views updated May 18 2018






Defense, in the social sciences, traditionally focuses on how states jockey for premier position in the global system. Periodically, it also examines preparations by different societies for countering internal and external threats.

Self-defense, in the dominant realist school of international relations, stands alone as the raison dêtre of the state. Other functions proposed by liberal philosophers, including providing the laws and infrastructure for commerce or protecting individual freedom of citizens, presumptively come second to survival. This does not mean, however, that the demands of defense, even for the realist, are met at any price. In fact, defense policy may be understood as the art of balancing the combined risks of destruction from war or dissolution from rebellion against the benefits of preserving cherished principles of the state.


These founding principles reside in the provisions of a socalled social contract between citizens and their governing institutions. Beyond the explicit articles of written constitutions, the social contract as a concept captures the pattern of expectations concerning rights and obligations for individuals living under protection of the state. When states are under extreme circumstances, when internal or external disintegrating forces are high, Thomas Hobbes in his classic work Leviathan ([1651] 1985) argued people would and should accept sharp curtailment of their liberty to fortify the state.

As a counterweight to this prescription for centralization of power in the state, most Enlightenment liberals stressed the importance of preserving individual freedoms and maintaining ultimate accountability of the government to its people, even in the face of grave security threats. Historically, through the evolution of the international system of states during the nineteenth century, the advent of nuclear weapons in the twentieth century, and the rise of nonstate security actors in the twenty-first century, states have had to reconcile the imperatives of self-preservation with the implicit call of their social contract to provide for a better life at home.


The responsibility for striking this balance lies primarily with the executive and legislative powers of the state, though in cases where there is an independent judiciary defense decisions may be countermanded according to legal codes. In keeping with Hobbess line of argument, the more defense measures hinge on emergency maneuvers and closely held intelligence, the more power tends to be concentrated in the executive, even in otherwise liberal societies. Defense, however, involves a mixture of long-term reflective planning and time-critical choices. In practice, there is often feedback between various stages of defense policy, but as a point of departure Peter L. Hays, Brenda J. Vallance, and Alan R. Van Tassel (1997) provide a linear guide to the process as follows.

Responsible officials assess the threat environment. Of common concern to all states are challenges to territorial integrity. Assessing these challenges involves geopolitical calculations based on resource capacity and the geographical position of potential rivals. In addition, national defense must account for intentions, essentially the risk that foreign capability will actually be organized and directed against the state. For most states in the international system, high-probability threats to existence are rare. Consequently, political leaders usually have the luxury of determining many of their defense priorities not just according to the necessity for survival but also through the lens of national values. The ethnic composition of a foreign state, its respect for human rights, or the quality of its democracy may affect the level of cooperation it enjoys from external actors in its own defense.

Grand strategy is the art of matching finite national capabilities against interests so as to reduce vulnerabilities and maximize opportunities in the international environment. The means for grand strategy are conventionally categorized according to economic, military, and diplomatic instruments of power. While national security depends on all the available instruments, defense analysis normally focuses on the role of the military instrument in the development and implementation of grand strategy.

States trade off between expanding their total resources for defense through alliances and increasing their autonomy through arms buildup. During the cold war, U.S. diplomatic efforts to nurture the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) were part of a grand strategy of containment, which relied on external balancing to prevent a Soviet invasion of Western Europe. The U.S. -Soviet rivalry also featured internal balancing as both sides spent vast sums to greatly expand the number and variety of nuclear weapons under their control.

Both external and internal balancing during the cold war supported containment, largely based on deterrence, or defense through the credible threat of imposing unacceptable costs on an enemy to dissuade it from attack. Still, even in the era of the superpower nuclear standoff, defense strategists in some cases lowered the threshold for taking the military offensive. Israel famously ordered a preemptive strike on massed Egyptian air power to clear the way to victory in the Six-Day War of 1967. Both the United States and the Soviet Union employed preventive uses of force in buffer zones such as Eastern Europe and the Caribbean to cover vulnerabilities in their respective spheres of influence. With the relaxation of tensions between the largest nuclear powers and the rise of terrorist organizations demonstrating their potential to make strategic use of weapons of mass destruction, the defense pendulum swung farther from deterrence toward preemptive and preventive grand strategies.


In Taming the Sovereigns: Institutional Change in International Politics (2004), Kalevi J. Holsti marks a turning point as well in the relationship between defense policy and the normal workings of the international system. Through the nineteenth and most of the twentieth century, statesas opposed to feudal structures, tribal groups, or warlordsreigned as the supreme institutions for harnessing people and technology in defense of their interests. Especially after the Industrial Revolution and the rise of nationalism, highly capitalized technology came to dominate the equation for national capability. So much so, that during the nuclear arms race there arose the question of whether or not the most powerful states, with no recourse to international governing authority, possessed the political acumen to save themselves from arsenals that promised mutual assured destruction.

