Internal Security Services in Liberalizing States: Transitions, Turmoil, and (In)Security

  • Published

Internal Security Services in Liberalizing States: Transitions, Turmoil, and (In)Security by Joseph L. Derdzinski. Ashgate Publishing, 2009, 180 pp.

In a short, scholarly monograph that serves as a cross-cultural case study examining the security regimes and stalled democratic transition between Morocco and Indonesia, Prof. Joseph L. Derdzinski of the US Air Force Academy clearly demonstrates the work done in these two nations (and, more broadly and less deeply, the rest of the developed world). He also addresses the effort that remains, seeking to fill the niche of examining the critical role of internal security systems (like the police, intelligence services, and related institutions) in the process of democratization throughout the world. The study is very technical (but accessible to readers familiar with political science and international relations), meticulously researched, and filled with explanatory footnotes and charts that organize information efficiently.

From the outset, it is clear that Internal Security Services assumes the realist perspective, from its approving quotation of Machiavelli that “security for man is impossible unless it be conjoined with power” (p. 3) to its rigorous, detailed examination of the challenges of both Morocco and Indonesia in increased liberalization, given the state of elite power and interests within both countries and the presence of continued terrorist and separatist violence. The introduction examines the state of the literature and identifies the case study’s goal of filling a gap by considering the neglected role of internal security forces as a measure of the success of liberalization within a nation. The author then explains his principal approaches and findings. He accounts for the strong focus on two countries by seeking to build a broader conceptual framework for ways that third-party nations and international organizations can effectively encourage liberalization and engender greater respect for personal freedom and human rights as well as leave behind an authoritarian past. Derdzinski offers a detailed assessment of the history and role of internal security forces in Morocco (a nominally constitutional Islamic monarchy) and Indonesia (a nominally secular Islamic democracy with a lengthy history of brutal and corrupt dictatorship) before closing with findings and recommendations for reforming the security sectors of liberalizing nations. These suggestions emphasize enforcement and justice rather than merely legal structure. They also encourage rooting out corruption (through providing a living wage for workers and discouraging moonlighting for police and intelligence officials) and developing a robust civil culture that demands accountability and answerability from security forces for any human-rights violations they commit after the transition from authoritarian rule.

Among the many strengths of this book are its awareness of relevant research, including interviews, periodicals, monographs, and reports about human rights conditions from nongovernmental organizations and the US State Department. The study’s concentration on two nations and its broader comparative analysis at the end benefit from both its depth and breadth of approach. The scholarly, technical language may prove a barrier to a general audience, but readers equipped with an understanding of the professional language of political science and international relations will find the book’s insights immensely rewarding if they are sympathetic to the realist perspective. The author makes numerous practical recommendations for nations of the West regarding how they might best help other countries in the difficult process of liberalizing and moving beyond “partly free” status. Specifically, he suggests that they honestly wrestle with tensions that arise from the need for truth and accountability from internal security forces and the need for some secrecy and freedom of action on their part to conduct necessary tasks. The latter include preserving the security of the state from threats like secession movements as well as domestic and international terrorism—threats by no means unique to the developing world.

The author’s research and findings are of the highest quality and apply to a range of nations far beyond the two cases examined. Derdzinski refers to his own experience in Bosnia as an officer with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and this reviewer has relevant expertise that confirms the validity of the findings of this research to the nations of Chile and Thailand as well. Clearly, the author’s findings and conclusions apply to many nations with stalled democratization in the face of separatist violence, concerns about terrorism, and a lack of commitment to broad-based societal and institutional change that threatens their privileged status and could bring them to justice for past wrongs. The United States has engaged and may yet engage in the process of nation building in several countries across the Muslim regions of the world (e.g., Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and Syria). Consequently, the subject of this monograph has considerable relevance to individuals interested and involved in present American military policy as it relates to the Muslim world, especially in light of the democratization of states after the Arab Spring. Well written and exceedingly applicable to our times, Internal Security Services offers a scholarly approach to an often-neglected and vitally important aspect of ensuring that postauthoritarian regimes can successfully conform to civilized and democratic norms of behavior. It deserves a wide audience and a fair hearing for its policy recommendations.

Nathan Albright

Portland, Oregon

"The views expressed are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the official policy or position of the US government or the Department of Defense."