Traditional security studies is no longer worthy as either describing or providing solutions to current global events. With the truly global emergence of terrorist organisations since 2001, traditional security studies has struggled in proving itself as a robust and worthy field when it comes to dealing with current global events. Much of the theory developed around Nuclear weapons and deterrence theory must be reassessed if it’s to be effectively employed to analyse current global events. The movement away from state-centric threats has meant a total rethinking of security studies to properly address the issues currently being faced. The irrationality of some of these groups also means that employing traditional methods of security studies will not suffice in explaining how to best deal with the problem of violent fundamentalist groups.
The proliferation of extremist terrorist organisations has forced us to rethink conventional nuclear deterrence theory. As belligerent non-state actors have moved to the fore in recent decades, the threat of a nuclear attack on a Western city by certain fundamentalist groups has become real. Traditional deterrence theories such as Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) are no longer relevant as any retaliatory target is unidentifiable. The ideology that drives these organisations is shared across numerous other groups and even some states. Any nuclear attack would not be in pursuit of altering any balance of power but to create awareness for that organisations particular message and ideology. Deterring an attack by one of these groups is not something traditional security studies is able to assist with. Deterrence by denial is something that can be looked at but from a different perspective. Traditionally, the United States has focused its energies on missile defence systems and technologies that could intercept a nuclear attack in transit before it could reach its target. Any non-state group looking to detonate a nuclear weapon inside the United States would not have the capability to launch a missile but instead, they would attempt to smuggle the weapon into a state and detonate it on the ground. This requires a change in focus towards: customs enforcement, both traditional and undercover work from national law enforcement agencies and the seizing of any known nuclear material that is not currently secured. Deterrence by punishment is also a concept that has little bearing when it comes to the issue of preventing a nuclear attack. As non-state actors can, by their very nature, move from state to state, it would be almost impossible to identify a target to retaliate. Even if the identification of a particular state that may have assisted in the attack is made, the physical group itself can escape retribution by moving its base, as seen with the movement of al Qaeda from Afghanistan following the 2001 invasion, to Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, etc.
International relations theory and traditional security studies consider their models to be state-centric. The descriptive and prescriptive nature revolves around explaining the actions of states. The events of the last decade and a half have been dominated by non-state actors and given traditional security studies very little to explain. The War on Terror has moved the pursuit of terrorist organisations from what has historically been a law enforcement solution to the domineering military task of the 21st Century. These non-state actors provide issues for allowing traditional security studies to analysis them effectively and provide appropriate solutions. A much more detailed and close study of this particular issue is required to formulate responses that will allow for proper action to be taken.
The goals and aspirations of some of these organisations now dominating security studies could be perceived as irrational, as could some of their tactics. Given the irrational nature of these organisations, in addition to their tactics and goals, it seems traditional security studies lacks the scope to provide a framework with which to work regarding the elimination of these groups. As the rationality of these groups is questionable, the methods by which to describe and confront them are difficult to summon. Suicide bombings are extremely difficult to deter as the detonation of these devices upon discovery can at times still be considered a success. Traditional security studies fails to provide a description or prescription regarding these groups who’s main aims include: the death of civilians, the bankruptcy of certain Western economies, the symbolic removal of troops from certain states, etc. These aims are the demands of an irrational group led who fail to adhere to traditional international relations theory or security studies.
Traditional security studies fails to provide an accurate and relevant description, or prescription with respect to current global events. Nuclear deterrence theory is an element of traditional security studies that is no longer as relevant, requiring a broadening of how Western countries actually attempt to deter a nuclear attack. The change in focus from state to non-state actors and from rational opponents to irrational has left the explanatory power of traditional security studies lacking.