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This unit introduces us to the issue of National Security, and its importance for the survival of a country. National Security is very essential even for those countries that have professed neutrality in international politics like Switzerland, Sweden and Japan. Some degree of security is still necessary for the protection and welfare of their citizens and their country. In this unit, we will also examine the issue of foreign aid and of Alliance formation in the international system.


At the end of this unit, you should be able to:

  1.  Explain what national security means; 
  2. Identify the measures necessary to ensure National Security; iii) Discuss the dichotomy between National Security and Civi Rights;
  3. Discuss Foreign Aid in international relations;
  4. Discuss Alliance Formation as an aspect of National Security.


3.1 The Meaning of National Security

National security involves the measures taken by a state to ensure its survival and safety. National security includes the deterrence of attack, from within and without, as well as the protection and wellbeing of citizens. Measures Taken to Ensure National Security include:
– the maintenance of armed forces;
– civil defence measures and emergency preparedness;
– attempts to create resilience and national infrastructure;
– the maintenance of intelligence services to detect threats;
– the protection of classified information.

National security for example, has become a popular topic in the United States as the terrorist attack of 9/11 brought an end to many people’s beliefs that US was safe from national security threats. In many nations around the world, including the United States, terrorism is becoming the primary focus of national security measures. As the world’s interest in national security has risen the once forgotten conflict between national security and civil rights has reemerged as a major topic of discussion. The United States controversial Patriot Act has brought this issue to the attention of even the average citizen. The debate centers on the question, “is it justified to restrict the people’s freedoms for the sake of the nation’s security?”

3.2 Foreign Aid

Foreign aid, international aid or development assistance is when one country helps another country through some form of donation or assistance. Usually this refers to helping out a country that has a special need caused by poverty, underdevelopment, natural disasters, armed conflicts, etc.

The main receivers of foreign aid are developing nations (third world countries), and the main contributors are the industrialized countries. Foreign aid comes naturally with two important features- the first is that the receiving country gets some assistance from willing partners who will help improve its economy in the short to medium term; the second is that such aid come with conditionalities, political and economic which may not necessarily be in the best interest of the recipients.In terms of bilateral assistance, often this has some economic and political conditionalities attached. These conditionalities may include the practice of western style democracy, embracing the market economy with the attendant requirements of deregulation and privatization of one’s economy. These demands may come from the advanced industrialized countries or from multilateral bodies like the UN, the IMF and the World Bank. The important thing is that countries receiving foreign aid should ab initio consider the implications of such aid for their countries.

3.2.1 Types of Foreign Aid

One major type of foreign aid, development aid, is aid given by developed countries to support economic development in developing countries. Humanitarian aid, on the other hand, is short-term foreign aid used to alleviate suffering caused by a humanitarian crisis such as genocide, famine, or a natural disaster. Finally, military aid is used to assist an ally in its defense efforts, or to assist a poor country in maintaining control over its own territory.  Other types of foreign aid exist as well, although many could be considered to fall under one of the three categories listed above. Latin American countries, as well as countries on other parts of the world, receive a great deal of aid designed to help them fight drug trafficking and cultivation. Many countries receive military aid to help with counter-insurgency efforts, or to help them fight terrorism. Much of the aid to Africa is used to help combat diseases such as AIDS and malaria. The World Health Organization assists countries in keeping under control possible pandemics such as Avian Flu and (in the recent past) SARS. Other problems poor countries are assisted with include landmines, corruption, democratization, adjustment to trade liberalization, money laundering, and peace building.

There has been some criticism of foreign aid. The von Mises Institute has pointed out that it can be route to reward multinational companies rather than the citizens of the country that it is supposed to help. Corruption in many third world nations leads to a portion of the aid money being siphoned off into private bank accounts. In addition, it can be a method of corruption at home. The money, once in the hands of corrupt dictators and off the stringent accounting books of most Western nations can then be kicked back to corrupt domestic politicians in a number of ways. And as an apparent act of charity it is also less politic to scrutinize such a transaction.

Development aid (also development assistance, international aid, overseas aid or foreign aid) is aid given by developed countries to support economic development in developing countries. It is distinguished from humanitarian aid as being aimed at alleviating poverty in the long term, rather than alleviating suffering in the short term (Foreign aid, on the other hand, includes both development aid and humanitarian aid. Some governments include military assistance in the notion “foreign aid”, while a lot of NGOs tend to disapprove).

