Introducing Vulnerability and Security


[1] In the aftermath of the many international crises during the 1990s culminating in Kosovo, the Commission on International Affairs of the Church of Norway felt a need to address the issue of legitimate use of power and military force at a theological and ethical level, without losing the concrete experiences and challenges from sight. A small working group was assigned for the task, consisting of two social scientists, Karin Dokken and Hans Morten Haugen, and two ethicists/theologians, Raag Rolfsen and Sturla J. Stålsett. After a process of collective discussions and writing in the group, the document Vulnerability and Security: Current Challenges in Security Policy from an Ethical and Theological Perspective was adopted by the Commission of International Affairs as its statement, and published in Norwegian in late 2000, with an expanded English version two years later.
[2] The document spurred some debate, and was received rather enthusiastically by many, not only in the Church of Norway, but also in a wider context, nationally and internationally. It has been presented in various ecumenical forums, and was also discussed at a seminar arranged at the UN in New York and in the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington, with participation of politicians, UN officials, and church personnel. It became clear to us that framing the issue from the point of view of a common experience of human vulnerability, in a fruitful way re-opened the theme of security policy and the ethics of war/peace.

[3] The purpose of this introduction is to give some background information on the Vulnerability and Security study as well as to indicate its sources and its possible relevance. We hope that this will facilitate a critical and constructive dialogue on the issues raised and the positions taken in this document in view of recent developments.

1. Vulnerability and Security: The main argument and some of its principal sources
By Sturla J. Stålsett

[4] After the 9/11 atrocities the language of vulnerability struck a general, almost global nerve. But the way in which vulnerability was addressed after the terrorist attacks seemed to be much more uni-dimensional than the way we had worked with it in the Vulnerability and Security document. Vulnerability was purely seen as a weakness to be overcome. Our main point is that vulnerability is both the foundation of an ethical and political right to protection and a fundamental precondition for human ethical behavior-both between individuals and at the political level. We even dare to speak of human vulnerability as a potential strength. I will briefly try to reformulate these points of our basic argument and point to some of its sources.

[5] Vulnerability is a basic anthropological condition and an ethical precondition. We cannot wipe out human vulnerability without removing humanity itself. An invulnerable person would be inhuman. At the same time, this fact of human vulnerability is what makes every human person entitled to protection. It is a human right to be able to live free from fear, exploitation, war and terror. It is a common duty, i.e., political responsibility, to provide such basic conditions-basic protection, security. But this protection should be protection with the aim of making it possible for people to continue to live as vulnerable human beings. Vulnerability should be protected, not removed.

[6] This being said, it is important to point out that in the actual social and political world vulnerability is not equally distributed. Neither is it necessarily mutual. Vulnerability is asymmetrical. Some are, apparently at least, more vulnerable than others. And we are vulnerable in different ways and to different degrees. It is in this asymmetry that power emerges. Yet the relationship between this asymmetry and power is not strictly consequential and logical, so that less vulnerability always would mean more power. There is impotence in the midst of power and strength. And there can at times be a paradoxical strength in midst of vulnerability. 

[7] This is ethically significant, in various ways and at different levels. Firstly, vulnerability when it is made visible to us, when we become aware of it, represents an appeal and a demand. The bare and naked vulnerability of the other person has an appellative function. This is, of course, a main point in E. Levinas' philosophical ethics-or rather-ethical philosophy. It is grounded in the appeal emerging in the face of the Other: The presence of the face means an irrefutable order-a command-which absolves the mastery of our consciousness. The face is, according to Levinas, where the Other calls on me and gives me orders out of his/her nudity, out of her/his-we could say-vulnerability. To Levinas it is also true that the person, this 'I'-the ethical subject-who receives the appeal from the vulnerable Other is herself/himself also "from top to toe vulnerability.1"

[8] Another influential source for seeing the vulnerability of the other as an ethical appeal has been the thinking of Danish ethicist and Lutheran theologian K.E. Løgstrup (1905-1981). The ethical demand in itself, the call to act in a manner that is good and rightful, emerges according to Løgstrup in the interdependency which is the inescapable fact of life as it is given-that is-as it is created.  We are all exposed to and dependent upon one another. When interacting with another human being, every person always "holds something of this other person's life in his or her hand."  "We are each other's world and each others' destiny," Løgstrup says, echoing Luther's statement that "…we are daily bread to one another."2  If and when this interdependency is denied however, the ethical demand upon us is not recognized, and moral action is gravely impaired, if not made impossible.

