During the period of the Cold War, the concept of the security dilemma came to occupy a central position in explaining the emergence and escalation of international (inter-state) conflict. However, with the collapse of Communism throughout Central and Eastern Europe, the main site of application for the concept, superpower rivalry, soon disappeared. Thus, the challenge for those within the IR discipline was to find a new context for a concept that, somewhat abruptly, seemed to have lost much of its raison d'être.
In 1993, Barry Posen's article 'The Security Dilemma and Ethnic Conflict' appeared. 1 In it, Posen proposed furthering the application of the concept to incorporate the intra-state level, proffering an explanation for the outbreak of violence and war between neighbouring ethnic groups. Since Posen, other writers have followed; utilising what can be labelled as an 'ethnic security dilemma'. The application of the ethnic security dilemma has been focused predominantly on the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia: those in Croatia and in Bosnia-Hercegovina. In this chapter, I critically examine existing approaches to the ethnic security dilemma largely through these particular cases, focusing mainly on the work of Posen, plus Stuart J. Kaufman, and Erik Melander. In doing so, I qualify the approaches of the three writers using the 'tight', 'regular', and 'loose' security dilemma categorisation. I then go on to argue that the utility of the ethnic security dilemma is somewhat limited by its failure to explicitly address those insecurities deriving from threats to 'societal' identity.
To begin with, though, it is necessary to see how the role of the security dilemma fits alongside other explanations for ethnic violence and war. Here, I follow Kaufman's example by setting different approaches in the framework of IR's traditional three levels of analysis.
According to Kaufman, existing approaches to ethnic violence and war can profitably be viewed through relocating Kenneth Waltz's classic three 'images' of international conflict 2 to the intra-state context. Kaufman argues that 'first image' (human nature), 'second image' (the nature of states and elite