While the likelihood of a great power launching thousands of nuclear warheads in the name of defense declined after the end of the cold war, the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks demonstrated in dramatic fashion a shift in the nature of the deadliest challenges confronting civilization among nations. Though military technologies for both mass destruction and precision strike continue to evolve, the greater danger may now lie with the rise of new types of organizations that defy the state monopoly on force.

Above the state, international organizations such as the United Nations confer legitimacy and broker burden-sharing agreements as modern great powers wheel about to secure globalized interests. With the value of their security functions rising, international organizations gain voice and impose new constraints on defense calculations for even the most powerful sovereigns.

Constrained states, as John Arquilla and David Ronfeldt discuss in In Athenas Camp: Preparing for Conflict in the Information Age (1997), also perceive growing threats from below. Ethnic paramilitaries, warlords, criminal gangs, and Al-Qaedainspired terrorist cells, all draw sustenance from hard-to-kill transnational networks and exploit vulnerabilities in economically developed, highly interdependent societies. In the postSeptember 11 environment, violent nonstate actors challenge weak or failing states for control of territory and population seemingly without need of supplies from governments bound by an ultimate interest in continuation of the interstate system. Faced with a millennial challenge not simply against particular regimes but also to the primacy of the nation-state in international governance, both developed and developing countries have adapted by delegating more of their core functionproviding national defenseto intergovernmental organizations such as NATO or to substate actors such as private security companies.

SEE ALSO Arms Race; Cold War; Defense, National; Preemptive Strike; 2Weaponry, Nuclear; Weapons of Mass Destruction


Arquilla, John, and David Ronfeldt. 1997. In Athenas Camp: Preparing for Conflict in the Information Age. Santa Monica, CA: RAND.

Hays, Peter L., Brenda J. Vallance, and Alan R. Van Tassel. 1997. What Is American Defense Policy? In American Defense Policy, 7th ed. Ed. Peter L. Hays, Brenda J. Vallance, and Alan R. Van Tassel. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Hobbes, Thomas. 1651 [1985]. Leviathan. Ed. with an introduction by C. B. Macpherson. London: Penguin.

Holsti, Kalevi J. 2004. Taming the Sovereigns: Institutional Change in International Politics. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Damon Coletta

This academic work does not represent official policy of the United States Air Force or the United States Government.


views updated May 23 2018


The term "defense" refers to all the techniques deployed by the ego in conflicts that have the potential to lead to neurosis. In the sense in which Freud first used the term, defenses are unconscious because they stem from a conflict between the drive and the ego or between a perception or representation (memory, fantasy, etc.) and moral imperatives. The function of the defenses is thus to support and maintain a state of psychic stability by avoiding anxiety and unpleasure. The concept of defense was broadened somewhat when Freud attributed an important role to the reality principle and to the superego. Melanie Klein then formed the more radical view that the defenses exist within an archaic ego.

In his letter to Wilhelm Fliess dated May 21, 1894, and concerning his interpretation of the neuroses, Freud introduced the concept of defense in connection with the notion of psychic conflict: "What is warded off is always sexuality" (1985c [1887-1904], p. 75). In reference to the emergence of anxiety, he argued that sexual tension turned into anxiety when it was not psychically elaborated and thereby transformed into affect. Freud attributed this phenomenon to, among other things, a repression of psychic sexuality, that is, to a defense. In his letter to Fliess dated May 30, 1896, he linked repression with defense by emphasizing, "Surplus of sexuality alone is not enough to cause repression; the cooperation of defense is necessary" (p. 188).

In "Further Remarks on the Neuro-psychoses of Defence" (1896b), Freud deepened his analysis of defense as arising from the conflict between the drive and the ego, the conscious agent of repression. Freud considered the defense as the "nuclear point" (p. 162) in the psychic mechanism of the neuroses. With regard to how symptoms arise, he detailed more clearly how the unconscious psychic mechanism of defense resulted from the conflict of a representation with moral imperatives.

In "Repression" (1915d), Freud emphasized that the mechanism of defense "cannot arise until a sharp cleavage has occurred between conscious and unconscious mental activitythat the essence of repression lies simply in turning something away, and keeping it at a distance, from the conscious " (p. 147).