[9] This appeal emerging from the vulnerability of the other person places in other words an ethical demand on us. This demand is a result of the basic trust which is present in every human relationship, according to Løgstrup. Trust is prior to mistrust; mistrust is perverted trust.

[10] The ethical appeal or demand is, according to Løgstrup, anonymous, radical, unilateral and silent. It is anonymous since it is actually not mine. It is not something I have asked for or something that is at my disposal or of my choosing. It is not even a law which I may see as a duty to pose to myself in a Kantian sense. Somewhat more surprisingly, neither does it belong to the other person. It is not a requirement or a right which belongs to my neighbor. It simply-just like trust-emerges in the encounter between the two of us, the other vulnerable person and me.

[11] The demand is not only anonymous, it is also radical. It is radical since it requires unselfish action. I cannot calculate with mutuality in the sense that in the end, I reckon to be benefiting when I am helping the other. This may or may not happen. The truly ethical test is when it does not happen, i.e. when I cannot reckon with any return from doing good. This is no moderate requirement. The ethical demand reaching me from the vulnerability of the other human being is radical. 

[12] Likewise we should note that the demand is unilateral. It is not mutual at all. There is no contract here: I will help you, if you help me. No balance: What is required from me is that I take care of that part of the life of the other person, be it a small or significant part, which is entrusted me. This places me in a situation where I must choose. I can respond by taking care of what is entrusted me - the appeal from the vulnerability of the other-or I can deny this responsibility, or even take advantage of the vulnerability of the other. A third alternative is not given. There is no room for neutrality. Neither can I escape the responsibility by claiming that other people have let me down. The demand is on me, and it is unilateral.

[13] This demand is finally silent or mute, according to Løgstrup. What does that mean?  It means that it does not make explicit what it is that is expected from me in each concrete situation. There are no concrete directions; no absolute rules. My responsibility is simply to respond according to the best of my abilities. What is required is decided by the context, by the situation, by the shape or character of the vulnerability of the other. It is my sense of judgment that is challenged. 

[14] All of this belongs to seeing the vulnerability of the other person as an appeal. At the same time, we are taken one step further, to what we may see as the foundational or constitutive function of vulnerability with regards to ethics. This would be a main point in an ethic of vulnerability: Vulnerability, as exposure to and ability to openness towards and empathy with the Other is a fundamental precondition for the possibility of acting morally. Without the recognition of the mutual dependency it becomes impossible to recognize the ethical problem and demand when faced with the vulnerable other person and his/her need for protection. It is in this way that we see vulnerability not only as a kind of negativity, but also something pertaining immense value. And this is why we warn against the illusionary dream of invulnerability, so present in the aspirations of every empire, and in modernity itself. The dream of invulnerability subverts the ethical foundation.

[15] Thirdly, the asymmetrical side of mutual interdependency shows us vulnerability as critique and disclosure. Isn't this why acts of terrorism like 9/11 are so shocking to us? They lay bare a vulnerability that has been intentionally, cynically and brutally exploited. This ethical indignation stems from the intuitive human recognition that the vulnerability of the other person should be respected and protected, not exploited.

[16] These aspects, finally, make vulnerability also become-at times, and to varying degrees-a paradoxical strength. This strength cannot be instrumentalized. It cannot be turned into a strategy. But nevertheless we find it necessary to include an awareness and appreciation of this paradoxical strength of vulnerability in our ethical thinking-and in our security policy.

[17] Such strength in vulnerability is of course a concurrent theme throughout the Biblical scriptures. Recall the Exodus event and the election of Israel for being a small and oppressed people, and the social critique of the prophets. Recall the mystery of the incarnation, the preaching of the Kingdom particularly for the poor and outcast, the radical reformulation of Messianism in the faith in Jesus, and not least, the event of the crucifixion interpreted as kenosis, most strongly expressed by Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:26-28, stating that God chose the weak, "that which is nothing," in order to reveal God's saving power.   

