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Human Security as National Security

A critical transformation in the development agenda has emerged with the norm of human security that gives more priority to the individual than a national security. This concept contradicts to the traditional security views which mainly focus on national security interests of states through the use of military power to foster territorial sovereignty and integrity. in fact, security establishments and studies have always been directed to the policies concerning the foreign defense mechanisms to avoid, prevent, and win the disputes between military states. Following the occurrence of Cold War in 1990s, it has been apparent that security threats against individuals have often originated in the states. For instance, there has been a break of civil wars in many regions such as South-East Asia, Balkans, and Africa. In those regions, human life is constantly under threat as evidenced by common incidences of ethnic cleansing, rape, casualties, and fatal crimes. Consequently, security for non-combat individuals has been a major concern because of huge imports happening in the international community. Nevertheless, the new norm of human security encounters several essential difficulties considering its practical applications. Many countries continue to experience numerous threats and challenges as far as protecting lives of their citizens is concerned thus becoming an important debate whether it is right and crucial to consider human security as national security.

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Difference between Human Security and National Security

First, it is important to understand the origin of both human and national securities. The modern concept of national security emerged in 17th century during the Civil War in England and the Thirty Years of War in Europe. In 1948, it was established through the Peace of Westphalia, the concept that the nation-state had the power to assert a control not only on domestic affairs pertaining to religion but also on external security. On the other hand, the idea of human security appeared after Human Development Report in 1994. The report claimed that it was important to use individuals as the referent of security instead of focusing on states. The idea was triggered by the fact that state’s security had become less vulnerable due to decline in instances of wars between states in 1990s whereas the individual’s security had been exposed to dangers. From the two definitions, it is clear that the two issues were developed due to the prevailing circumstances which created a vacuum that had to be filled.

National security extends to the assumption that it is the action of a state that poses a threat to the security of other states. It implies that less attention is given to the non-state organizations such as multi-national corporations in generation of insecurity. However, due to increased terrorism, the narrative had to change. For instance, during the introduction to the resolution 1368, the Security Council meeting on September 12, 2001 recognized the acts of terrorism as threats to international security and peace of nations as it happened in Libya. The resolution further accepted that force was usable in self-defense in response to the armed attacks originating from the non-state actors in Washington and New York. Since the self-defense is the only justification from the Charter for the unilateral use of force, states have attempted to present any form of military action from within ambit. Because there is no content by Security Council recognizing terrorist acts as a danger to international peace and authorization of self-defense to respond those acts, certain countries such as the United States of America have broadly defined the notion of state security. Article 51 of United Nations provides for the right to self-defense in a situation where the need to respond to an anticipated attack is overwhelming, instant, and proportionate. Therefore, national security addresses the primary concerns and threats of a nation namely; maintaining sovereignty and protecting a nation against military, economic, and cyber attacks.

On the other hand, the concept of human security is built on four essential characteristics; interdependence of components, universalism, and prevention instead of protection and entirely centered on people. It proposes the security of people in terms of being safeguarded against the threat of poverty traversing international boarders in form of HIV/AIDs, drugs, illegal migration, climate change, and terrorism. In ensuring human security, exclusive focus on territories is replaced by a greater attention to security of the people. This goal is achieved by replacing the armaments with human development. While the essential characteristic of national security is fostered through military, economic, political, environmental, and cyber security, human security, in its turn, is based on four major essential characteristics mentioned above. According to formulations stipulated in United Nations Development Plans, human security and human development are the prerequisite conditions for peace and mutual agreements. In this context, human development is defined as the process by which the choice of the people is widened. Its main argument is that human security entails the ability of people to exercise their choices freely and safely with a relative confidence that such choices would be sustainable. Unlike national security that emphasizes on military and economic strength, human security is centralized on human empowerment. It provides the individuals with freedom to take responsibility and have the opportunities to master their own lives. Thus, human security is fundamentally an integrative as well as preventive concept including every person for whom this security incorporates. For this reason, human security can extensively be defined as having several components falling within two categories; freedom from war and freedom from fear.

The measure of strength also distinguishes the two concepts. The strength of national security is assessed on the basis of hard power. This approach entails the capability of nation not only to defend itself but enforce its policy choices by use of military power like the United States invasion of Iraq to overthrow Sadam Hussein. On the other hand, the strength of human security is measured on soft power. These encompass a social order in a nation (political security), availability of economic opportunities for citizens (economic security), and health security. For instance, third world countries are known for less security due high levels of unemployment of their citizens. The parameters for measuring strengths of these concepts are important in determining the effectiveness of the concepts in this modern age.

