NEW GLOBAL DANGERS: Changing Dimensions of International Security

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NEW GLOBAL DANGERS Changing Dimensions of International security Edited by Michael E. Brown, et al. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2004. xxvi, 554pp, US$28.00 paper (ISBN 0-262-52430-9)

Too often, new approaches to security emphasize the normative aspects of international relations at the expense of the strategic, and methodological debates fail to generate real insight. Fortunately, this volume is an outstanding example of the role that social science can play in investigating important questions of contemporary international politics.

An important theme of the collection is "apocalyptic violence." Thus part I deals with the proliferation of nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles, international regimes, and the threat from biological weapons. Missing from this section is any material relating to chemical weapons or so-called radiological devices. However, though nuclear weapons receive most attention, the question posed by Scott D. Sagan-"why do states build nuclear weapons?"-could be applied to any weapon of mass destruction, and probably ought to be. Critics may highlight a bias towards the unilateral and US perspective. But as Barry R. Posen suggests, US military hegemony is not omnipotent and, throughout the volume, foreign and military policy are given equal attention.

Though Roland Paris questions the concept of "human security" at the start of part II, Thomas F. Homer-Dixoris article, "Environmental and violent conflict," demonstrates that human security is a relevant concept. This paper is a classic analysis of the link between conflict, population, and environmental scarcity. Valerie M. Hudson and Andrea Den Boer present a statistically based analysis of the links between sex-ratios-the ratio of men to women-and argue convincingly that gender imbalance may destabilize India and China. This paper also demonstrates the utility of the concept of human security. Yet it could be argued that gendered social engineering despises the male surplus as well as the female.

Perhaps the only weakness in the analysis of human security (which also includes detailed material relating to AIDS/HIV and humanitarian aid as a cause of conflict) is that it is mainly discussed with reference to the developing world (or former developing world). This is sometimes necessary. When Europe or North America is mentioned, as Myron Weiner demonstrates, the focus is on migration-related issues. …