[18] Not only the aspect clearly pointed out in the ethics of Løgstrup, i.e. the interconnectedness and human interdependency that is part and parcel of God's created world, but also, and perhaps as strongly, Lutheran theology of the cross is an important resource for developing an ethics of vulnerability. I am particularly thinking of Martin Luther's daring thesis of a theologia crucis presented at the disputation in Heidelberg on the 26th of April 1518-particularly the theses 19, 20 and 21, in which Luther addresses the question of how one may gain a true knowledge of God. Luther's radical contention is that God may only be known through God's visible being, by God's "back-side" (posteriora dei), which is humanity, weakness and suffering; in a word, Jesus' death on the cross:

[19] So it is not enough and no use for anyone to know God in his glory and his majesty if at the same time he does not know him in the lowliness and the shame of the cross […] Thus true theology and true knowledge of God lie in Christ the crucified one.3 

[20] Following Paul's argument in 1 Corinthians 1, Luther rejects a "natural knowledge" of God through God's wonderful works in nature and history. Because of God's unity with the crucified Christ, God is "hidden in suffering" and it is consequently only by approaching God in the crucified one-we could say God in vulnerability-that a true, Christian knowledge of God may occur. Luther's conclusion is radical: Ergo in Christo crucifixo est vera Theologia et cognitio Dei. ["Therefore true theology and true knowledge of God is to be found (only) in Christ crucified."] Although as we see, Luther's point is primarily epistemological, theological, and soteriological, it is quite clear that his insight has profound consequences for anthropology, ethics, and, as we argue, politics as well.

[21] The Salvadoran-Basque Jesuit and liberation theologian Jon Sobrino would, in my view, certainly deserve the designation "theologian of the cross," also in this Lutheran meaning.  Following the pastoral intuitions of Archbishop Romero and the philosophical and theological work of another Jesuit, Ignacio Ellacuría-who was killed together with six colleagues in 1989-Sobrino has developed a profound "theology of the crucified people" which is of relevance here.4 Reflecting theologically on the sufferings and struggle of poor communities in Central America, Sobrino interprets this as a continued presence of the crucifixion of Christ, not only at an individual but also at a communal level. He daringly states that God is present not only on the cross of Jesus but also in these contemporary crosses. This presence of God sub specie contrarii in contemporary sufferings and struggles is, furthermore, still a salvific presence. In our context, this may be reformulated as the contention that God in history is present in vulnerability, and that it is from and through this vulnerability that God's saving work is active among us.5 

[22] In sum, the Vulnerability and Security study draws on various sources, biblical-theological as well as philosophical and ethical. At the same time it takes as its point of departure an everyday experience: being vulnerable is intrinsic to our lives also in a positive sense-only the vulnerable can love and be loved. This can be seen as a positive feature in this approach, through its ability to communicate broadly, also beyond the narrow circle of theological and ethical scholars. At the same time it invites critical questions of profundity and coherence. Can everyday experiences of the complex interrelation of weakness and strength, or biblical and theological reflections on kenosis and the way of the cross really be of help in addressing the present-day political challenges of violent conflict?

2. Vulnerability and phenomenology
By Raag Rolfsen

[23] The group preparing the original document Security and Vulnerability was inter-disciplinary. Scholars specializing in theology, political science and philosophical ethics worked together. The philosophical-ethical approach of the study is profoundly inspired and influenced by the philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas. It will be well worth to say something more about this important philosophical point of departure for the study.

[24] Can ethics inspired by the thinking of Levinas be political? Can they address other situations than those in which individuals meet face to face? Our contention is that they can-and should. There is according to Levinas a continuous and "difficult detour" of the political. The ethical challenge is to let the face of the other person interrupt the political system and re-orientate political decision-makers. The phenomenological ethics of Levinas cannot be separated from its origin as a radical reaction to the all-including and latently totalitarian logic of both the philosophical and political system. It is this political significance of Levinas that we draw upon in the Security and Vulnerability study. In order to lay it out more fully, a brief look at the historical and biographical origins of Levinas' philosophical ethics is in order. 

