Who shall guard the guardians?

I: Introduction to Modern Security Culture

Modern Security Culture (MSC) is an online journal published by the New Security Foundation. It is founded in response to the ancient question: ‘Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?’[1] ‘Who is to guard the guardians themselves?’

Our answer is: We are. Accordingly, MSC freely reports and openly discusses modern security culture. What is modern security culture? Why does it matter to know what it is, and to whom?

Briefly, modern security culture is an academic and professional subculture within a wider culture, that studies and pursues security, and that is modern. This definition, while valid, leaves much to be explained: What is the precise meaning of ‘culture’, ‘security’ and ‘modern’ in the present context? How exactly do these terms relate to one another?

These three terms and their relationship are more fully defined and described in the second part of this article. Here, just to introduce MSC, let me merely sketch them.

‘Culture’, in MSC, is used as in ‘corporate culture’, not as in ‘cultured’ or ‘uncultured’. ‘Security’, here, means sound expectation of continuing enjoyment of life, liberty and estate. ‘Modern’ means belonging to the culture of modernity.

The culture of modernity is likewise more fully defined and described in the second part of this article. In brief, by way of introduction, modernity is a transnational, interethnic, multilingual ideological culture. It is characterised by its preference for knowledge over belief, reason over emotion, and achievement over tradition. Modernity comes in two main forms: authoritarian and liberal. Their main difference is that authoritarian modernity prefers will over law, while liberal modernity prefers law over will.

So modern security culture is an academic and professional subculture, within the culture of modernity, that studies and pursues its own, and its wider culture’s, continuing enjoyment of life, liberty and estate. This means that MSC is not merely concerned with and directed to the limited subculture of specialised security academics and professionals, but with and to members of our wider (sub)culture within modernity, that of liberalism.

MSC belongs to the culture of liberal, not authoritarian modernity. For only in liberal modernity may one freely report and openly discuss security culture. In authoritarian modernity, or a pre- or anti-modern culture, we could not do so with impunity. We would have to fear censorship or worse from the security culture of a non-liberal society, modern or not. Instead, publishing from within the culture of liberal modernity, we can address our journal to readers in both forms of modernity; and, moreover, not only to the clients of a liberal modern security culture, but also to members of that security culture themselves, inviting them to contribute to our journal, as one does in this very same issue.

The use of ‘we’ and ‘our’ here assumes that we, the readers, publisher and writers of MSC, all belong to the culture of modernity, liberal or authoritarian. That assumption is of course not necessarily true of all its readers. Some may belong to pre- or anti-modern cultures or subcultures, dedicated to resisting or destroying the culture of modernity.

So this journal, while primarily directed to members of the culture of modernity, may also be taken as a message, indeed a warning, to its enemies and adversaries. Insofar as directed to members of the culture of modernity, it aims, beginning with this article, to perform the first task of any security culture: to identify those whose security is to be defended. Insofar as directed to enemies and adversaries, it aims to let them know that we know who we are and who they are, and that we are willing and able to defend ourselves.

The reason why it matters to know what modern security culture is, and to whom, is to be able to defend ourselves effectively. To ensure effective defence, we must guard the guardians. This means knowing not only who the guardians are, and how they do their job, but whether they really understand what precisely they are guarding, and why, so that their attempts to guard it do not defeat their purpose. In particular, we may wish to know if our guardians are modern, not only by virtue of being up to date with new technology and weaponry, but also by that of understanding modern security reality in terms of the new balance to be sought between security and liberty.

Therefore we must ask whether their modernity is only technological and instrumental, thus merely tactical, or also philosophic, economic, political and ecological, in sum cultural, and so strategic. Moreover, the belief that we can ask this with impunity, expecting to be answered, is itself a crucial part of our security. Our liberty, as well as life and estate, is at stake. We wish to see that its appointed guardians guard it properly.

Now ideally, from a purely academic point of view, seeking knowledge for its own sake, or from that of following best practice in professional relations, both security cultures and their clients, the general public, should share such information transparently. But given the nature of security cultures, such transparency is most unlikely. Security cultures argue that secrecy is necessary for them to do their job; that it is, by definition, part of the business of security. Thus any security information shared with the general public is, by that very fact, compromised, because by being divulged it has been rendered insecure.

