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Andreas Behnke


Discussions of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's (NATO) role after the end of the cold war predominantly focus on its adaptation to the new security environment, the redefinition of its mission and the transformation of its military and political structures (Gordon, 1997; Kay, 1998; Yost, 1998). While this kind of literature is valuable in its own right, its underlying assumption about the adaptive logic of NATO's post-cold war policies tends to underrate the ability of the Alliance to actively shape the security environment through its discursive construction of security political 'realities' and the re-presentation of its institutional identity. At the same time, this literature arguably underestimates the task confronting NATO. The collapse of the cold war order does not only pose a problem to NATO in terms of adapting to a new reality, the features of which are are supposedly as clearly discernable as the ones of the cold war itself. Rather, its demise challenges NATO (and other international actors and institutions) to articulate new and stable 'structures of meaning' which can render "the unfamilar in the terms of the familiar" (Campbell, 1992:4) and which make it possible to re-assume political and military-strategic agency.

The purpose of this essay is to analyze the way in which NATO is responding to these challenges. More specifically, it addresses the problem of the Alliance's 'Western' identity and the strategies of inclusion and exclusion through which this identity is re-defined and re-asserted after the disappearence of the constitutive Other of the cold war, that is, the Communist 'East'. At the same time, the essay deals with NATO's search for new adversaries and threats. These two issues, while often treated separately in the literature, are in fact closely related. As Owen Harries (1993:42) pointed out some years ago,

The political 'West' is not a natural construct but a highly artificial one. It took the presence of a life-threatening, overtly hostile 'East' to bring it into existence and to maintain its unity. It is extremely doubtful whether it can now survive the disappearance of that enemy.

We need not take Harries' skepticism at face value in order to appreciate the problematization of what the West actually is. Suffice it to state that matters of identity are intrinsically related to the problem of difference and adversity. The articulation of a Western identity, Harries' argument suggests, was made possible, and depended upon the presence of a hostile 'East'. As Bradley Klein (1994:120-21) has argued, this presence has allowed NATO to prevail and survive the many crises and internal conflicts amongst its member-states. Already in the 1960s, Henry Kissinger analyzed the effects of détente on alliance cohesion in terms that anticipate to some extent the troubles NATO would face some 30 years later after the demise of the Warsaw Treaty Organization.

As the détente develops, the need to transform the Alliance from its present defensive concept into a political arrangement defining itself by some positive goals will grow ever more urgent. Defense against a military threat will soon lose its force as a political bond. Negotiations with the East will prove corrosive unless they go hand in hand with the creation of common political purposes and the institutions to embody them (Kissinger, 1965:10).

In other words, in the absence of a 'life-threatening' adversary, the West runs the danger of disintegrating and dissolving. That NATO was able to avoid this fate for forty years supports Klein's (1994:121) contention that the alliance strength rested on its ability to wed itself "to the defense of a distinctly modern, Western, Atlantocentric cultural project" which made it possible to deflect and externalize its internal contradictions and conflicts.

If we acknowledge this internal relationship between (stable) identity and (hostile) difference, we can appreciate the paradox that the end of the cold war presented a much more serious threat to NATO than the East-West confrontation ever did. For the end of the cold war also means that the unraveling of Cold War representations has raised for the first time the fundamental issue of Western identity. It is no longer clear who is to be legitimately incorporated within the space of modern Western culture. ... Simply put the world under NATO's guidance is no longer subject to containment. It's boundaries have now been eroded... (Klein, 1994:133).

Consequently, the West faces the problem of 'self-determination', of defining its identity and its borders against the rest of the world. Self-determination is usually assumed to contribute to peace in the international system. Thus, the United Nations (UN) Charter states in Article 1, paragraph 2 as one of its purposes,

To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples.

As this citation demonstrates, violence is conventionally understood as violation of an existing (national) identity by an external other (Vries and Weber, 1997:1). Self-determination as "the right of a people to constitute itself in a state" (Encyclopædia Britannica Online) presupposes that the identity of these people is already established and that conflict is a external and secondary to such identity. But as the events in the former Yugoslavia have demonstrated, it is difficult to maintain this assumption when conflict appears as an inherent part of the very determination and assertion of identity. "Determination of the Self now reveals itself to be what it probably always has been: determination of the Other" (Vries and Weber, 1997:1). This is most dramatically demonstrated in those cases in which the Self has to be 'cleansed' of ethnic and other 'impurities'. Violence is thus not necessarily solely attributable to the other, but is rather part and parcel of the process through which identities, collective or individual, are constituted and maintained (Vries and Weber, 1997:2).

The case of Bosnia in this sense only demonstrates the relationship between violence and identity in its most dramatic and disturbing expression. Yet as such, it is simply the manifestation of a more general, ontological proposition. Any "operation of inclusion/exclusion is an act of violence perpetrated upon the world and requires the support of a certain amount of coercion" (Bauman, 1991:2). If collectives such as nations, or 'the West' are indeed 'imagined communities' without any grounding in primordial, quasi-natural identities, than their continued existence depends on a constant effort to keep alive that imagination (Sloterdijk, 1998). Order has to be inscribed into the world as a process of creative violence which eliminates and overcomes the ambiguity and contingency that constantly works to undermine such efforts.