Historically the term used for the donation of expertise has been technical assistance.The nations of the Organisation for Economic Co- operation and Development (OECD), made up of the developed nations of the world, have committed to providing a certain level of development assistance to underdeveloped countries. This is called Official Development Assistance (ODA), and is given by governments on certain concessional terms, usually as simple donations. It is given by governments through individual countries’ international aid agencies (bilateral aid), through multilateral institutions such as the World Bank, or through development charities such as Oxfam.


The offer to give development aid has to be understood in the context of the cold war. The speech in which Harry Truman announced the foundation of NATO is also a founding document of development policy. “In addition, we will provide military advice and equipment to free nations which will cooperate with us in the maintenance of peace and security. Fourth, we 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.“Development aid was aimed at offering technical solutions to social problems without altering basic social structures. The United States was often fiercely opposed to even moderate changes in social structures, for example the land reform in Guatemala in the early 1950s.

2004 ODA figures(An Example) The combined Official Development Assistance of OECD countries in 2004 was $78.6 billion USD. The United States is the world’s largest contributor of ODA in absolute terms, $19 billion, but this figure should be compared to the combined European Union contribution that totaled

$42.9 billion. Expressed as a percentage of GNI, Norway’s contributions remained in the lead at 0.87%, with the combined EU at 0.36%. The United States remains the lowest contributor in the OECD as a percentage of GNI, at 0.16%.

Effectiveness of Foreign Aid Aid effectiveness refers to the degree to which development aid works, and is a subject of significant disagreement. Dissident economists such as Peter Bauer and Milton Friedman argued in the 1960s that aid is ineffective. Many econometric studies in recent years have supported the view that development aid has no effect on the speed with which countries develop. Negative side effects of aid can include an unbalanced appreciation of the recipient’s currency (known as Dutch Disease), increasing corruption, and adverse political effects such as postponements of necessary economic and democratic reforms.

There is also a lot of debate about which form development aid should take in order to be effective. It has been argued that a lot of government- to-government aid was ineffective because it was merely a way to support strategically important leaders. A good example of this is the former dictator of Zaire, Mobuto Sese Seko, who lost support from the west after the cold war had ended.

Another major point of critisism has been that western countries often project their own needs and solutions onto other societies and cultures. As a result of this critisism, western help in some cases has become more ‘endogenous’, which means that needs as well as solutions are being devised in accordance with local cultures.It has also been argued that help based on direct donation creates dependency and corruption, and has an adverse effect on local production. As a result, a shift has taken place towards aid based on activation of local assets and stimulation measures such as micro-loans.

A lot of aid has also proven ineffective because many third world countries are artificial, young countries in which ethnic tensions are strong: sometimes one ethnic group will refuse to help making a rivalling ethnic group more powerful.In some cases, western surplusses that resulted from faulty agriculture- or other policies have been dumped in poor countries, thus wiping out local production and increasing dependency.In a several instances, loans that were considered as irretrievable (for instance because funds had been embezzled by a dictator who has already died or dissapeared), have been written off by donor countries, who subsequently booked this as development aid.In many cases western governments placed orders with western companies as a form of subsidizing them, and then later shipped these goods to poor countries who often had no use for them. These projects are sometimes called ‘white elephants’.  Many of the aforementioned mistakes have happened because spending money abroad is often bad for the economy: it takes the donated money out of the economy and stops its economic chain-effect of wealth creation. This is one of the reasons why some people underwrite the slogan “not aid but trade”.A common criticism in recent years is that rich countries have put so many conditions on aid that it has reduced aid effectiveness. In the example of tied aid, donor countries often require the recipient to purchase goods and services from the donor, even if these are cheaper elsewhere. Other conditions include opening up the country to foreign investment, even if it might not be ready to do so.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Abhijit Banerjee and Ruimin He have undertaken a rigorous study of the relatively few independent evaluations of aid program successes and failures. They suggest the following interventions are usually highly effective forms of aid in normal circumstances:

subsidies given directly to families to be spent of children’s education and health education vouchers for school uniforms & textbooks teaching selected illiterate adults to read and write deworming drugs and vitamin/nutritional supplements vaccination and HIV/AIDS prevention programs indoor sprays against malaria, anti-mosquito bed netting suitable fertilizers clean water supplies