This argument has previously been largely accepted by the public. It still is in certain quarters, but is no longer universally. Members of security services leaking secret information have recently claimed the moral high ground, and a large number of people in liberal societies are prepared to concede it to them. Therefore secrecy is no longer enforceable. A combination of modern technology and modern attitudes ensures that secrecy is getting harder and harder to maintain. It may soon become quite impossible.

This is one of several new realities security cultures and their clients must now face. In particular, we must distinguish between strategic and tactical secrecy. Strategic openness may help regain support for tactical secrecy, with appropriate oversight, if its strategic need is understood. This journal, beginning with an article on ‘The End of Secrecy and What it Means’ in this first issue, contributes to discussion of that new reality.

Another new reality is that, at least among great powers, war is no longer a viable option, because it cannot meaningfully be won. The job of security cultures thus becomes to keep the peace. This means seeking rational solutions to potential conflicts, based on enlightened self-interest and consensus. We must go beyond Clausewitz.[2] No longer may war be politics by other means, and vice-versa. Rather, politics, in the form of diplomacy, must replace war in international relations, at least among states espousing the culture of modernity. Accordingly, the second part of this article proposes a new strategy for liberal modernity, based on an understanding of this new reality.

Yet another new reality that we must face is that most present conflicts are cultural: whether within the culture of modernity, between liberalism and authoritarianism; or between the culture of modernity and pre- or anti-modern cultures. While the former are open to reason, the latter are often conflicts of identity, involving strong emotions, so not easily susceptible to rational solution. They tend, moreover, to be asymmetrical and unconventional, requiring new and different strategies and tactics, involving understanding of both reason and irrationality. So understanding the inverse of modernity’s preferences – belief, emotion and tradition over knowledge, reason and achievement – in their historical context and with their psychological dynamics, becomes an essential part of a modern security culture’s armoury.

Perhaps the most important reality that we must face is, however, one that is largely favourable to us, if we can learn to play to our strengths and cope with our weaknesses. The main dynamic in global culture now is the spread and evolution of modernity. It has been so since the Renaissance, and looks like continuing. This is due to its attractiveness to large majorities of people worldwide, especially to younger generations.

Thus resistance to modernity from pre-modern traditional cultures diminishes with time, and does not much threaten modernity. Rather the reverse: modernity is overwhelmingly more powerful, and threatens all traditional cultures with extinction, or at least with forced adaptation, and so, some would claim, loss of identity and authenticity.

An article on ‘The Role of Students in Egyptian Higher Education in the Context of the Arab Spring’ in this first issue addresses some of the problems arising in a traditional culture during its difficult and painful transition towards modernity.

The greater threat to modernity comes from within modernity itself, either where it is dominant, as in Europe and North America, or where it has a foothold in certain classes, usually upper and middle, of pre-modern cultures, as in much of the developing world. In any culture there are always those who, for whatever reason, choose to forge their own identity on opposition to the family, hence culture, in which they are born and brought up. If that culture is the culture of modernity, their opposition leads to anti-modern ideologies, which may involve the superficial espousal, or ‘hijacking’, of pre-modern cultural forms.

This, to be effectively combatted, must be understood in terms of its cultural, historical, national, political, economic, religious, familial and psychological dynamics. A future issue of this journal will include an article addressing the psychology of ‘home grown jihadists’.

These and other new realities have changed the security landscape drastically, and make it urgent that they be freely reported and openly discussed, by security cultures and their clients, if real security is to be sought. That is what Modern Security Culture aims to do. It aims to discuss academic and professional, theoretical and practical, strategic and tactical aspects of security. Accordingly, the second part of this article addresses ‘Challenges facing liberal modernity and how to meet them.’


II: Challenges facing liberal modernity and how to meet them.


Modernity is the most successful cultural movement in the world today. Within modernity, its liberal variety now seems in the ascendant. Liberalism nonetheless faces many challenges, both from without and from within. I shall here propose a strategy to meet them with. That strategy is based on playing to our strengths and coping with our weaknesses.

The greatest of our strengths is the superior understanding of and coping with reality afforded by adopting the defining preferences of the culture of modernity: knowledge over belief, reason over emotion, achievement over tradition. Accordingly, any strategy proposed must be related to a specific understanding of reality and of culture’s role in coping with it, as afforded by adherence to those preferences.