The present essay deals with NATO's discursive practices of exclusion\inclusion. More specifically, it investigates the re-articulation of a Western identity as it is effected through the diplomatic process known as NATO's 'Mediterranean Initiative'. This Initiative has been designated one of the Alliance's four diplomatic 'tools' or 'instruments' for shaping the post-cold war security environment in and around Europe, thus assuming a role at least formally equal to the Partnership for Peace (PfP), the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC) and the Partnerships with the Ukraine and with Russia (Solana, 1998a; 1998b). The Initiative allows its participants to partake in a variety of NATO activities, such as seminars by NATO Food and Agriculture Planning Committee (NATO, 1998a) and scientific exchange (NATO, 1998c). The work program of the Mediterranean Initiative now also contains military activities and the designation of NATO contact points embassies in Mediterranean Dialogue countries (NATO, 1998d).

With regard to the four 'tools', comparatively little academic research attention has so far been paid to the Mediterranean Initiative, which reflects to some extent NATO's own preoccupation with its Eastern border. With the successful integration of the Central and Eastern European states into the NATO framework, however, "the Mediterranean could emerge as Europe's new front line as the West confronts the strategic challenges of the post-Cold War era" (Asmus, Larrabee, and Lesser, 1996:25).

The Mediterranean Initiative thus deserves special attention in as much as it constitutes a diplomatic and political effort on NATO's part to define and mediate the relationships with countries of the 'South', most of which in this particular case are Islamic countries.1 NATO's encounter with the South can be understood as a 'clash of civilizations', or perhaps instead as an attempt to prevent the encounter from turning into a clash. After all, much of the rhetoric around the Initiative emphasizes its diplomatic format and dialogical form (Solana 1997b). Against this assumption of benevolence, however, this essay attempts to demonstrate the power and force involved in the discursive determination of Self and Other within the Mediterranean Initiative. More specifically, NATO faces the South here in an 'imperial encounter', that is, an encounter of unequals in which one party is able to 'construct' the realities in which this meeting takes place and where the other side is forced to accept these parameters (Doty 1996).

The focus on NATO as a representative of Western military-cultural identity on the other hand seems justified, given the central role of the Alliance within European and, to some extent, global strategic policies. Combining the armed forces of 15 of its member-states, NATO constitutes a considerable force to support and maintain its particular version of the new strategic order.2 As for the Mediterranean, four of NATO's member-states -- France, Spain, Italy and Portugal -- formed in 1995 EUROFOR and EUROMARFOR as rapid intervention forces in the Southern Mediterranean. Also, part of Allied Forces Southern Europe is a Naval Striking and Support Forces Southern Europe (STRIKFORSOUTH) including three naval task forces with aircraft carriers and amphibious capabilities. STRIKFORSOUTH is currently developing a rapid reaction, multi-purpose force, including Special Operations, and Reconnaissance Specialists (AFSOUTH n.d.). There is, in other words, a considerable force in place to support NATO's definition of stability and order in the region.

A Note on Methodology

As outlined above, the essay's focus on the Mediterranean Initiative can be justified by a number of reasons. First, NATO itself presents it as one of its central 'instruments' or 'tools' through which it attempts to reshape the post-cold war security environment. Moreover, its apparent diplomatic and dialogical nature makes it all the more analytically rewarding to tease out the discursive force that is inherently involved in acts of self-determination. Nonetheless, a number of methodological issues should be addressed.

Ideally, a discourse analysis lets the discourse itself define its scope and boundaries. The researcher should to the largest possible extent avoid imposing an order where she is supposed to map it. Yet ultimately this must remain an ideal situation, hardly possible in the reality of institutionalized social research. For any discourse can be observed to spread out, or spill over into other discourses. It is thus often impossible to wait for discourses to reveal their boundaries and to be available for empirical research in a straight-forward fashion. This problem becomes further exacerbated given the time and space constraints of the present essay. Here, the 'Mediterranean Initiative' is to some extent delineated from the rest of NATO's discourse on 'the South', and the more general narrative on post-cold war security. Second, by focusing on NATO's discursive strategies alternative discourses, even those we might find within the Alliance's member states, are excluded. This is not to claim that the present angle is the only fruitful one. All that is argued here is that the Mediterranean Initiative deserves our critical attention, and that NATO as a collective Self deserves as much attention in terms of its discursive strategies as any of its member-states. Ultimately, any analytical delineation of a discursive formation constitutes an intervention by the researcher into the object of her study, and thus affects and co-produces the entity under investigation. This, it seems, is the social science equivalent to Heisenberg's principle of uncertainty. We might simply not be able to avoid it.

NATO's 'World-Picture'

Perhaps the best way to approach NATO's 'world-picture' of the West and the South is through a critical interpretation of a NATO picture of the world.3 The map in Figure 1 serves to illustrate the point about the new-found significance of the South in security political and strategic terms. In the context of this essay, it serves as a paradigmatic discursive statement, as a typical 'objectification' of the world within the Alliance's strategic discourse.

The main purpose of the map is obviously to 'produce' the inclusion\exclusion gesture which separates the West from the South.

Over a conventional map of Europe politique extends a bold black stroke. The widening brushstroke arcs in a visible crescendo from the Southern coast of Spain across the Mediterranean into the Western periphery of Turkmenistan. The brushstroke's bold execution emphasizes the anthropogenic, willful rather than natural, character of the geostrategic differentiation between Europe and its periphery.

Europe is mapped in terms of its political structure, as composed of nation-states. At the same time, the inclusion of the 'important European routes' adds a network across the individual countries not unlike a circulatory system, thus creating a sense of organic integration. Further coherence is provided by the stroke's cupping gesture which gathers Europe's nations in its 'inside'.

