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Whole-of-Society response through a human security lens necessary to persistent conflict

Re-imagining Security: An Open Defense Primer

April 2023, Number 075


Global geopolitical challenges are stressing long held concepts of security and defense. The sovereignty and diplomacy promise of Westphalia are regularly challenged. We have entered an era characterized by the militarization of everything in an Age of Perpetual Conflict. Kosovo, Georgia, and Ukraine are three examples of a breach of sovereign borders and the failure of diplomacy to prevent armed conflict. The international security system is increasingly uncertain, and it is now “necessary to think beyond the model of collective defense based on the transatlantic alliance.” Irrespective of an unstable geopolitical architecture, political and military leaders persist in following outdated approaches to security and defense that were applicable to a world that no longer exists. 

Current threats on Europe’s Eastern Flank necessitates that those engaged in Security Studies theory and practice ought to reimagine the role civil and military interaction in facilitating responsive defense mechanisms. Our goal in this paper is to contribute to an open-ended dialogue focusing on the need for Whole-of-Society responses to Human Security. Regrettably, the soundness of an Open Defense strategy can only be known in reverse when we look back on it. The soundness of an Open Defense strategy is as a framework for constructing context specific responses to conflict up, down, and across society before, during, and after armed violence. Open Defense is a mind-set, not a doctrine. 

About the Authors

Thomas Matyok (USA) Executive Director of the Joint Civil-Military Interaction Network as well as Senior Lecturer in Conflict Analysis and Resolution at Middle Georgia State University, USA. He is the former Chair and Director of Graduate Studies of the Department of Peace and Conflict Studies at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Tom conducts high-impact, policy-relevant studies regarding the strategic environment, its principle strategic challenges, and the relative balance of national and human security ends, ways, and means to contend with them. He also investigates ways of merging design and conflict analysis and resolution methodologies to achieve a multi-dimensional understanding of conflict. Tom was a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Konstanz in Southern Germany researching the role of international student exchanges in strengthening the Trans-Atlantic Partnership using a Peace Studies dual-degree curriculum. He has published and presented on Human Security, WPS, Civil-Military Interaction, Religion and Conflict, Negotiation, and Conflict Analysis and Resolution. He has taught Conflict Analysis and Negotiation at both the U.S. Army and Air War Colleges. Tom is former Director of the U.S. Air Force Negotiation Center.

Srečko Zajc (Slovenia) was in his career journalist, chief editor, manager, secretary general of the national Red Cross society. He joined to the MoD in 2008 and developed the Slovenian civilian contribution to the ISAF. Until September 2019 he served as Director General of the Defense Affairs Directorate. Main subjects: Defense plan, Critical Infrastructure Protection, resilience, civilian support to the military, civil-military cooperation, and interaction. In June 2019, the NATO CCOE awarded him with the CIMIC Award of Excellence. Hi is a member of Interacta Global Network.

Maj Fritz (Slovenia) graduated from Criminal Justice and Security, University of Maribor, Slovenia (1999) and holds a master’s degree in European Studies (2008). He has been working for the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Slovenia since 1991. His interests and research include intelligence and security issues, peace operations and military outsourcing. He is a guest lecturer at Faculty of Criminal Justice and Security, lecturing on private security industry and international defense cooperation.

The George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany is a German-American partnership and trusted global network promoting common values and advancing collaborative geostrategic solutions. The Marshall Center’s mission to educate, engage, and empower security partners to collectively affect regional, transnational, and global challenges is achieved through programs designed to promote peaceful, whole of government approaches to address today’s most pressing security challenges. Since its creation in 1992, the Marshall Center’s alumni network has grown to include over 15,000 professionals from  over 160 countries. More information on the Marshall Center can be found online at

Marshall Center Security Insights are short analytical articles that identify, explain, and put into context significant current and emerging defense and security issues. The series is aimed at the needs of political decision makers and others who are looking for concise summaries and analyses of important contemporary security topics. Security Insights are generally authored by Marshall Center faculty and staff.

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