3.3 Alliance

Definition of Alliance The lack of an accepted definition of alliance is the first indication that the literature is characterized by a marked absence of agreement on many issues. Some authors use the terms alliance, coalition pact and block interchangeable whereas others distinguish among them on various criteria. Nor is there agreement on classifying types of alliance. Most authors seem to agree that the adjectives “offensive” and “defensive” are two value-laden to be of much utility. It is, moreover, distinctly unfashionable for signatories to a treaty of alliance to proclaim aggressive purposes; not even Ribbentrop and Molotov did so as they signed the Nazi-Soviet Pact of 1939. Categories such as “preservation” and “redistribution” are among the suggested alternatives. “Defensive Pact”, “neutrality and non aggression pact”, and “entente” are variously considered as techniques of state craft, or regulating mechanisms in the balance of power.There is little to be gained by a restrictive definition, and a broad one offers the distinct advantage of enlarging the scope of our discourse. We will not limit ourselves to any one of these usages. We require only that the agreement to collaborate be made by formal treaty – open or secret and that it be concerned directly with national security issues. The first stipulation rules out the accidental or temporary coordination of foreign

policy acts such as occurred in 1956 when the United States and the Soviet Union found themselves on the same side with respect to the Suez crisis.
However, in the post-war years bilateral and multi-lateral alliances and other security arrangements have proliferated, and alliance politics, which embraces political-strategic aspects and diplomatic and other relationships, has become a prominent feature of international relations. This was especially true when alliance systems were flourishing, as they seemed to be in 1950s and early 1968. Even though most of the major multi-lateral alliances, including NATO, the Warsaw Pact, SEATO, and CENTO, now are in disarray and have lost much of their original purposes and momentum, the politics of NATO and other alliance system remains an important new dimension in the study of contemporary international relations. Furthermore, Alliance can be defined as a formal agreement between two or more nations to collaborate on national security issues.

3.4 Alliance Formation

With rare exceptions, the decision to participate in alliance is made by sovereign and independent nations. We shall consider two closely related questions about the motives that give rise to alliance policies. First, why do nations choose to undertake or shun external commitment? There is little agreement among alliance theorists. Many place considerable emphasis on the external environment, stressing such factors as the structure of the international system or the level of conflict and threat among its member-nations. Some types of nations are regarded as “alliance prone”, whereas others are seen as more likely to remain free from external military ties. Second, why do nations elect to join others? One position is that nations with important characteristics in common are more likely to align than dissimilar nations. A different view is held by a substantial group of theorists who regard alliances as the pragmatic expression of transient, albeit urgent, interests, rather than as the international manifestation of sentimental ties arising from common ethnic, cultural, ideological or other attributes.

Self Assessment Exercise 

What do you understand by Alliance in the international system?


There is little doubt that National Security is an important aspect of the duty of a sovereign state in order to ensure the protection of its citizens in the present times. It involves elements of internal and external protection involving the use of the armed forces, intelligence services, the civil society as well as benign foreign governments. As is presently mouthed, “Home Security is the responsibility of all”. Therefore, it is necessary that all countries take those basic minimum measures to ensure national security. Also, foreign aid although not always desirable is still an important aspect of the foreign policies of the advanced countries. Foreign aid when properly used by the recipient adds value to the economy, but when misapplied or misused become a burden or a curse for the country.

Though Alliances are fairly common and necessary especially in times of adversity, it appears to have become increasingly popular in recent times. However, what appears to be happening is the cooptation of weaker countries into ad hoc arrangements, often with short – term objectives. A typical example is the ‘Coalition of the Willing’ raised by the United States to prosecute the war against Iraq. However, The North Atlantic Treaty Alliance (NATO) remains important evidence that the days of Alliances are not yet over in the international system.


We have discussed the important issue of National Security and identified the measures usually taken to ensure that it is not jeopardized. We also examined the issue of foreign aid and the implications for the receiving countries. In this unit, we also comprehensively discussed the definition of Alliance, Alliance formation and the relevance in contemporary times.

  1.  “Foreign Aid is a necessity for the developing countries experiencing economic difficulties”. Discuss.
  2.  What do you understand by National Security? Is Alliance Formation still relevant in the 21st Century?


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