Figure 1: NATO's "Curve of Crises"

(Reproduced from NATO´s Sixteen Nations & Partners For Peace, No.1/93:37; with the kind permission of the publishers.)

The expressed force and the arched shape of the stroke also emulates the tactical marks on maps of war. More specifically, defensive positions are usually recorded in this fashion. Europe, this world-picture suggests, needs to be defended and held against the attack of hostile forces which could approach from anywhere beyond this 'cure of crises'.

Perhaps the most striking aspect of the map is what it does not represent: While Europe has a recognizable identity, the South has not. For exactly what lies beyond the brushstroke remains hidden, beyond the boundaries of the map, and thus beyond the boundaries of this conception of the world. This way, the South becomes a generalized notion, a strategic void out of which any number of threats can emerge. European identity is thus posited versus 'Southern' obscurity, structure versus opaqueness, organic coherence versus a blank entity. Whatever reference is made to a specific country in the text is presented as an example of this generalized 'South', not as a political or social structure in its own right.

In the remainder of this essay I will try to map the discursive strategies, the imperial gestures through which NATO fills this terra incognita with meaning. In other words, the guiding concern is about how NATO exercises its power "to define identities, both their own and those of other states" in the post-cold war era (Weldes and Saco, 1996:372). In order to understand the current developments and the extent to which they can be considered significantly different from the cold-war era, a brief historical recapitulation is necessary.

Prologue: Inventing the South

In February 1995, Islamic fundamentalism became a danger to NATO.4 As the International Herald Tribune reported,

The NATO secretary general Willy Claes told a security conference in Germany over the weekend that in the five years since the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe, Islamic militancy has emerged as perhaps the single gravest threat to the alliance and Western security (Drozdiak, 1995:1).

Claes's statement did not pass uncontested. Yet it remains a crucial marker in NATO's discursive re-presentation of the world, for in it expressed a significant change in the Alliance's world-picture. During the cold war, the South was usually framed as a West in the making, as an area of 'underdevelopment' which, given time and resource-transfers, would in the end become part of the Western world. As Claes's statement indicates, this temporal differentiation is now replaced with the spatial imagery that is so drastically demonstrated in the map above. The South -- here described as the site of 'Islamic militancy' -- is now quintessentially different, a strategy of deferrence is replaced by a strategy of deterrence. In order to substantiate these claims, we need to cast a brief look into the construction of the South during the cold war.

On 20 January 1949, 'two billion people became underdeveloped. In a real sense, from that time on, they ceased being what they were, in all their diversity, and were transmogrified into an inverted mirror of others' reality' (Esteva, 1992:7). Even if we allow for a certain amount of hyperbole in this statement, it nonetheless conveys a central aspect of the construction of the South by the West. What Esteva here refers to is President Truman's Inaugural Address, in which the term 'underdeveloped' was used for the first time in the context of world politics. The relevant statements deserve to be quoted at some length:

[W]e must embark on a bold new program for making the benefits of our scientific advances and industrial progress available for the improvement and growth of underdeveloped areas.

More than half the people of the world are living in conditions approaching misery. Their food is inadequate. They are victims of disease. Their economic life is primitive and stagnant. Their poverty is a handicap and a threat both to them and to more prosperous areas. For the first time in history, humanity possesses the knowledge and skill to relieve the suffering of these people.

The United States is preeminent among the nations in the development of industrial and scientific techniques. ... And, in cooperation with other nations, we should foster capital investment in areas needing development. Our aim should be to help the free peoples of the world, through their own efforts, to produce more food, more clothing, more materials for housing, and more mechanical power to lighten their burden (Truman, 1968 [1949]:564).

What Esteva's argument focuses on is the discursive force, or indeed, violence, of this program. It reduces the diversity of historical and cultural experiences beyond the European and North American hemisphere to a simplistic dimension of socio-economic parameters, thus denying the people in these areas their historical, cultural, and social accomplishments. As he demonstrates, they are reduced to one economistic mirror-image of the West, presenting a looking glass in which the latter can recognize itself as the superior subject, having realized what the other has yet to realize, defining, what the other has to aspire to, presenting, what is still absent in the other.

The paradigmatic formulation of this mode of representing global politics is provided by W.W. Rostow's manifesto on 'The Stages of Economic Growth' (Rostow, 1960).5 The five-stage-model offered in this work is an unabashed idealisation and generalisation of the particular European and American experiences of economic development. "Indeed, the master plan for this reworking of international life was the self-consciously proclaimed path of achievement realized by the most advanced Western industrialized democracies" (Klein, 1994:95). The logic behind this argument is apparently so compelling that Rostow at no point offers any reflection of the possibly problematic nature of such sweeping identifications as they are implied in dividing the world into developed and underdeveloped countries.

Rostow accomplishes two things in his work. First, he constitutes the 'West' and the 'underdeveloped areas' as two distinctive identities in global politics. This differentiation operates with a whole set of dichotomies. A 'deconstruction' of the second chapter, in which he outlines the five stages-of-growth, reveals the following oppositions, which are presupposed in the discourse on underdevelopment:6 1) traditional - modern, 2) pre-Newtonian - scientific/technological knowledge, 3) subject to nature - manipulation of nature, 4) hierarchy - vertical mobility, 5) family/clan - society, 6) subsistence - mass consumption.