Iranian Foreign Policy and Nuclear non-Proliferation

State Behaviors Consistent with National and Human Security

The policies, decisions, and actions of the Iranian government have proven difficult in attempts to relate them with the idea of human protection as a national security. This situation is attributed to the fear of regime change and religious precedent from the external forces. Considering Iran’s nuclear non-proliferation, the country’s foreign policy has failed to hint or demonstrate a paradigm consistent with an application of human security as national security that it should employ to protect its citizens against multiple military and economic threats. In other words, Iranian policy-makers have not managed to align the country’s national security interests with the same interests of human security. This failure is evidenced by the fact that Iran has continued to accept harmful sanctions imposed by the U.S and other international institutions. Besides, Iran has also employed diversionary tactics which has masked domestic issues to the extent of plaguing its society. These actions and goal of being a nuclear power is a potential catalyst for increased tension and instability in the Middle East region. In other words, none of the state behaviors qualifies to have been consistent with a national and human security except for the new deal signed pushed by Obama recently.

Iranian Foreign Policy

The Supreme Leader of the country Ayatollah Khamenei approved a policy aimed at maintaining Iran’s sovereignty, national interests, and his personal political legitimacy. The foreign policy is indigenous in the sense that it adopts and seeks to preserve the country’s strong military force controlled by the influential Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps. The country is ruled by a theocratic government based on sharia laws (religious tradition). When this religious tradition is combined with the agreements made by Islamic intellectuals also known as the Ulama, the end result is a sculpt foreign policy. According to sharia, Khamenei asserted that acquisition of nuclear weapons and armaments would breach the religious requirements and legal traditions of the Iranians. Nevertheless, he exploits the threat of acquiring nuclear weapons to the advantage of the country by accepting international sanctions in exchange for power disparity balance between American and Israel military forces, deterring an external interference from state powers, guarantying Iran’s national security, appeasing the country’s most influential organization IRGC, and projecting national pride. Moreover, it is within the country’s foreign interest to preserve and protect their religious Shiites abroad from the oppression, and the possession of nuclear weapons gives Iran a confidence to champion this course. Finally, the present political regime birthed in the revolution, hence, strengthens the Iranian efforts to protect its sovereignty and believes that the US intends to change it. Therefore, foreign policy in Iran was devised with an agenda of antagonizing the western sentiment.

Foreign Policy in Relation to Human Security as National Security

By employing sentiments against America and Western countries as a means of fostering its foreign policy, Iran has disregarded human security as an important aspect of national security. Unexpectedly, it has suppressed the dissenters, legitimated its policies and authority and diverted domestic issues in disguise of ‘the Great Satan.’ The outward anti-American sentiment and constant rivalry with the U.S places Iran in a dangerous position of being under constant threat giving room for domestic issues to be halted or disregarded or fallaciously blamed upon foreign powers.  Referring to history, this was the same situation during the reign of Ahmadinejad who propagandized the policies and rhetoric, and followed a diversionary war theory. It is important to note that by ignoring domestic issues in Iran, the country hardly addresses the issues related to human security that affects Iranians daily. Actually, by choosing to adopt a retaliatory foreign policy against the U.S, such as continuing of its nuclear program, rather than solving domestic issues, Iran dislodges human security and condones nation security as the only way of protecting state interests.

The nuclear proliferation in Iran imperils the whole Middle East region and effectively thwarts any effort towards safeguarding human security in the region. As a result, it fosters instability of Middle East. An arms race would then become the main de-stabilizing factor that is likely to affect the region, especially with new players such as Saudi Arabia joining the conflict. In its turn, this country would seek to enforce its superiority and will be forced to also acquire nuclear capabilities through production or purchase. The role of Pakistan as a dealer of nuclear weapons will heighten, and consequently, India would feel disrupted into the threat posed by nuclear-armed Iran. Israel, which to date has lobbied the opposition to the nuclear program, may indeed be the first to strike Iran if its national security is threatened. Thus, if Iran acquires nuclear weapons, the Middle East players will be forced to deploy security strategies and relinquish human security strategies when faced with an imminent threat. In summary, Iranian foreign policy does not prove an acceptance or understanding of human security as national security as illustrated by the reluctance of the government to seek the measures of reducing sanctions, consistent rejection to handle domestic issues and lack of prudence in furthering instability in the region with its nuclear program.

Should Iran Be more/less Consistent with Human Security?

The best course of action for Iran is to reconsider its policies and adapt new approaches to accommodate human security issues. While the country’s endowment with natural resources and “strategic position in global politics” has contributed to unpleasant outcomes in the past, Iran is well placed to influence policy-makers in the region to employ the measures of human security as national security. In adopting policies that favor human security and relinquishing the nuclear program, Iran may act as a model of civility and stability to the entire Middle East region. The main reason for obtaining nuclear weapons is to increase the political influence. However, the most effective way Iran can gain the respect and greater influence is by its ability to foster human security of its people while at the same time playing a crucial role in strengthening the the Middle East stability . Thus, the country should be consistent with the issues pertaining to human security.


This essay analyzes the importance of recognizing human security as national security when considering the threats and challenges faced by the states in relation to Iranian foreign policy and nuclear non-proliferation. Even though national security is objectionable on moral basis, it insufficiently responds to the instances of domestic repression. On the other hand, human security is objectionable on morality scale when it narrows the liberty of a community or a person to an extent when it becomes meaningless. It is vital that a nation prioritizes its human security as a way of strengthening its national security.

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