[25] Levinas is by many acknowledged as the most important philosophical ethicist of the 20th century. He reformulated metaphysics by determining it as a relation to the alterity inscribed in the face of the other person, in the prohibition of murder. Thus, he grounds philosophy as metaphysics differently than both traditional metaphysics, where the ultimate being of every being is conceived as substance, and the purportedly post-metaphysical thinking of Heidegger and the Heideggerians.

[26] The philosophy of Levinas was developed inside the framework of phenomenology. Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger were the teachers of Levinas. Despite his radical reformulation of phenomenology, he never breaks with it in the way of substituting it for another fundamental methodical approach.6 

[27] Emmanuel Levinas was, besides his own philosophical accomplishments, the most important scholar introducing German phenomenology to the French academic milieu. Levinas studied under Husserl and Heidegger in Freiburg, and started as early as the late 1920s with articles on, and translations of the work of Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger.7  During the 1930s, therefore, Levinas must be seen primarily as a disciple of Husserl and Heidegger.

[28] World War II was to change all that. Levinas then felt a profound "need to leave the philosophical climate of Heidegger."8 At the same time, and as he added, this was not in order to "leave it for a philosophy that is pre-Heideggerian."9 This has important consequences. It means that Levinas, when he was to develop his own philosophical position, could not return to what Heidegger had labeled the "onto-theological" tradition of the West10 Phenomenology, both in the Husserlian and Heideggerian versions, must be seen as a reaction to Substantialism as the thoroughgoing and dominant philosophical and theological position of European ideological history. Substantialism can be determined as an approach where one has recourse to a substance hidden behind the veil, either this is perceived as matter, the transcendental subject or Spirit, or, as in theology, God as the ultimate being and substance.11 The return to the Sachen selbst-to the things themselves-meant to approach all phenomena without having recourse to this hidden reality; to let the phenomena show themselves in their "givenness."

[29] For Levinas, therefore, there was no option to return to a pre-phenomenological metaphysics. This was, of course, due to philosophical considerations; the metaphysical tradition had been unmasked by the phenomenological turn. More important than this, however, was that this unveiling had ethical and political implications. He saw traditional metaphysics, determined as Substantialism, as systematic, hierarchical, and ultimately violent in its core. The recourse of the elite, whether it was the philosophical, theological or political elite, to an anonymous and uncontested truth hidden behind the veil, meant the solidification of structures that at bottom were totalitarian.

[30] The development of his own philosophical position was a reaction to Hitler's rise to power and the ensuing war. Heidegger's association with the Nationalist Socialist Party, and not at least World War II itself, during which Levinas was imprisoned in a stalag, and where he lost all of his family except for his wife and daughter, led Levinas to view phenomenology, especially in the Heideggerian version, as taking part in the same violent and totalitarian movement.

[31] In Levinas's view, phenomenology had not gone far enough. It was still dominated by an anonymity that removed phenomenology from its promised return to the concreteness of human existence. It could still legitimize political violence through its access to an anonymous Neuter. In Husserl, it was the teaching of the Transcendental Ego that attached phenomenology to idealism and the ideological heritage. In Heidegger, especially in his later thinking, a certain mysticism developed where Being took on a quasi-divine character.12 Given this recourse to an anonymous neuter, the alterity of the other person could still be disregarded.

[32] To accomplish his escape, therefore, Levinas had to develop phenomenology beyond the idealism of Husserl and the mysticism of Heidegger. Despite the genuine novelty of the phenomenological approach, it still took part in what Levinas perceived as a certain forgetfulness that was central to Western thinking. This forgetfulness had, in Levinas' view, been decisive from the Greek cradle of Western thinking to its fulfilment in the three 'H's; Hegel, Husserl and Heidegger. It is the identification of this forgetfulness that inspires and guides the development of his original and highly influential philosophical position through the 1950s.