In the second move, having established the distinctive identities of the developed West and the underdeveloped rest, Rostow then links these identities in a five-stage-model, by turning the right-hand side of the above differentials into the telos of a modernization process which the countries that are identified with the characteristics on the left-hand side have to undergo. The distinction between the Western and the underdeveloped nations is thus a temporal one: the former are already at a stage which the latter have yet to reach. In a sense, then, these areas of the world are a potential part of the West -- but not yet. This 'not yet', however, is crucial, for it empowers the West to intervene into these countries on behalf of a successful transition towards modernity. What sounded rather benevolent in Truman's address, when he called upon other nations to help the free peoples of the world to produce more food, clothing and housing materials, could instead turn violent in those cases where the modernization processes was threatened by 'the disease of transition': Communism (Rostow, 1960:162-4). At this juncture, 'development' links up with 'security', and becomes a strategic problem, with the inclusion of what later became known as the 'Third World' into the Western orbit taking precedence over the welfare of the people actually living in those parts of the world. As subsequent literature has suggested,

Third World modernization could well require military regimes as a necessary step on the way toward mass consumption and Western-style political democracy. ... Whether effective, widespread social development and modernization resulted turned out to be far less important than whether a stable regime could be entrusted to side with the articulation of Western order (Klein, 1994:100-1).

Thus, the border between the 'Third World' and the 'West' has been characterized by as much strategic violence as the one between 'East' and 'West'. Yet there is a crucial difference in the distinctions that constituted the respective identities. While the 'East' was a subject contemporaneous with 'the West', the 'Third World' was constituted as what one with Koselleck (1985:89) might call a "contemporaneity of the noncontemporaneous". In fact, the problems of transition that required the violent intervention of military force into the Third World were exogenous, in that they were caused by the existence of 'Communism' as the force that negates Western values and experiences. Were this force absent, Rostow's work implies, the transition to modernity would operate much more smoothly. Ultimately, history and politics hold the promise for the 'underdeveloped' countries of a better life, for membership in the Western community of values.

Re-presenting the South

With the end of the cold war, the South assumed a more prominent role in the security discourse of NATO than it did during the cold war. The first sign-post was set by the Alliance's Strategic Concept in November 1991. In this document, NATO acknowledges the disappearance of its dominating cold-war threat from the East, and establishes a different scenario, in which 'challenges and risks' are 'multi-faceted and multi-directional'. As one of the directions from which such risks and challenges might stem, the alliance identifies

the countries in the Southern Mediterranean and Middle East. The stability and peace of the countries on the southern periphery of Europe are important for the security of the Alliance, as the 1991 Gulf war has shown. This is all the more so because of the build-up of military power and the proliferation of weapons technologies in the area, including weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles capable of reaching the territory of some member states of the Alliance (NATO, 1991:5).

What sounded rather innocuous then, has subsequently been phrased in a more pointed way. Or, to phrase it in William Connolly's (1991:64) terms, what was then constituted as a 'difference' was turned into 'otherness', into a quintessential danger. It is in this context that Secretary-General Willy Claes set the tone, constituting the countries to the South of Europe as the sites of a force, comparable in its dangerousness only to NATO's old enemy, Communism. It comes by many names: fundamentalism, Islamic fundamentalism, Islamism, yet its nature is clear: it poses a threat to the West by denying that the latter identity is the only acceptable political identity.

Fundamentalism is at least as dangerous as Communism. Please do not underestimate this risk...

I cannot see how fundamentalism could accord with democracy. And NATO is much more than a military alliance. It is also committed to defend the basic principles of civilization, which connect North America with Western Europe (Süddeutsche Zeitung, 1995:9).

As indicated above, Claes's statements did not go uncontested within NATO's diplomatic community. Yet at the same time, one should not consider this articulation of post-cold war identity\difference to be unrepresentative. An article by a Portuguese scholar, published by NATO in October 1994, virtually anticipated Claes' identification (Gaspar, 1994). Also, NATO distributed a report by the North Atlantic Assembly's Sub-Committee on the Mediterranean Basin on 'The Rise of Religious Fundamentalism and the Future of Democracy in North Africa' (North Atlantic Assembly, 1994), which in a similar tone establishes 'Islamism' as the anathema to Western cultural identity.

In responding to the rise of Islamism, Alliance countries must take three factors into account. The first is Islamic political thought, which is distinct from Western thought on a fundamental point, namely its difficulty in accepting the independence of politics from the religious and private spheres of human activity. ...

Secondly, the present governments of the North African countries do not exhibit the main characteristics of democracy...

Thirdly, Islam is thriving against a background of political and economic crisis generally linked to the failure of a mode of development which gave priority to major industry and state action at the expense of the peasantry, private enterprise and the development of the middle class (North Atlantic Assembly, 1994: ii-iii).

This is a central statement in the re-constitution of the South: modernization has ended and failed, and it has produced a monster. The modernization paradigm that informed the identification of the South during most of the cold war would allow for manifestations of crisis as 'collateral damages' in a transition process to Western standards of economic, political and social modernity. The post-cold war texts presented here on the other hand turn political and economic crises into key features of these countries, features that now identify these countries as essentially anti-Western.7

A comparison of the security situations of the Middle East and of Europe discloses their asymmetry on many levels. Europe is a community of states engaged in a process of integration, while the Middle East remains an area where the dynamics of fragmentation can lead to conflicts among states; the common boundary between the two areas separates democracy from autocracy, market economies from under-developed economies, modern societies from archaic social structures torn asunder by the phenomena of modernization. (Gaspar, 1994:29).

