Confidence and Security-building Measures - Confidence Building Viewed As A Process

Confidence Building Viewed As A Process

An alternative analytic approach to understanding confidence building looks at broader process concepts rather than concentrating on specific measures. This approach finds its fullest expression in Confidence Building in the Arms Control Process: A Transformation View (James Macintosh (Ottawa, Canada: Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Arms Control and Disarmament Studies Number 2, 1996. JX 1974.M32 1996)).

Confidence Building in the Arms Control Process: A Transformation View sees conventional understandings of confidence building as incomplete and focuses on why and how developing confidence building arrangements can help to improve security relations. Confidence building, according to the transformation view, is a distinct activity undertaken by policy makers with the minimum intention of improving some aspects of a traditionally antagonistic security relationship through security policy coordination and cooperation. It entails the comprehensive process of exploring, negotiating, and then implementing tailored measures, including those that promote interaction, information exchange, and constraint. It also entails the development and use of both formal and informal practices and principles associated with the cooperative development of CBMs. When conditions are supportive, the confidence building process can facilitate, focus, synchronize, amplify, and generally structure the potential for a significant positive transformation in the security relations of participating states. Thus, the confidence building process involves more than simply the production of a confidence building agreement and definitely should not be confused with what specific CBMs do.

The serious pursuit of legitimate confidence building arrangements, according to the transformation view, is an activity that is particularly well-suited to fostering positive changes in security thinking (transformation) when conditions are supportive. This is due to the activity's fundamentally cooperative character and the reinforcing nature of the confidence building measures that comprise an arrangement. Confidence building, because of its basic character, is able to facilitate and structure the potential for change in security relationships when at least some states are dissatisfied with, and beginning to question, status quo security policies and approaches.

A particularly important dimension of the transformation view is the proposition that the changes in security thinking facilitated by confidence building can become institutionalized as a collection of new rules and practices stipulating how participating states should cooperate and compete with each other in their security relationship. This restructured relationship redefines expectations of normal behaviour among participating states. Without at least a modest transformation of basic security expectations flowing from its application, it is difficult to see how confidence building can improve basic security relations in meaningful ways.

Confidence building appears to offer considerable promise as a security management approach. However, this potential cannot be fully realized unless a policy-relevant and conceptually sound understanding of the confidence building process and how it works animates application efforts. Relying on the traditional "minimalist" accounts of confidence building, with their tendency to reify the operational content of confidence building measures as the essence of "confidence building," is unlikely to provide much help. This latter approach does not speak to the conditions that should be in place for effective confidence building to occur and lacks a convincing account of why and how adopting these measures will improve security relations. (Text drawn from the executive summary of Confidence Building in the Arms Control Process: A Transformation View, with permission of the author and the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.)

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