[33] Levinas sees a deep complicity between the European ideological heritage and Western politics. The totalitarianism that was revealed in Fascism and Stalinism, he sees as resting just beneath the surface in all societies where this configuration of philosophy and politics was at work. The essence of this latent totalitarianism is the suppression of the otherness, the alterity of the other. What is forgotten, suppressed and expelled is the concrete face-to-face encounter; the basic and pre-original situation where my humanity is formed and my duties by far outweigh my rights.

[34] The ethics of Levinas have first and foremost been received as ethics of proximity.

[35] It has had important influence inside health-care, leadership theory, and the ethics of family and friends. While not ignoring the importance of this reception, it is still important to say that this one-sided reception rests on a misunderstanding of the basic political background, framework and purpose of his philosophy: It is the realization of complicity between philosophical, ideological and political violence that spurs Levinas to develop his distinctive philosophy.

[36] The reason for giving such a thorough elaboration of the philosophical background of Levinas, and therefore of the important philosophical-ethical foundations of the thinking in Security and Vulnerability, is to try to show that the efforts to think about the concept of "security" in a genuinely new way, i.e. not as opposed to vulnerability, but as preconditioned by vulnerability, is conjoined with a radical reaction to central parts of the Western or European ideological heritage. This radical reaction is in the philosophy of Levinas and founded on (1) an insight into the latently totalitarian essence of this heritage, and (2) that the philosophical and political systems are not separate, but tend to reinforce each other.

[37] In this light, Vulnerability and Security can be seen as an effort to bring aspects of the thinking of Levinas to its proper application. I will point to two possible consequences of such an application:

[38] Firstly, the centrality of the face-to-face encounter; the inescapability of the meeting with the vulnerability of the other person in the definition of the humanity of the human, means that a thinking of the society as a whole will have to identify limits to the enforcements from above. There is a basic level where the face-to-face responsibility calls and guides the ethical behavior of individuals, families, groups and local communities. This level makes out an ethical limitation of the pretensions of the market and the enforcement of political systems. The exceptions to these limits can only be justified through the protection of the weakest, when the vulnerability of the other person is abused and misused.

[39] Secondly, the by now classical separation between ethics and high politics, especially security politics, is not tenable. The face-to-face encounter is the point of gravity of human existence, and politics must then be understood as the hard and difficult work of not leaving the ethical call issuing from this encounter. This is what Levinas names the continuous and "difficult detour" of the political-to let the face of the other person interrupt the system and re-orientate the political decision makers: to let the vulnerability of the other person, the weakness of the human still signify goodness as the goal of the task called for.

[40] Vulnerability and Security hopes to be a contribution towards including such reflections in the current discussion of the role of ethics in politics.

3. Vulnerability and Security: Practical significance for the political involvement of the Church of Norway
By Ulla Schmidt

[41] A question that clearly lies close at hand is to what extent the concept of "vulnerability" can be put to use with respect to practical political problems. Does it translate into reflection on practical political issues, or does it simply romanticize the inevitable fragility of human life, ignoring weaker parties' fundamental interest in having their security rather than their vulnerability sustained? Moreover, is it not by far too unspecific and general to be of any precise relevance for specific issues of practical life?

[42] Clearly, the phenomenological descriptions of the condition of vulnerability do not dictate specific political solutions. No prescriptions emanate directly from the understanding of what it means to say that human life is inescapably vulnerable.

[43] Yet, the idea of human vulnerability, its place and function in human life and its relation to security has functioned as a fundamental perspective and way of perceiving and interpreting the reality within which political practice and action is called for. This has inspired and encouraged us to articulate more concrete standpoints, nourished by the acknowledgment of a fundamental vulnerability, but at the same time taking into account the specifics of political situations and dilemmas. 

[44] In the Commission for International Affairs we have, in addition to the reflections that can be found in the document itself, recently drawn upon the document's resources in our reflections on two issues: The Norwegian Government's long term plan for the Armed Forces, and the issue of nuclear disarmament. The following sections elaborate briefly on both.