While there are faint echoes of the modernization paradigm resonating in this description (underdeveloped economies), they no longer hold the promise of ultimately becoming part of the West. Rather, against the 'anti-Western radicalization' (Gaspar, 1994:29) the West is recommended to use a strategy of containment.  "In the Middle East, democratization does not seem to be on the agenda and there is no question of expanding the European security complex into this area or integrating it into European or Western institutions" (Gaspar, 1994:28).  Rather, the identification of 'Islamism' could hold the promise of re-constituting the West as a common trans-Atlantic identity against the Islamic Other.  "Thus, in the end, the post-Cold War crisis in the Middle East could serve as a catalyst to the consolidation of the European and Atlantic communities through their efforts to coordinate a coherent Middle East policy" (Gaspar, 1994:30).

What is at work here is a spatial differentiation that constructs a boundary between the West and the 'Middle East', reminiscent of, and at the same time anticipating, the adversarial relationship between East and West in the days of the cold war. This argument is further supported by the increasing militarization of the identification of the South in the aftermath of the Gulf War. Here, NATO's texts are increasingly concerned with the proliferation of 'weapons of mass destruction'.  "[The] Gulf crisis proved that the threats now facing Europe no longer come from only one direction, and has provided all too tangible evidence of the danger of a proliferation of weapons of mass destruction" (Colombo, 1992:3).  The point here is, of course, that such weapons in themselves are not the problem. Rather, they become dangerous in the hands of the Other, in the hands of the 'Saddams', 'rogue nations' and 'fundamentalists' of this world. Thus, the current discussions on the future of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) already presupposes and at the same time reinforces an identity of the South as the Other (Mutimer, 1997).

There is, however, a crucial difference between the adversaries of NATO in the cold war, and the post-cold war era, respectively. The spatial differentiation between East and West was undergirded by a nuclear Mutually Assured Destruction, which sealed off the 'tectonic plates' of East and West from any mutual interference. Berlin 1953, Budapest 1956, and Prague 1968 are sign-posts of this principle.  With nuclear deterrence denied to the South, the West is currently constituting an Other that is much more accessible to intervention. The geopolitical space of the South might yet become the maneuver-grounds for a re-assertive NATO.

'Dialogue, Confidence, Understanding'

Some critical comments on Claes's interpretation of 'Islamism' were less concerned with the content than with the diplomatic effects of the statement. NATO was at the time already attempting to set up some diplomatic relations known as the 'Mediterranean Initiative' which led to the invitation of five Southern countries (Egypt, Israel, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia) to participate in a 'Mediterranean dialogue'. In November 1995, this invitation was also extended to Jordan (Nordam, 1997).8 The choice of countries already constitutes a forceful definition of Self and Other: "Each of the six countries realizes that is was chosen largely because it is perceived to be a moderate, Western-looking, constructive (as defined by the West) participant in regional affairs" (RAND 1998:57). The deck is already stacked before the dialogue begins: the participant countries have to comply with Western standards, their 'constructive' nature assured. At this moment the encounter involved its first imperial gesture: NATO reserves the right to grant audience to a sympathetic public in attendance only.

One might then surmise that NATO's policy towards the six chosen nations might be characterized by a more amicable and dialogical attitude than Claes's equation of 'Islamism' and 'Communism' suggests. NATO's official language might even be interpreted as saying that the countries south or east of the Mediterranean Sea are part of the 'European security community'. Thus, the Final Communiqué of the 1996 NATO Brussels Meeting states, "We reaffirm our conviction that security in Europe is closely linked with security and stability in the Mediterranean, and that the Mediterranean dimension is consequently one of the various components of the European security architecture" (NATO, 1997b:33).

A slightly different language had been employed in the previous year, when the North Atlantic Council expressed its 'conviction that security in Europe is greatly affected by security and stability in the Mediterranean' (NATO, 1996:25). In order to promote that stability, NATO pursues a "dialogue, with the aim of fostering transparency and achieving a better mutual understanding with the countries to our South" (NATO, 1996:25; emphasis added). And finally, NATO's Madrid Declaration on Euro-Atlantic Security and Cooperation from July 1997 states that

the Mediterranean region merits great attention since security in the whole of Europe is closely linked with security and stability in the Mediterranean. The dialogue we have established with a number of Mediterranean countries ... contributes to confidence-building and cooperation in the region, and complements other international efforts (NATO, 1997a:2; emphasis added).

Despite the less bellicose language, even within this formulaic diplomatic vocabulary we can still discern the same discursive rules applying as in Claes's more blatant statement. In both versions, NATO 'pastes' the South into the void left by the demise of the Soviet Union as its constitutive Other, reasserting a Western identity against a re-constituted antagonist. To support this contention, we do not need to surmise what NATO 'really' wants to say here, although the barren vocabulary certainly entices the critical reader to search for further elaboration. Our critical hermeneutics may well stay on the surface of the above statements, inquiring instead into what is presupposed in them. Thus, our question should simply be: what is to be assumed if confidence has to be built, transparency to be created, a better mutual understanding to be achieved? Obviously, these goals are only meaningful if we assume the current lack of confidence and understanding, if we assume the relations between the partners to be characterized by the absence of sociality. NATO's attempt to mediate the encounter between the West and the South is based on an interpretation of this encounter as one between aliens, between cultures that are completely external to each other. Mediation, after all, presupposes a prior alienation. 'Southern' identity in its different expressions is thus externalized from the West, and rendered as otherness. The 'Mediterranean' becomes the defining line of division through which these cultures are alienated and across which their encounter is mediated.