To be met successfully, challenges must be met by a fully modern security culture: one that is modern both in terms of strategy and tactics, theory and practice. Accordingly, the first step in proposing such a strategy will be to define and describe the concepts behind the words ‘modern’, ‘security’ and ‘culture’, in order to identify precisely the characteristics that the guardians of liberal modernity should strive to manifest.

The next step is to define and describe who and what precisely is to be defended: the culture of liberal modernity. Since its beginnings in the European Renaissance and Enlightenment, modernity has spread worldwide. Espousing secular, rather than religious governance, and the pursuit of more or less enlightened self-interest, authoritarian modernity led to the scientific and industrial revolutions. Liberal modernity, espousing diverse varieties of democracy and capitalism, is engaged in an ongoing struggle with authoritarianism in which it seems, at least for now, at least in the West, to have gained the upper hand. Recent developments in information technology are speeding and deepening liberal modernity’s penetration both of traditional and authoritarian modern cultures.

Liberal modernity, while spreading worldwide, is for that very reason under attack, by pre- and anti-modern cultures, authoritarian modern states, and anti-modern, anti-liberal elements within itself. If it is to continue to thrive and spread, its members must understand the nature and complexity of these threats, and respond appropriately. On the principle of ‘know thine enemy’, the next step in proposing a strategy for liberal modernity must be to define, describe and sort its enemies and adversaries, weighing their strengths and weaknesses against ours.

Among our greatest strengths are the widespread popular appeal of our ideology, including liberal democracy, and our practical success in meeting the challenges of modernity. Modernity, once begun, is unstoppable. Pre-and anti-modern ideologies based on ethnicity, religion and emotion cannot halt it. There is no doubt that modernity in one form or another is the future. The real question is which: liberal or authoritarian?

Our greatest weakness is that, relying on democracy (our greatest ideological attraction), our practical decision-making process is slow and erratic, and often ill informed. Dictators can take right but unpopular decisions quickly, and enforce their implementation. This gives them tactical advantage.

For liberal modernity to prevail over authoritarian, it must cultivate its ideological strengths, while energetically pursuing and expanding the practical military, economic and political success it has so far enjoyed. Inasmuch as modernity is an ideological, rather than an ethnic culture, the best way to do this is through education, for a democracy is only as good as its demos. The more educated its demos, the more enlightened a democracy is, and the more likely are its citizens to understand the issues at stake and consent to respond appropriately.

This, in broad outline, is the strategy I here propose for defending and promoting liberal modernity. For such a strategy to succeed, tactics based on a realistic, modern world-view must be adopted. Part of that world-view must include recognition of the limitations of security. Modern security culture, rather than just resisting change, must learn to manage change.

The aims of the next sections of this article are therefore to:

1)              define ‘modernity’, ‘security’ and ‘culture’ showing how they relate to each other;

2)              describe the culture of modernity, distinguishing liberal from authoritarian;

3)              weigh liberal modernity’s enemies’ and adversaries’ strengths and weaknesses;

4)              propose a strategy for liberal modernity.


1) ‘Modern’, ‘security’ and ‘culture’.



            In the noun phrase ‘modern security culture’, the noun is ‘culture’, so we begin with it.

‘Culture’ derives etymologically from Latin cultura, meaning ‘cultivation’; literally of soil, metaphorically of minds. The metaphor is Cicero’s: cultura … animi philosophia est: ‘philosophy is cultivation of the mind’.[3] In that metaphorical sense, and with the addition to philosophy of further subjects of study, including art, literature and music, among others, ‘culture’ came to stand for appreciation of the finer things in life. In that sense it became a value judgement, whereby one was either ‘cultured’ or ‘uncultured’.

That is the sense in which ‘culture’ is still understood by many people. But it is not the sense in which ‘culture’ is used in Modern Security Culture. Here, ‘culture’ is used in the sense of ‘a’ culture, a usage now widespread. The notion of ‘a’ (or ‘our’ or ‘national’) culture implicitly challenges the notion that one is either ‘cultured’ or ‘uncultured’. If there is more than one culture, as implied by the use of articles, possessive pronouns and adjectives, then everyone is ‘cultured’, but differently so. Accordingly, what used to be called ‘culture’ tout court is now called ‘high culture’, at least by cultured people.