[45] In the spring of 2004 the Norwegian government presented its long term plan "Further modernisation of the Norwegian Armed Forces 2005-2008" to the Parliament. The preparation and discussion of this plan coincided with similar discussions concerning role and structure of armed forces in other European countries and in the region as such. The plan was motivated by different circumstances: the need to modernize the Armed Forces, to create a more efficient and economically sound organization, and to customize it to participation in international operations.

[46] A dominant concern, however, was a perceived change in the picture of international security. Similar to analyses in many other countries, this plan described Norwegian security as now exposed to a more complex set of risks and threats. After the "cold war era" the potential threat posed by a dominant and easily identifiable agent in the form of a massive invasion, has been replaced by a less clear and identifiable threat, which apparently could take different shapes. As a consequence, challenges to national security are envisaged as more unpredictable.

[47] The traditional concept of security that corresponded with the Cold War era's clear-cut image of threats of international security is, if not replaced, then at least considerably widened. This traditional concept focused on national security, the security of sovereign states against threats from foreign powers, in the form of attacks against and intrusions upon territory.

[48] Parallel to a development towards a broader picture of risks and threats, security becomes a wider matter than state security only. Societal security points to the safety of civilian populations, and the maintenance of society's vital functions and infrastructure. Human security actualizes the need to protect fundamental rights of human beings, especially the right to life and personal safety. Together these changes are used as an argument to back the call for a modernized, more flexible and efficient armed forces, adaptive to this alleged shift in potential threats and risks, rather than simply being a defensive system resisting invasions.

[49] In its response the Commission on International Affairs, based on prominent perspectives in Vulnerability and Security, welcomed this widened concept of security. The understanding that security pertains not only to state sovereignty, but to human beings as individuals, is congenial to the fundamental idea of human vulnerability. It corresponds with the understanding that human vulnerability not only unavoidably characterizes human life, but also is the source of an inescapable ethical responsibility. The orientation of security politically conceived not only towards states or political institutions and structures, but also towards the security of human individuals and their fundamental rights to life and protection, corresponds neatly with this fundamental ethical claim.

[50] Viewing the protection of human beings' vulnerability from victimization as a political responsibility, and not only as an individual moral responsibility, must be approved in the perspective of the ideas presented in Vulnerability and Security.

[51] However, the ideas offered in Vulnerability and Security are relevant also to considerations of how to respond politically to this fundamental ethical responsibility, even though they do not dictate specific solutions. An important dimension to Vulnerability and Security is that security cannot be obtained one-sidedly, through attempts at making oneself invulnerable to the effects of other parties' actions. It requires cooperative ventures where vulnerability is recognized as a mutual condition to be safeguarded through common efforts against exploitative measures.

[52] Furthermore, the extension of the security concept as comprising human security should be accompanied by the understanding that the recognition of state sovereignty is in fact vital to the protection of human security. Undermining state sovereignty, or disregarding the importance and legitimacy of state security, might in fact jeopardize human security gravely. A system of international politics that gradually eroded state sovereignty could hardly provide efficient protection of human security. Yet there are situations where a state use its claim to sovereignty to deprive its citizens, or a group of citizens, of their fundamental security, and in extreme cases this could imply legitimate infringements upon the state's sovereignty in the name of human security.

[53] These two elaborations on human security led the Commission to underline a critical point against the proposed long-term plan. The idea that state sovereignty still has a priority-as a principle being conducive to human security-as well as the importance of cooperation in achieving mutual security, underlines the significance of international, mutually binding cooperative measures. The principles of international law and cooperation should therefore be the framework within which one seeks to respond to situations where human security is jeopardized. This is vital in order to be able to maintain and promote cooperative measures that ensure a common pursuit of security, by acknowledging mutual vulnerability.

[54] The Norwegian government's proposed long term plan underlined international law and the United Nations as the fundament and framework for Norwegian security policy. The UN is said to play a key role for Norwegian security policy, and Norwegian security is closely related to sustained and well-functioning cooperative orders for international security in a global perspective. Vital to this order is the cooperation within the UN system, the principles of the UN pact, and a basic commitment to international law.