Yet another angle is available for this critical reading. To refer to the vocabulary of 'confidence building measures' connects the situation in the Mediterranean with the logic of the cold war in Europe and a central diplomatic enterprise in the management of the East-West antagonism. Confidence-building (and later confidence and security building) measures were a central element in the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) process in the 1970s and 1980s and the attempt to create structures of political and diplomatic control over the strategic antagonism between East and West.9 With the East taken out of this context, NATO conducts what amounts to a 'cut-and-paste' of the South into its place.

While sticking to our critical hermeneutics, we might nonetheless flesh out the 'identification' of the South as a constitutive Other. In November 1997, the RAND Corporation presented an 'authoritative study' on NATO's Mediterranean Initiative to the Alliance's top political and military authorities. Its institutionalized intertextual relationship with NATO's discourse was established through the Opening Speech by Secretary General Solana at the RAND conference at which the report was submitted (Solana 1997c), and a summary by the NATO Office of Information and Press in NATO Review (de Santis, 1998:32). Among the many issues and topics of the report, three aspects will receive particular attention here. Firstly, the report constitutes a paradigmatic case of 'securitization' by rendering a particular region 'accessible' to the strategic gaze of a military alliance.10 Secondly, the RAND study's 'problematization' of the 'proliferation' of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) draws on and reproduces a specific mode of differentiation between the West and the South which is deeply indebted to 'orientalist' clichés. Thirdly, the resulting mode of exchange (of information, trust, and knowledge) is implicitly conceived as a hierarchical and monological one. Overall, the report emulates and reinforces NATO's imperial gesture in the Mediterranean Initiative.

Securitization, Proliferation, Information

The starting point for the RAND report is the growing importance of the Mediterranean region for NATO and Europe after the end of the cold war. Since the 'Eastern Front' will most likely be stabilized and pacified through the enlargement process, the Alliance's primary concern in terms of 'security problems' will have to be its Southern periphery -- the Balkans, the Mediterranean, and the Caucasus (RAND, 1998:xi). The site vacated by the East, in other words, is now occupied by 'the South'.

In a second move, the RAND authors qualify this apparent isomorphism between the East and the South, pointing to the different phenomena underlying the 'security problems' in these areas. Here, political, economic, and social instability are the main concerns of local politicians, while migration, energy issues and cultural issues extend beyond individual countries (RAND, 1998:3-5). Yet in a third and final rhetorical move, RAND's narrative renders these different and diverse problems relevant for the strategic gaze of a military alliance.11 That is to say, NATO 'securitizes' the different social, political, economic, and cultural issues by framing them within a discursive context of danger and threat, by processing them through a conceptual structure that renders them relevant for the strategic and diplomatic practices of a security political agent like NATO. This is above all accomplished by designating the social, political, economic and cultural issues as 'soft security' problems.12 "Indeed, the expansion of the security agenda beyond narrowly defined defense questions has been a leading feature of the post-Cold War scene everywhere, and the Mediterranean is an example of this trend" (RAND, 1998:3). And as the NATO summary presentation elaborates, "the socio-economic developments referred to above may lead to the Alliance's definition of security being subject to further refinement for some years to come" (de Santis, 1998:33).

A closer look at the RAND study actually reveals that the 'Mediterranean' as a region itself is constructed through this discursive securitization. The region is identified by reference to such purported commonalities as lack of political legitimacy, relentless urbanization, and religious radicalism. Moreover, the expanded reach of modern military and information systems links these issues into one 'gray area of problems' with the Mediterranean at its center. Read as straight-forward indicators of danger and taken out of their respective socio-political and cultural context, these issues constitute defining markers of the 'Mediterranean' region as a field of strategic knowledge.

Securitization in the NATO/RAND discourse accomplishes two related objects. Firstly, it alienates the identities of West and South only to mediate them in terms of danger and insecurity. It replaces the temporal differentiation that was implied in the 'development/underdevelopment' discourse with a spatial, geostrategic constellation. Consequently, it suggests 'arms control' and 'confidence building' measures as the appropriate means to mediate the divide. Secondly, the NATO/RAND narrative makes the region cognitively accessible and geostrategically available for the Alliance. Whatever goes on in the region is rendered a matter of concern for an alliance that can muster an unequaled amount of strategic violence in order to inscribe its own design onto the map of global politics.

The re-conceptualization of security to encompass 'soft issues' does not mean that NATO cannot identify 'hard' security problems. Above all the proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) features prominently with the NATO/RAND discourse (NATO 1991; NATO 1998d; Solana 1997b; Solana 1997c).