This use of ‘culture’ in the sense of ‘a’ culture derives from anthropology. The discovery by anthropologists that, contrary to civilised prejudice, ‘savage’ tribal peoples had very complex systems of kinship, social organisation, co-operation, justice and religion led to the notion that culture is a universal human phenomenon. That notion caught on, spread to the media, and became commonplace, as in ‘security culture’ or ‘culture wars’.

The meaning of ‘culture’ in this article is based on that derived from anthropology, but goes well beyond it, into the realm of philosophy, by virtue of relating culture to a specific theory of reality. A later issue of this journal will devote fuller discussion to culture in that philosophical sense. For now let a brief definition and description do.

By that definition, ‘a’ culture is a certain way of life, distinct from others. Culture is best described in terms of agents, goals and habitat. Habitat is where culture occurs. Goals are what culture pursues; agents those who pursue them.

Man is culture’s agent. (‘Man’ includes all genders.) Culture is man’s way of pursuing man’s basic goal: surviving long enough to reproduce and thrive in man’s habitat. Habitat, both shaping culture and shaped by it, is itself material, natural and notional. These three forms of habitat correspond to three realms of reality: matter, nature and notion.

Matter generates nature. Nature is all living matter. Nature generates notion. Notion is the same as thought. Thought or notion is neither matter nor life, but information, Information needs live matter, in the form of brains acting as minds, to happen. Thought or notion generates culture.

Culture is a product of thoughts or notions in man’s mind turned into action, interacting with and altering man’s habitat. It differs from the actions of other species, who also alter habitat, in its degree of consciousness, complexity and purpose, and in its effect on habitat and man. Man’s interaction with man’s habitat has adapted man’s brain to life in and by culture. A defining feature of man’s thought is will or purpose.

A basic difference between culture and nature is that of purpose. While nature, as described by biology, operates blindly, and evolves randomly, culture is conscious and purposeful: it has goals. Culture is man’s interaction with man’s habitat, altering that habitat in pursuit of goals implicit in man’s way of life.

Man’s basic goal, surviving long enough to reproduce and thrive in man’s habitat, may be restated as three goals: survival, growth and pleasure. Survival may be individual or collective; growth material or natural; pleasure end or means. Material growth is wealth accumulation and its productive deployment. Natural growth is population increase.

Man’s thought, interacting purposefully with nature and matter, generates culture in each of reality’s three realms. Material culture is everything man-made, from campfires to computers. Natural culture is every form of life shaped by culture, from crops, to domesticated breeds, to man’s own brain. Notional culture is the activity of man’s brain acting as mind, in the form of thoughts, words, images and concepts.

Culture is practiced by individuals and collectivities. Individuals and collectivities define themselves in terms of each other through consciousness, identity and relationship, all cultural concepts. Individuals and collectivities derive their identity partly from their culture, and contribute to that culture’s broader identity by participating in its practice.

The original source of cultural identity is biological. Biological relationship defines a given collectivity as an ethnicity. Culture is therefore originally identified with the ethnicities that practice it. But with the accretion to cultural identity of other material, natural and notional elements, associated with a given ethnic culture’s way of life, cultures come to be identified by one or some of those material, natural or notional characteristics.

An example of a culture identified, not by ethnicity, but by its notional characteristics, is the culture of modernity, to which the publishers, writers, and likely readers of Modern Security Culture belong. Another way of stating culture’s goals is that of one of the founders of the culture of modernity: Locke’s ‘life, liberty and estate’.[4]

While life and liberty remain intact, in successive paraphrases, ‘estate’ has been variously redefined, most often as ‘possessions’ or ‘property’, but also as ‘the pursuit of happiness’. This corresponds to our own list of culture’s goals: life to survival; liberty to pleasure; estate to material growth. Natural, or population growth, corresponds to life.