[55] However, in spite of the emphasis on this framework, the plan did not, according to our understanding, draw the necessary and logical conclusions from its alleged commitment to these principles of international order and cooperation. As we presented our views at an open hearing arranged by the Parliament's Standing Committee on Defense, we expressed worries over what we saw as a general opening in the national doctrine towards legitimizing the use of armed force in international conflicts, not mandated by the UN Security Council. The plan implicitly suggested that armed interventions could be legitimate according to international law without the explicit sanction by the Security Council. The Security Council and its decisions are by no means immune to the relations of power and influence which politics in general is imbued with. Yet there seems to be no other instrument currently better suited to accommodate cooperative efforts and legitimize decisions to solve international conflicts.

[56] Although one could in principle envisage legitimate use of armed force in the protection of human security not sanctioned by the Security Council, it is therefore according to our view deeply problematic to introduce this as an established and explicit part of a national doctrine of security. The Commission in its statement strongly opposed the idea of including in the plan an explicit reference to the possibility of engaging in use of military force allegedly legitimized by international law, yet lacking an explicit UN Security Council mandate. As we said, "One thereby risks opening a far too wide access to the use of Norwegian Armed Forces in international operations. We warn against making this opening a part of a national security political doctrine. Once the course has been established, the likelihood that it will actually be used increases." Seeing this in connection with a broader development in international politics following the end of the Cold War, gradually lowering the threshold for employing military force to solve conflicts gives rise to serious concern. In this climate the foundation in international law for the use of armed force to prevent or put an end to conflicts seems to have weakened. This development calls for strategies that can reinforce international law as the legitimate fundament for military interventions, not introduction of doctrines that formalize exceptions. A general escalation in use of Armed Force is hardly conducive to increased human security.

[57] We were therefore also pleased to learn that the Parliament's Standing Committee on Defense in its report to Parliament emphasized the condition that operations should be anchored in international law, mandated by the UN, and in addition also politically and morally legitimate. Furthermore, it underlined that Norway must refrain from participation in preventive war or preemptive strikes that are not mandated by international law.

[58] The second issue on which the Commission on International Affairs offered statements based on the thinking laid down in Vulnerability and Security last year, was the issue of nuclear disarmament.

[59] The spread of weapons of mass destruction permanently threatens to exploit human vulnerability. After the cold war and the balance of terror, ever more states have acquired these sorts of weapons. Even more worrisome is the prospect of non-state agents procuring this kind of weapons. The danger this represents to human beings and to human security is recognized also by the UN report "A more secure world: Our shared responsibility." "Preventing the spread and use of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons is essential if we are to have a more secure world" (exec. summary p.3). Only by treaties agreed upon and binding internationally is it possible to establish effective safeguards against a further proliferation of this kind of weapons. Consequently it is absolutely vital that established instruments of this kind are sustained and complied with. One of the essential instruments of international law in this field is the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT).

[60] This treaty is based on two, equally important principles. First the obligation of nuclear powers to disarm and to refrain from further development of nuclear weapons. Second the obligation of nations that do not yet possess these weapons to abstain from acquiring or developing them. However, they should be granted the possibility of a peaceful use of nuclear power (for example for energy).

[61] This treaty now seems to be eroded from two sides. Nuclear powers (such as the U.S.), contrary to the agreement, continue to develop new nuclear weapons. NATO maintains nuclear weapons as an explicit element of its strategic concept. Hence the nuclear powers apparently do not comply with their obligation to disarm and refrain from further developments. On the other hand ever more nations, and possibly also non-state agents acquire fissile material and technologies enabling them to develop such weapons. There is a growing risk that parties to the treaty withdraw from it as a consequence of the non-compliance of other parties. If this happens, it would clearly undermine the treaty itself as an efficient instrument in the international cooperation against proliferation of WMDs.

