Thursday, December 20, 2007

Not Sure That's What "Human Security" Means

In an article entitled “Japan’s Defense Minister Braces for Aliens,” Agence France-Press reports:

As Japan takes a more active role in military affairs, the defence minister has more on his mind than just threats here on Earth.

Shigeru Ishiba became the second member of the cabinet to profess a belief in UFOs and said he was looking at how Japan's military could respond to aliens under the pacifist constitution.

"There are no grounds for us to deny that there are unidentified flying objects (UFOs) and some life-form that controls them," Ishiba told reporters, saying it was his personal view and not that of the defence ministry.

Of course analysts will read this as a thinly disguised attempt to garner domestic support for altering Article 9 of the Japanese constitution, so that the country can deploy its armed forces for more wide-ranging tasks. Unless one assumes that Japan intends to embark on some offensive war against the putative little green men, it’s hard to see how simply acknowledging the possibility they may visit predetermines the need for any serious doctrinal change.

I think there’s a more logical explanation. For years political scientists have been debating the definition of “human security.” Invented by Boutrous-Boutrous Ghali as a way to shift the concept of security from the defense of territorial states to the defense of people, the idea was to get the Security Council to start taking seriously things like genocide, starvation and climate change. But no one can agree on exactly what the term means: is it freedom from fear of direct physical threats, or also freedom from want? Does it mean anything and everything and if so what good is it as an analytical concept?

Perhaps the Japanese government, long a champion of “human security” in multilateral forums, is simply contributing to this conversation anew by reframing the debate.

Ishiba could also just be nuts.

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