However one states them, culture’s goals are mutually interdependent. Survival depends on growth; growth on survival. Pleasure’s pursuit leads to survival and growth. Growth and survival produce pleasure. All three goals relate to matter, nature and notion, and to consciousness, identity and relationship. So survival, growth and pleasure may be individual or collective, material, natural or notional. This is best illustrated by examples:

Individual material survival is that of a single archaeological artefact (from which, according to some archaeologists, a whole culture may be deduced); collective material survival that of a whole buried city, such as Schliemann’s Troy. Individual natural survival is that of a single individual, living to reproduce another day; collective that of a whole group doing so. Individual notional survival is that of a single word or image (from which, again, a whole culture may arguably be deduced); collective that of a language or style.

Individual material growth is that of individual wealth accumulation; collective that of shared prosperity. Individual natural growth is that of individual bodies; collective that of multiplying populations. Individual notional growth is that of individual minds acquiring knowledge and understanding; collective that of cultures becoming creative.

Individual material pleasure is a goal spurring pursuit of wealth, comfort and security. Collective material pleasure is a spur to material growth, production and creativity. Individual natural pleasure is a pursuit incidentally producing population growth. Collective natural pleasure, shared by all participants, denotes a happy, creative culture. Individual notional pleasure is cultivation of the mind, leading to cultural creativity.  Collective notional pleasure is the common goal of any culture: the pursuit of happiness.

In the course of man’s pursuit of happiness, obstacles are met. Information gained by overcoming them is codified into knowledge. Knowledge of the world is science. Knowledge of how knowledge works is logic. Logic interacting with science leads to understanding of the universe, including matter, nature, notion, culture and its goals.

In any circumstances where survival, growth and pleasure may come into conflict with each other, logic, as well as nature, privileges survival. For survival can, temporarily, exist without growth or pleasure, but not the reverse. This leads to the need for security.


‘Security’ derives from Latin securitas: ‘carefree self-confidence, freedom from care, carelessness, safety, security’. Securitas is an abstract noun derived from the adjective securus-a-um: ‘unconcerned, careless, safe, secure, untroubled, nonchalant’. It is composed of se: ‘self’, and curus-a-um: ‘mindful, alert to’, a verbal adjective derived from curare: ‘take care of, mind, worry or care about, order, attend to, heal, cure.’[5]

So even in the Latin word, as in present reality, one finds security’s central paradox: carefree self-confidence can only be achieved by constant worry, vigilance and care. This involves division of labour. So that some may be carefree, others must worry. That is the job of a security culture, and thus the concern of Modern Security Culture.

Security, here, is sound expectation of continuing enjoyment of life, liberty and estate. The emphasis must be on ‘sound’. For any such expectation that is unsound is illusory. ‘Sound’, in this context, is equivalent to ‘modern’. For ‘modern’, in this context, means, among other things, up to date, with respect to understanding new technology and weaponry, plus current security reality, in terms of matter, nature, notion and culture. Since reality is always changing, being ‘sound’ or ‘modern’ is a constant challenge.

This is doubly so for a security culture, since security has usually meant resisting change. Another article coming in this journal discusses Tancredi’s Paradox in Lampedusa’s Leopard: ‘Se vogliamo che tutto rimanga come è, bisogna che tutto cambi. ’ ‘If we want everything to stay the same, everything must change.’[6] That book holds many lessons for modern security culture. Among them: the need to manage, rather than resist change; the realisation that preserving things as they are can only temporarily succeed; the understanding that, depending on the things it wishes to preserve, security is subject to their inherent limitations, but can also take advantage of their intrinsic possibilities.

The things security seeks to preserve, or at least prolong, are ‘life, liberty and estate’. Each has limitations. Those of life are material and natural; of estate and liberty notional. As we seek to prolong life, or clone or grow it from DNA, its basic limitations constrain us. With estate and liberty, our own culture’s notional creations, we have a freer hand.

Locke and his contemporaries thought that life, liberty and estate were absolute entities, belonging to an immaterial, metaphysical or spiritual realm of reality, created by some god. As such, they should not be tampered with; only revered. With all due respect to holders of such beliefs, we ‘do not find it necessary to invoke any such hypothesis.’[7] This, given religion’s role as an element of conflict in modern times, is fortunate, in that it frees our hands to try to solve such conflicts, involving emotion and identity, from a more neutral perspective. This may involve tampering with concepts like life, liberty and estate.

