Shared Security–How?

EDITORIAL, 5 Oct 2020

#660 | Johan Galtung – TRANSCEND Media Service

“Shared security” sounds fine, sounds like “I feel secure because you feel secure, and vice versa”.

“Shared” has a good touch to it, something we have in common. Actually often referred to as “common security”.  Same thing.

“Security” has a military touch to it, not necessarily bad, but since the military is often used for attack in the name of security, their own, not shared, there is certainly a “how?” to be answered.

And that obviously depends on the end of the military; for what: for offense-attack, or for defense?  And it equally obviously depends on the means of the military, the type of arms and type of carriers.  A major focus has to be on the range of the carriers.

Is the range essentially within one’s own borders with sea and space limits, or so long that key military and key value–essentially population–on the other side can be targeted and destroyed?  Makes enormous difference; “range” should be key in all military discourse.

It also depends on the circumstances.  Artillery has long range; North Korea’s artillery can hit and demolish Seoul and more; Norwegian coastal artillery may have the same range but has only the sea to hit.

We associate short range with defense, but not long range with offense: depends on the intent.  However, in a tense situation bad intent is often assumed, and is added to the objectivity capability.  The “dilemma” of the balance of power approach to shared security. However, the solution of the dilemma is obvious: lower the range.

The other will feel secure since he cannot be attacked. But will you also feel secure?  Depends on the defensive capability. A combi-defense of short range military border defense, inland militia and nonmilitary defense with non-cooperation and civilian disobedience in case of occupation should carry a far way. Deterring and defending.

Ends-means, intent-capability.  Very classical.  And very useful.

If we now combine Ends offensive-defensive with Means offensive-defensive we get four military doctrines:

Uses of military Ends offensive Ends defensive
Means offensive 1. OFFENSIVE OFFENSIVE

War for attack


Preventive war

Means defensive 3. OFFENSIVE DEFENSIVE

Scorched earth



Two parties and four doctrines for each give us 16 combinations.   If both go for #1 the war will come sooner or later, depending on military calculations on both sides.

If only one goes for #1 and it is against #2 there will be a real war; against #3 they may win but win what?

And against #4?  #4 may deter triply: at the border, inland, and as occupied.  The military may capitulate, but civilian resistance continues.  Is a conquest really worth the trouble?

Then, if both go for #4 the big question of How? is answered. There is common security, based on defensive defense for both.

Disarmament is not assumed, only trans-armament across doctrines.  Thus, the Swiss have by and large a #4 military with high priority given to people protection; very strong.  “Peace” has focused too much on no military, too little on what kind of military (doctrine).

However, there is also protection in having no military at all. As in 30 states in today’s world–about 15 percent of UN membership.  Many islands and other states are “up for grabs” but are not grabbed, at least not militarily. It takes two to make war. And to make peace.

And yet the argument here is not against some military, even if it may be an institution fading out, doomed to disappear.  Except as police, for law and order, like UN peacekeeping forces.  With short range weapons, down to handguns, carried by their own bodies and some armored vehicles, jeeps, MTBs, helicopters.  Much thinking has already gone into that and can be used directly in national defensive defense.

As a matter of fact, looking around the world, most states have some military but most militaries can serve only defensive defense.  Offensive offense and offensive defense are costly, few can afford it.  Consequently, the richest countries are generally most dangerous to others.

Is defensive defense costly?  Carriers generally cost more than the arms carried; a missile with infrastructure, more than the head.  A human being costs more to keep than a handgun, in addition to being priceless.  But many states today want to display expensive carriers like submarines, big planes and tanks, assuming they carry prestige.  We have been through that before with states displaying colonies and slave owners for the same reason.  Competing with each other.

Defensive defense with short range carriers is the norm, making common security the standard with few aggressive exceptions (USA, Israel). Much more work should be devoted to making them abide by the norm.

However, “common security” is broken and quite often, why?

Generally for two reasons-causes: unsolved conflicts to impose one’s goal and unconciled traumas as revenge for violence of the past.  Hence, a deeper approach than adjusting military doctrines addresses root causes, trying to solve the conflicts and concile the traumas. Uprooting the causes of violence-insecurity.  Planting negative peace.

And preferably at the same time planting the root causes for positive peace; nations, states and other actors being good to each other, not merely not bad.  It is here that the ultimate answer to “common security” is found, adding positive peace to negative peace.

However, we should not let the perfect become enemy of the good. True, “defensive defense” is compatible with mutual isolation, but in no way presupposes that.  All it says is, ‘I better take an unlikely war on my territory than a likely one that will hit both me and others and be well prepared with defensive defense as doctrine and practice.’

If others do the same, those who do have achieved a common security.


Johan Galtung, a professor of peace studies, dr hc mult, is founder of TRANSCEND International and rector of TRANSCEND Peace University. Prof. Galtung has published more than 1500 articles and book chapters, over 500 Editorials for TRANSCEND Media Service, and more than 170 books on peace and related issues, of which more than 40 have been translated to other languages, including 50 Years-100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives published by TRANSCEND University Press. More information about Prof. Galtung and all of his publications can be found at


This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 5 Oct 2020.

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