[62] A review conference for the treaty is held every five years, and the next is due in 2005. Given the critical situation for the treaty it is essential to create a political climate and pressure able to ensure and ascertain renewed support and progress for the treaty and steps agreed upon in 2001, in pursuit of its goals. One element in this political pressure is the so-called "New Agenda Coalition" (NAC) resolution, presented to the UN General Assembly by a group of non- nuclear weapons states. This resolution has reiterated and underlined the principles of the NPT as essential to nuclear disarmament and international security. With the exception of 2001 this resolution has earned little support in the UN General Assembly among NATO countries, apparently because it is viewed as conflicting with the explicit NATO strategy regarding nuclear weapons. Last fall the Commission on International Affairs issued a statement encouraging the Norwegian Government to reiterate their support of the NPT, and to support the NAC resolution. Other agencies and NGOs (such as the peace movement, antinuclear weapon movement, Pugwash) expressed their concern in this matter.

[63] We were therefore pleased that Norway, together with small handful of other NATO countries voted in support of the NAC resolution in 2004 in the UN, a vote apparently argued on the basis that the resolution now was less explicitly antagonistic towards the NATO strategic doctrine.

[64] These are but two examples of how the Commission on International Affairs in the Church of Norway Council on Ecumenical and International Relations has responded to specific and concrete challenges in the field of international and security politics, based on the thinking of Vulnerability and Security. As already pointed out, these considerations on Norwegian Security politics and plans for the Armed Forces, as well as the NPT, are not directly dictated as specific solution or answers emerging from the "Vulnerability-thinking." Rather the ideas offered and discussed in Vulnerability and Security provide fundamental perspectives and ways of understanding and looking upon the field were issues of international politics and security to arise. Without offering specific solutions, it offers ways of understanding and grasping the domain also of international politics.

End Notes

1  For more on Levinas and Vulnerablity and Security, see Rolfsen's contribution to this introduction below.

2  See K. E. Løgstrup, The Ethical Demand. (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1997).

3  Probationes to Thesis 20: "Ita ut nulli iam satis sit ac prosit, qui cognoscit Deum in gloria et maiestate,
nisi cognoscat eundem in humilitate et ignominia crucis […] Ergo in Christo crucifixo est vera Theologia et cognitio Dei." Luther 1966 WA 1, 362.

4  See e.g. Jon Sobrino, Jesus the Liberator: A Historical-Theological Reading of Jesus of Nazareth. (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1993) and The Principle of Mercy: Taking the Crucified People from the Cross. (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1994). See also Sturla J Stålsett, The crucified and the Crucified: A Study in the Liberation Christology of Jon Sobrino. Vol. 127, Studies in the Intercultural History of Christianity, (Bern, New York, Oxford: Peter Lang, 2003).

5  Also feminist liberation theology and ethics is clearly a resource for this vulnerability approach, e.g. of the "corporeal hermeneutics" (hermenêutica da corporeidade) developed by Wanda Deifelt and her colleagues related to the Escola Superior de Teología en São Leopoldo, Brazil. See Marga J. Ströher, Wanda Deifelt, and André S. Musskopf, eds. À flor da pele. Ensaios sobre gênero e corporeidade, (São Leopoldo: EST; Editora Sinodal; CEBI, 2004) as well as Deifelt's contribution below.

6  For Levinas's lifelong struggle with phenomenology, without breaking with it, see, John E. Drabinski, Sensibility and Singularity. The Problem of Phenomenology in Ethics. (Albany: State University of New York, 2001).

7  It was through Levinas that Jean Paul Sartre was introduced to phenomenology and became the herald of the call "back to the concrete". See Is it Righteous to Be? Interviews with Emmanuel Levinas., Jill Robins ed., (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2001), 43.

8  Emmanuel Levinas, Existence and Existents. (Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press, 2001), 4.

9  Ibid.

10  See, e.g. Martin Heidegger, Kant and the problem of metaphysics, (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990).

11  See especially Heidegger's settlement with Descartes: Res Extensa in Being and Time, (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1996), 19ff.

12  See Levinas's vehement settlement with this tendency in the thinking of the later Heidegger in, Emmanuel Levinas, "Philosophy and the Idea of Infinity," in Collected Philosophical Papers, Alphonso Lingis, tr., (Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press, 1998), 51-53.


© May 2005
Journal of Lutheran Ethics
Volume 5, Issue 5