Theoretically, we can redefine them to suit changing circumstances. But here too we are constrained, by the practice of such redefinition, involving consensus. Language, in that sense, is inherently democratic. Popular usage prevails in the end. So the best that we can do is propose and argue redefinitions, such as that of ‘culture’ in recent times, and hope that they catch on, changing public discourse, and so understanding and behaviour.

That is how this journal may contribute to managing change. In so doing, it engages in an activity typical of the culture of modernity, which is defined by change.


‘Modern’ is an adjective, corresponding to the abstract noun ‘modernity’. Both derive from the Latin noun modus: ‘mode, form, way’, and its adverb modo: ‘just now, at present’.[8] Modo is an oblique case of modus, so they are linked in origin and meaning. Therefore modernity has two senses: modal, from modus, and temporal, from modo.

Modal modernity means certain ways of life, not others. Temporal modernity means ways of life current now. Other ways are deemed pre-modern. The fusion of both senses of modernity means that whatever way of life current now is modern in both senses. But since ‘now’ is ever advancing in time, what is modern evolves over time, perhaps differently in different contexts, so that what is modern in one may not be so in another.

So, to sum up this description of ‘culture’, ‘security’ and ‘modern’, how must a modern security culture understand these terms? How must it act upon that understanding? That will form the subject of many articles to come, but here are some basic principles:

Man’s notional habitat, the world of thoughts, words, images and concepts, is where most human interaction happens, so most human interaction is cultural. As most human interaction is cultural, most wars are culture wars. Since the job of a modern security culture is to keep the peace, it must do so in man’s notional habitat. Therefore, to keep the peace, a modern security culture must operate adroitly in the realm of notional culture.

Man’s material and natural habitat is now largely man-made. Man has so altered man’s habitat that man now depends on culture to survive. Yet man’s material and natural habitat is under threat by man, as a result of man’s exploitation. This, as much as merely human interaction, must become a main concern of modern security culture.

2) The culture of modernity.  


What is the culture of modernity? Unlike a security culture, which usually exists within a national culture, the culture of modernity spans many national cultures. This is because, unlike cultures based mainly on ethnicity, modernity is based mainly on ideology; that is, on a set of values, practices, and relationships amounting to a way of life. Thus, while membership of ethnic cultures is determined mainly by birth, and though one may also be born into the culture of modernity, it is basically a culture of choice, which members of any ethnicity can choose to join, and those born into can choose to leave, and attack.

The culture of modernity is a way of life that prefers knowledge to belief, reason to emotion, achievement to tradition. This does not mean that it prohibits belief, emotion or tradition, but that, permitting them, even, perhaps, using them, it subordinates them to knowledge, reason and achievement. As such, it embodies a principle of managed change.

Modernity has two main forms: authoritarian and liberal, emerging in that order. Authoritarian modernity evolves from pre-modern sources; liberal, from authoritarian. Both share the same basic preferences just cited: knowledge over belief, reason over emotion, achievement over tradition. The main differences between them lie in how they manage liberty and will, and how they get things done. At the theoretical extremes of each: in authoritarian modernity, everything not permitted is forbidden; in liberal modernity, everything not forbidden is permitted. Liberal modernity prefers law to will; authoritarian, will to law. Action flows, in authoritarian modernity, from obeying an authority’s command because compelled to; in liberal modernity, from free individuals or collectivities agreeing, if they ever can, on action. Authoritarianism’s typical political system is dictatorship; liberalism’s democracy. In practice, all modern societies show features of both forms of modernity in differing degrees, proportions and distributions.

Originating in Europe and America, the culture of modernity is spreading worldwide. The reason for this is that it attracts so many people from inside traditional cultures. This is partly due to the appeal of its defining values, partly to the lure of its practical success.

Modernity’s appeal is partly rational, partly emotional. Since the appeal of its defining values – knowledge, reason and achievement over belief, emotion and tradition – can only be appreciated by one acquainted with them, and, moreover, requires the exercise of reason, learned through such acquaintance, it is likely that modernity’s initial emotional appeal, to those not yet thus acquainted or instructed, is linked to its practical success.

Modernity’s practical success, measured in terms of greater and longer enjoyment of life, liberty and estate, results from application of its defining preferences to science, politics and economics. This results in achieving the highest standard of living ever known locally, in those parts of the world embracing the culture of modernity. This is true as much for Russia and China as for Western Europe, North and South America, Japan and India.

