collective security and military component to manage this insecurity. This is the path to Europe's future. Strong political support and the consolidation of a real capability for developing a common foreign and trade policy must go hand in hand with the development of the military dimension.

In addition, inside the core, another driver is operating whose effects most probably will produce another acceleration of the evolution in global security. There has been spectacular growth of some actors, specifically in Asia. China and India will reach and overtake many of the currently rich countries, which will have consequences on security and stability.

In the near future, greater multipolarity will not mean a return of military confrontation. Interaction between the core and the gap will be the area of highest risk. On the other hand, interrelations and counterweights between the core centres and their security aggregations could decisively influence the way we face risks in the future, specifically counter-proliferation, with possible crises already a reality.

Military transformation

Among the available tools, the military component is sometimes a decisive option in a wide range of situations including preventive diplomacy, crisis management, humanitarian, peacekeeping and peace-enforcing missions, as well as stabilisation operations and post-conflict reconstruction. Military intervention is essential in crises which have deteriorated, but in many other scenarios - even low or very low risk - military forces provide the essential security environment for a wide range of initiatives, including civilian ones.

It is essential to understand how the revolution in the security situation is having a similar revolutionary impact on the nature of operations. Current operations are a good example. Nowadays, military operations do not necessarily end with the defeat of opposing forces, but continue with stabilisation and reconstruction phases. Typically these long, complex and difficult phases, aimed at dealing with the causes of destabilisation, are crucial for the achievement of political-strategic goals. During these phases, military forces are called on not only to achieve and maintain an essential minimum level of security but also to provide a direct and often decisive contribution while interacting with the local population in complex ways during a crisis.

Nowadays, we are increasingly operating not only "against" someone or "in favour" of someone but also "among" them; often opponents are part of what has to be stabilised. This means that prevailing in "enforcing" interventions is no longer sufficient to achieve political-strategic goals. When required, the use of force needs to be proportionate, selective, efficient and rapidly decisive. We need, first of all, the ability to know quickly and if possible in advance what is going on in any given situation. In addition, we need to be able to monitor the areas where risks and crises can develop, in order to spot and prevent them before they explode, so that we can adopt all necessary measures to avoid true crises. If crises arise, we must be able to contain the areas of insurgency rather than waiting for them to spread until they reach our countries.

Where we are called on to intervene, it is essential that we possess the ability to differentiate destabilising factors and to set up the conditions to overcome them. The enemy is part of the same society we need to stabilise, so classic military concepts need to be revolutionised accordingly. Capabilities, methodologies and intervention tools must be developed with concepts based on the achievement of effects in line with the desired goals. This entails creating network-centric architectures which bring together sensors, information, decision-makers, operators, tools and everything that could increase the chances of mission success.

This new approach to the security concept is called transformation, a conceptual and innovative revolution involving all sectors: organisation, structure, formation and training, capabilities, concepts and doctrine for the employment of military forces.

If the conceptual shift to respond to new challenges is based on multinational and interdisciplinary synergy, with the capability to achieve the desired political and military effects, then this transformation must achieve:

  • multinational and interdisciplinary interoperability;
  • joint integration;
  • expeditionary capabilities (to be developed through a force structure that must be agile, flexible, modular, rapidly deployable and sustainable even at great distances);
  • information superiority;
  • network-centric capabilities;
  • effective engagement and force protection capabilities; and
  • advanced civil-military cooperation capabilities.

In line with these trends, the Italian armed forces are accelerating their recently-begun transformation to give them fully joint assets, interoperability with allies, and high usability and deployability. The goal is to continue to contribute to international security organisations, which are our country's reference points, keeping our standards and quality up to those of our European partners, of which operational capability and usability are non-negotiable priority requirements.

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