David Mutimer (1997) has argued that the use of the metaphor 'proliferation' carries certain entailments. That is to say, it structures our understanding and handling of the problem. In particular, he refers to the "image of a spread outward from a point or source", and the "technological bias" introduced in the discourse (Mutimer 1997:201-2). As concerns the first point, 'proliferation' presupposes a center at which WMD are to be held and controlled, and from which these weapons disseminate into the body of the international society. To the extent that this process gets out of the center's control, certain measures have to be taken to 'suffocate', limit, or curb the 'spread' of these weapons. As concerns the second point, Mutimer (1997:203) points out the peculiar agency implied in the concept: "Notice that the weapons themselves spread; they are not spread by an external agent of some form - say, a human being or political institution". The fact that a large number of these weapons were actually 'spread' by Western states is consequently hidden through this discursive structure. These points are also relevant for the Mediterranean Initiative. We can add a third entailment to the list which appears through a critical reading of the NATO/RAND narrative. As the RAND authors (1998:15) observe, "The mere existence of ballistic missile technology with ranges in excess of 1,000 km on world markets and available to proliferators around the Mediterranean basin would not necessarily pose serious strategic dilemmas for Europe."

In fact, we might even agree with the neorealist proposition that 'more might be better', above all in terms of nuclear weapons. This is certainly the preferred solution of John Mearsheimer (1990) for the stabilization of European political order after the end of the cold war. After all, conventional wisdom has it that nuclear weapons and the threat of mutually assured destruction preserved stability and peace during the Cold War. The RAND authors, however, fail to grasp the irony in their identification of WMD proliferation, which ends up denying this central tenet of cold war strategy. According to them, "the WMD and ballistic missile threat will acquire more serious dimensions where it is coupled with a proliferator's revolutionary orientation. Today, this is the case with regard to Iran, Iraq, Libya, and arguably Syria" (RAND, 1998:16).

What preserved the peace during the cold war -- mutual deterrence -- is now re-written as a strategic problem:

As a result of proliferation trends, Europe will be increasingly exposed to the retaliatory consequences of U.S. and European actions around the Middle East and the Mediterranean basin, including the Balkans. ... As a political threat and a weapon of terror capable of influencing the NATO decisionmaking during a crisis, their significance [of conventionally armed ballistic missiles] could be considerable (RAND, 1998:16).

Two implications of these arguments deserve elaboration. First, there is the reversal of the traditional relationship between WMD and rationality. For what makes the presence of WMD in the South so worrisome is the absence of the requirements of reason and rationality. Within NATO's discourse on the South, 'revolutionary orientation' accounts for the undesirability of distributing these weapons to such unfit hands. In order to qualify for their possession, reason and rationality must be present -- as they are obviously assumed to be in the West. The discourse of proliferation consequently produces a third entailment by constructing the relationship between West and South in 'orientalist' terms. In this rendition, the South becomes the quintessential antithesis of the West, the site of irrationality, passion, and terror (Said, 1995). Within this site, different rules apply, which are not necessarily subject to Western ideals of enlightened reason. 'Proliferation' articulates a hierarchical structure in global politics, with the West as the privileged site of from which to surveil, control, and engage the rest of the world.

This privilege is further dramatized in the above complaint about the possibility of retaliation. For the South to achieve the possibility of influencing NATO decisionmaking is to violate the epistemic sovereignty of the West. 'U.S. and European actions' and interventions have to be unrestrained in order to constitute proper crisis management. NATO demands a docile subjectivity and accessible territory from the South, the latter's identity cannot be ascertained against the West. Its arms have to be surrendered, its retaliatory capabilities to be revoked.

'Information' is the third mode besides 'Securitization' and 'Proliferation' within which we can discern the subjugation of the South to the strategic Western gaze. A central purpose of the Mediterranean Initiative/Dialogue is to improve 'mutual understanding' and to 'dispel some of the misperceptions and apprehensions that exist, on both sides of the Mediterranean' (Solana, 1997a:5). And both the RAND Corporation and NATO put some emphasis on public information and perception. Yet the structure of this relationship proves to be unbalanced and virtually unilateral. As mentioned above, for NATO, the prime task is above all the "further refinement of its definition of security" (de Santis, 1998). The general identity of the South as a site of danger and insecurity is consequently never in question. Western perceptions are never problematized. Knowledge of the South is, it appears, a matter of matching more and better information with proper conceptual tools.

On the other hand, (mis)perceptions take the place of knowledge in the South.

NATO is perceived widely as a Cold War institution searching for a new enemy. That is why the best course to change the perception of NATO in these countries is to focus more on "soft" security, building mutual understanding and confidence before engaging in "hard" military cooperation. Measures should be developed with the aim of promoting transparency and defusing threat perceptions, and promoting a better understanding of NATO's policies and objectives (de Santis, 1998:34).

To interpret political misgivings about NATO and its post-cold war diplomacy as 'misperceptions' which can be put straight by "educat[ing] opinion-makers in the dialogue-countries"(RAND, 1998:75) tends to naturalize and objectify the Western rendition of NATO's identity. The possibility that from the perspective of the 'Southern' countries NATO's political and strategic design might look quite different is lost in this narrative. NATO's identity is decontextualized and objectified, the productive role of different cultural and strategic settings in the establishment of identities and formulation of interests denied. To maintain such a lofty position becomes more difficult if we let the Mediterranean participants voice their concerns openly. Far from being 'misperceptions and misunderstandings', these countries' less than enthusiastic attitudes towards NATO are based on, for instance, the establishment of powerful Western military intervention capabilities off their beaches. Also, NATO's attempts to institutionalize a military cooperation is interpreted as an attempt to gain a strategic foothold in the region in order to monitor the flow of missile technology and the possession of WMD (Selim 1998:12-14). In other words, we encounter rather rational and reasonable security political and strategic concerns. The fact that NATO is unwilling or unable to acknowledge their concerns once again demonstrates the 'imperial' nature of the purported dialogue.