In terms of political success, modernity, whether authoritarian or liberal, has replaced pre-modern systems in most of the world, with few absolute monarchies or theocracies remaining. Judged by direction of national change between systems, liberal modernity has beaten authoritarian, in the outcomes of the Second World War and the Cold War. This may be mainly because it has also, so far, done better economically. It remains to be seen whether this continues to be so, in the case of dictatorial China and democratic India.

3: The enemies and adversaries of liberal modernity.

Yet despite or because of its success, modernity has opponents, without and within. That is why it needs a security culture. Its enemies without are cultures, represented by states or non-state actors, embracing pre-modernity: usually some form of religious belief. They reject modernity’s preferences, and seek to reverse its spread. Its enemies within are individuals who, for whatever reasons, posit their identity on opposition to their own native culture – that of modernity – and thus embrace pre- or anti-modern ideologies.

Thus identity emerges as a key issue in the conflict between modernity and its opponents. An article soon to be published in this journal studies the relationship of interests and identity, and how their divergent pursuit can lead to internal and external conflict in societies.

Opposition to modernity as such rejects the results of its preferences. Knowledge over belief undermines religion. To rule emotion, reason wields unwelcome self-discipline. Achievement over tradition leads to change, resisted by actual or potential losers. Authoritarian modern opposition to liberal modernity, even if accepting the foregoing, rejects the rule of law over will, or indeed any limits on its absolute exercise of power.

The main enemies of modernity as such are religions, and political movements inspired by them. The most obvious but not only current example is political Islam, in two varieties: Sunni, sponsored by Saudi Arabia and others, Shia, sponsored by Iran. Fortunately for modernity, the two hate each other as much as they hate modernity.

The main adversary of liberal modernity is authoritarian modernity, as practiced by China, Russia, North Korea, and several other states worldwide. A third source of opposition, whether to modernity as such, or to its liberal variety, comes from within states embracing either, in the form of non-state actors. All these entities – states and non-state actors, authoritarian moderns and religious fundamentalists – oppose modernity as such, or liberal modernity, because its preferences, spreading worldwide, threaten or stymie its opponents’ established or desired ways of life: their real or imaginary cultures. This is the source of ‘culture wars’, not only within, but between societies and states.

4: A strategy for liberal modernity.

There is a sense in which all wars are now culture wars. A modern security culture must, therefore, know how to fight and win culture wars. This means understanding culture as such, in terms of its goals – survival, growth and pleasure, involving enjoyment of life, liberty and estate – and how these goals are pursued by one’s own and other cultures.

Such understanding suggests a strategy for liberal modernity, based on its comparative advantage in pursuit of those goals. Such a strategy is shaped by those goals themselves. It involves three main efforts: 1) maintaining military and intelligence superiority over all potential enemies and adversaries; 2) pursuing economic and scientific growth, both to fund and lead the military and intelligence effort, and to foment attraction for those without, loyalty from those within; 3) promote democracy, freedom, and the arts, as a source both of pleasure and identity. This is a strategy based on liberalism’s strengths.

How shall we cope with its weaknesses? Most important, we must avoid falling into terrorism’s trap. Its real threat to liberal modernity is that in response to terrorism liberalism may damage itself. While all modern societies combine liberal and authoritarian features, liberal modernity has recently become much more authoritarian in its means of self-defence. This is based on the notion that authoritarianism is better at self-defence than liberalism. That may be true in the short term. Dealing with the threat posed by enemies of modernity as such will be much easier if undertaken in tandem between liberal and authoritarian modernity, each by its own ways and means. But in the long term (although by then we shall all be dead)[9] what makes modernity attractive to most people, thus guaranteeing not only its survival, but growth, vitality and creativity, is its liberal variety.

Liberal modernity offers far more pleasure to more people, in the form of life, liberty and estate, than does authoritarian modernity, let alone theocracy. So in becoming more authoritarian to defend itself, liberal modernity must take care not to act counterproductively. It must balance security with other goals, including growth and pleasure, wealth and freedom, without forgetting that all these depend on survival.

