This article critically reassesses one of the classic ideas in International Relations, the security dilemma. It argues that the key insight of security dilemma theory has been obscured – by reductionist debates on single causes of conflict, inconclusive applications, and definitional disputes – and that the security dilemma’s enduring utility is as a model of the relational dynamic inherent in all conflict, the cycle of insecurity. Through a reappraisal of the literature, the article elucidates three essential dimensions of the cycle: an environment of structural uncertainty; interdependent collective identities; and an escalating and self-perpetuating dynamic. The power and validity of this threefold framework is then demonstrated by an analysis of the conflict in Northern Ireland, a hitherto unexplored case study in the security dilemma literature. The article shows how this construction of the security dilemma offers a convincing, comprehensive and flexible conflict analysis tool which is of both scholarly and practical utility.
security dilemma, Northern Ireland, conflict analysis, civil conflict
"The Cycle of Insecurity: Reassessing the Security Dilemma as a Conflict Analysis Tool,"
Peace and Conflict Studies: Vol. 26
, Article 1.
Available at: https://nsuworks.nova.edu/pcs/vol26/iss2/1