Of all the dilemmas in world politics, the security dilemma is quintessential. It goes right to the heart of the theory and practice of international relations. 1
Like security itself, the security dilemma might also be regarded as an 'essentially contested concept', with several different formulations apparent in the IR literature. Apart from a security dilemma itself, the interested reader will find a 'structural' security dilemma, 'a perceptual security dilemma', a 'state-induced security dilemma', a 'system-induced security dilemma', and a 'security paradox'. Besides which, there is a 'power struggle', a 'security struggle', a 'spiral model', and a 'deterrence model'. But despite the often confusing array of terms and models, the 'basic' nature of the concept is accepted by most scholars. And this is summed up neatly by Barry Posen: 'This is the security dilemma: what one does to enhance one's own security causes reactions that, in the end, can make one less secure'. 2
In this chapter, my purpose is essentially twofold: first, to provide a brief overview of the security dilemma concept; and second - and crucially so - to propose a new categorisation of the security dilemma into three types: 'tight', 'regular' and 'loose'. This re-categorisation of the security essentially derives from some degree of dissatisfaction I have with much of the concept's application to instances of ethnic conflict, where arguably quite disparate cases have been erroneously lumped together simply by virtue of exhibiting the security dilemma label. In distinguishing between tight, regular and loose security dilemmas, my intention is to thus provide a more nuanced conceptual tool in accounting for ethnic violence and war.
The chapter is split into four main sections. In the first section, I outline some of the security dilemma's main constitutive elements. In the next three sections, in turn I elucidate the notions of tight, regular and loose security dilemmas.
There are a number of elements common to most definitions of the security dilemma. The following sections will deal with each in turn. The starting