It must also realise that infinite growth on a finite planet is ultimately unsustainable. Capitalism, in its present form, is predicated on infinite growth. It is also manic-depressive, swinging wildly from boom to bust, with disruptive consequences. While capitalism, like democracy, to which it is closely linked, is, to paraphrase Churchill, the worst of all possible systems, except for all the rest that have been tried,[10] we must not let it have its way with us. It makes a good servant, but a bad master. We must tame capitalism, as we have largely, at least in the culture of liberal modernity, tamed religion and tradition.


So, to sum up, in answer to our original question: ‘What is modern security culture?’ the following points stand out:

Modern security culture differs from all previous security cultures in three main ways:

(1) While previous security cultures aim to stop all change, modern security cultures must learn to manage change.

(2) While previous security cultures had to concentrate mainly on the material and natural elements of conflict – weapons and manpower – modern security cultures must focus equally on the notional element: the perception of reality in its own population, and in those of its allies, adversaries and enemies.

(3) While previous security cultures could focus on winning wars, expecting to survive, even if they lost them, modern security cultures must focus on avoiding wars, and realise that they are unlikely to win asymmetrical war, if they wage it conventionally.

This sets the terms for future discussion in Modern Security Culture: What is the right balance of pleasure, growth and survival? Life, liberty and estate? Freedom, competition and security? Ethics and results? Means and ends? War and peace? Liberal and authoritarian modernity?

[1] Commonly attributed to Juvenal, Satire 6.346–348:

audio quid ueteres olim moneatis amici,

“pone seram, cohibe.” sed quis custodiet ipsos

custodes? cauta est et ab illis incipit uxor.

I hear always the admonishment of my friends:

“Bolt her in, constrain her!” But who will guard

the guardians? The wife plans ahead and begins with them.

But see textual controversy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quis_custodiet_ipsos_custodes%3F

[2] Carl von Clausewitz, On War, 1.1.24.

“Der Krieg ist eine bloße Fortsetzung der Politik mit anderen Mitteln.” – Vom Kriege, 1. Buch, 1. Kapitel, Unterkapitel 24 (Überschrift)

“War is merely the continuation of politics by other means.”

[3] Cicero, Tusculan Disputations 2.13:

‘Cultura autem animi philosophia est; haec extrahit vitia radicitus et praeparat animos ad satus accipiendos eaque mandat eis et, ut ita dicam, serit, quae adulta fructus uberrimos ferant.’ Cicero The Latin Library The Classics Page, Tusculan Disputations, http://www.thelatinlibrary.com/cicero/tusc.shtml

‘Whereas philosophy is the culture of the mind: this it is which plucks up vices by the roots; prepares the mind for the receiving of seeds; commits them to it, or, as I may say, sows them, in the hope that, when come to maturity, they may produce a plentiful harvest.’ Project Gutenberg, Cicero, Tusculan Disputations http://www.gutenberg.org/files/14988/14988-h/14988-h.htm

[4] Locke: Second Treatise of Government, Ch. 18, sec. 204:

‘Whensoever therefore the legislative shall transgress this fundamental rule of society; and either by ambition, fear, folly or corruption, endeavour to grasp themselves, or put into the hands of any other, an absolute power over the lives, liberties, and estates of the people; by this breach of trust they forfeit the power the people had put into their hands for quite contrary ends, and it devolves to the people, who have a right to resume their original liberty, and, by the establishment of a new legislative, (such as they shall think fit) provide for their own safety and security, which is the end for which they are in society.’

[5] Oxford Pocket Latin: securitas, securus, curo.

[6] Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, Il Gattopardo, 1958. Ch. 1.

[7] Attributed to Pierre-Simon Laplace, allegedly as a reply to Napoleon, who had asked why he hadn’t mentioned God in his book on astronomy.  “Je n’avais pas besoin de cette hypothèse-là”. ‘I had no need of that hypothesis.’

[8] Oxford Pocket Latin: modus, modo.

[9] John Maynard Keynes, A Tract on Monetary Reform (1923) Ch. 3:

‘But this long run is a misleading guide to current affairs. In the long run we are all dead. Economists set themselves too easy, too useless a task if in tempestuous seasons they can only tell us that when the storm is long past the ocean is flat again.’

[10] Sir Winston Churchill, Hansard, November 11, 1947:

‘Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.’