2016 Theme

Constructing New Models of Security: Conflict and Cooperation in the 21st Century

Recent headlines from the crisis in Syria, the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, rising tensions in the South China Sea, to the ongoing turbulence in the global economy re-enforce the general understanding among societies on both sides of the Atlantic that basic concepts of security and diplomacy are in fundamental transition. How Europe understands the United States, and how the US understands itself, is intricately connected to the tectonic shifts taking place in the norms, institutions, and interests shaping debates about how to define and pursue or construct security and diplomacy in the coming decades.

“Cultures of Security” is used as a concept to capture these broad trends. Culture is meant in a deeper sense to underscore that societies develop different approaches and priorities in the pursuit or construction of security, indeed, how security is even defined, be it economic, environmental, social, and of course classically, in a military sense. While the focus of the summer school will be a rigorous exchange about cultures of security in a transatlantic context, the goal is to embed these exchanges in a global context. Part of the evolution in cultures of security includes America continuing to become a “Pacific country” as part of what some are calling the “Pacific century”. Elites in Germany and Europe realize these trends will impact their national and regional interests profoundly. We thus want to integrate the Pacific space into our deliberations of the transatlantic space to encourage a global dialogue.

Indeed, President Obama has stressed that the United States must deconstruct its prevalent post cold war narrative for global order and engage in a process of constructing a sustainable consensus for international cooperation. His strategy has proved controversial both at home and worldwide. The president’s efforts have nevertheless unleashed an ongoing German-American and more broadly European-American debate about what necessitates a principled but pragmatic pursuit of national interests in the context of coordinated global efforts to construct a stable security system in which societies can pursue economic and other forms of exchange (see for example the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership initiative, strongly supported by Chancellor Merkel and President Obama). Ultimately, the debate in the United States and internationally centers more basically on what should a sustainable compromise consist of regarding material, institutional and normative interests (what international relations scholars would refer to as realist, liberal, and constructivist considerations).

Thus the transatlantic, transpacific, and global challenge confronting the international community is the need to construct new models of security that address the myriad of conflicts, challenges, and opportunities for cooperation that inform contemporary developments in the international system.