Perceptions of Hard Security Issues in the Arab World

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During the last half century, Western literature on International Relations has developed a number of dichotomies, the most important of which have been the high politics vs. low politics, geopolitics vs. geoeconomics, old security threats vs. new security threats, and the hard security vs. soft security dichotomies. These dichotomies are based on the assumption that it is possible to dissect the elements of the dichotomy, at least temporarily, and to focus on its second element, which will eventually influence the first in a positive way. For example, one of the most significant conventional arguments of the functional theory of integration has been that cooperation in the area of low politics may spill over to high politics. In the age of globalization, some theorists have argued that geo-economics has surpassed geo-politics, and that emphasis on the geo-economic issues will facilitate dealing with geo-political ones. In the same vein, one of the main dichotomies has been between ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ security. Whereas hard security refers to the military aspect of security, and deals with issues associated with territorial control, use of military weapons especially those of mass destruction, and terrorism, soft security addresses the non-military dimension of security, and is associated with issues related to the environment, energy, drugs, technology, and population. It is assumed that each type of security entails different priorities, and tools. This distinction between hard and soft security mainly emerged after the end of the Cold War in the context of the end of the Soviet threat to the West. This meant the decline of ‘hard security threats’ to the West, and the shift of attention towards soft security issues. However, this was not the case in other regional areas where hard security threats became more dominant and acute.

The objective of this chapter is to review Arab perceptions of hard security issues at the governmental and non-governmental levels with a view of comparing them, identifying elements of change and continuity of these perceptions, and assessing their implications for security in the Arab world and the Middle East. This review is based on the assumption that perceptions influence the prospects of regional stability and conflict resolution.


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