Conclusion: The Imperial Encounter

In her exploration of Western representations of the South, Roxanne Doty (1996:3) describes the relationship between these two subjectivities as an "imperial encounter" which is meant "to convey the idea of asymmetrical encounters in which one entity has been able to construct 'realities' that were taken seriously and acted upon and the other entity has been denied equal degrees or kinds of agency". Her focus is on an aspect of power which has received increasing treatment within critical International Relations (IR) theory during the last years, that is, the power to define and articulate identities and to determine the relations between them.

As was argued above, the Western invention of the South during the cold war can be interpreted as an imperial gesture. The South was rendered into a West-in-the-making, with its own distinguished historical, cultural, and social features reduced to indicators of 'underdevelopment'. Ultimately, the narrative proclaimed, the South would become part of the Western 'Empire', the latter would be able to expand into 'barbaric' areas of the world -- provided it could win the war against Communism.

The end of the cold war saw this 'expansionist' logic give way to a exclusive posture. The relations between the West and the South are no longer mediated through time. Instead, a spatial differentiation now structures the imperial encounter, the South is no longer to be 'developed' and 'Westernized'. It is to be surveilled, controlled and disciplined, its 'spillage' of crisis and instability to be contained.

NATO's Mediterranean Initiative is a cornerstone in this new rendition. For while we so far cannot observe any direct military intervention by the Alliance in the Mediterranean region, NATO's discourse on the South in general, and the Initiative in particular render it accessible and available for such action. Strategic knowledge is produced as an expression of, and in anticipation of, strategic power. The 'self-determination' of NATO as a continuously capable and competent military agent is effected through a discourse that inscribes a particular, securitizing, strategic order upon the South, positing it as a site of danger, irrationality and insecurity against the West. In this context it is interesting to observe the exclusion of states from the Mediterranean Initiative that are not considered to be 'moderate, Western-looking [and] constructivist' (RAND 1998:57). This differentiation between insiders and outsiders appears to be based on the degree to which the respective countries are willing to subject themselves to the imperial encounter with the West, and to open themselves to the strategic gaze and control of NATO.

The imperial encounter is then made possible and supported by what one may call the Emperor's two bodies. On one hand, the West appears as a cultural identity among others, located in space (North of the Mediterranean) and time (in the post-cold war era). In this sense, the West is the entity that needs to be protected from the dangers and threats which 'spill over' from the South through adequate strategic means.

On the other hand, the West is presented as a 'site of knowledge', as the source or author of the proper and objective 'world-picture' that depicts the realities of post-cold war global politics. In this sense, the West becomes the metaphysical grounds from which knowledge can be gathered and disseminated. And in its different versions -- securitization, proliferation, and information -- this knowledge draws on and reproduces this metaphysics. There are consequently reasons to be skeptical about NATO's ability to conduct a 'dialogue' with an other it is unwilling to listen to.


1 The Mediterranean Initiative includes Mauritania, Morocco, Tunesia, Egypt, Jordan, and Israel.

2 This count includes France as a NATO member, although it is still not a full member of the Alliance's military structure. Iceland does not have any military forces.

3 The concept 'world-picture' is taken from Heidegger (1977). The German 'Weltbild' is more appropriately translated as 'conception of the world'. It pertains to the modernist comprehension of the world as a manipulable and controlable object 'set-up' in front of the detached subject. In other words, it relates to the metaphysical grounds from which we can formulate truthful accounts of the world. In Heidegger's words, "Where the world becomes picture, what is, in its entirety, is juxtaposed so that for which man is prepared and which, correspondingly, he therefore intends to bring before himself and have before himself..." (Heidegger, 1977:129). The literal translation 'world-picture' is maintained here in order to reveal the constitutive nature of the map image in the following discussion. For a more elaborate discussion of Heidegger's 'world-picture' and its application in International Relations see Constantinou (1996).

4 This is of course a paraphrase of David Campbell's (1992:1) introduction to his study of American foreign policy and identity.

5 In support of this proposition, see Klein (1990:315-17), and (1994:93-105).

6 "As a philosophical strategy, deconstruction addresses itself precisely to that which is taken for granted or regarded as unproblematic by a scientific analysis.... Instead of taking the possibility of reference and meaning for granted, deconstruction asks questions about their relation to presence, thus turning semantic problems into ontological ones: what must be regarded as real, basic, or original, and what must be considered as absent, derivative or supplementary when making sense of [underdevelopment] in empirical discourse?" (Bartelson, 1993:17; emphasis in original).

7 Again, this representation of the Middle East as in essence non-, or anti-Western is not accomplished from scratch. There is a long-standing history of Western conceptions of the 'Orient' as 'the Other', which offers representational resources into which NATO now taps. See Said (1995) for an illustrative account of these conceptions.

8 Obviously, to define Jordan and Mauritania as 'Mediterranean' countries betrays the priority assigned to political purpose over geographical convention.

9 For an analysis of the structural preconditions for the institutionalization of CSBM see Behnke (1993).

10 The notion of 'securitization' is here adopted from Wæver (1995).

11 For a similar set of moves see Solana (1997c).

12 One might also point out the genderization of security in the report, with the EU assigned the role to take care of the 'soft' issues, and NATO maintaining its competence and prowess in dealing with the 'hard' security problems; See RAND (1998:19-21).


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