Much later (1926d), Freud observed that after he had abandoned the term "defensive process" for thirty years and replaced it with the term "repression" (without clearly explaining the possible connection between these two concepts) (p. 163), there were "good enough grounds for re-introducing the old concept of defence " (p. 164). In fact, Freud had never entirely abandoned the term, since he discussed the denial of castration (albeit initially without using the term "denial" [Verleugnung ]) in relation to children's theories of sexuality (1908c) and little Hans (1909b). Freud discussed denial more explicitly with regard to fetishism (1927e), a concept that plays a pivotal role in his work, and in his paper on negation (1925h), which he defined as representing "a kind of intellectual acceptance of the repressed, while at the same time what is essential to the repression persists" (p. 236). Thus, "the content of a repressed image or idea can make its way into consciousness, on condition that it is negated " (p. 235). Freud also discussed sublimation, a concept that was already present in "Leonardo da Vinci and a memory of his childhood" (1910c) and that reappeared in The Ego and the Id (1923b) in connection with the ego energy, which Freud stipulated as involving "a desexualisationa kind of sublimation" (p. 30).

These distinctions, which predate Inhibitions, Symptoms, and Anxiety (1926d), were later probably instrumental in Freud's ascribing a more important function to this "old concept of defence " and restricting the role of repression, to the extent that he suggested making defense "a general designation for all the techniques which the ego makes use of in conflicts which may lead to a neurosis, while we retain the word 'repression' for the special method of defence which the line of approach taken by our investigations made us better acquainted with in the first instance" (p. 163).

In furthering her father's work, Anna Freud sought to develop a theory that would demonstrate how the three agencies of the structural theory functioned. In particular, she described how the ego becomes "suspicious" in the face of the onslaught of the drives and "proceeds to counter-attack and to invade the territory of the id. Its purpose is to put the instincts permanently out of action by means of appropriate defensive measures, designed to secure its own boundaries" (1936, p. 8). Thus, Anna Freud's account of psychic functioning attributes some force to the adaptive functions of the ego.

Her works were often quoted by the ego-psychology movement that formed in the 1950s in the United States. Within the ego-psychology movement, Heinz Hartmann developed his theory of the ego in connection with the problem of adaptation, which he described in terms of the development of a "conflict-free ego sphere" (1958, p. 3 ) or autonomous ego. In this movement, psychic functioning in general is considered in terms of defense and its quest for equilibrium.

Along similar lines, René Spitz, who located the first defense in the emergence of the second organizer (the so-called eight-month or stranger anxiety), explained that these defenses initially "serve primarily adaptation rather than defense in the strict sense of the term" (p. 164). It is when the object is established and ideation starts that their function changes. With the fusion of the aggressive and libidinal drives, some defense mechanisms, in particular identification, "acquire the function that they will serve in the adult" (p. 164).

When Anna Freud was publishing her first psychoanalytic works, Melanie Klein, while breaking with Freudian orthodoxy by asserting that the agencies of the psyche begin functioning much earlier, introduced a perspective that restored to anxiety and psychic conflict a fundamental role in psychic functioning. Drawing on Freud's second theory of the drives, she attributed a central role to the death drive and the conflicts between love and hatred. She thus developed her ideas on early defense mechanisms that were already present, in her view, in the earliest months of life during the paranoid-schizoid position.

The concept of defense, as it has developed and been used since Freud, has become somewhat common in both clinical psychology and psychoanalysis. There it refers either to a relatively conscious behavior that rejects psychic reality (a definition that makes the concept more akin to the concept of resistance) or to a psychic impulse that seeks to avoid anxiety and unpleasure in the quest to adapt and achieve a state of equilibrium. As a result, the function of defense as a mechanism necessary for psychic growth is often overlooked.

Elsa Schmid-Kitsikis

See also: Actual neurosis/defense neurosis; Autistic defenses; Conflict; Defense mechanisms; Ego; Ego and the Mechanisms of Defense, The ; Manic defenses; Narcissistic defenses; Negation; Neurotic defenses; Paranoid-schizoid position; Psychoneurosis (or neuro-psychosis) of defense; Psychotic defenses; Repression; "Splitting of the Ego in the Process of Defence, The."


Freud, Anna. (1936). The ego and the mechanisms of defense. New York: International Universities Press.

Freud, Sigmund. (1896b). Further remarks on the neuro-psychoses of defence. SE, 3, 157-185.

. (1908c). On the sexual theories of children. SE, 9, 205-226.

. (1909b). Analysis of a phobia in a five-year-old boy. SE, 10, 1-149.

. (1910c). Leonardo da Vinci and a memory of his childhood. SE, 11, 57-137.

. (1915d). Repression. SE, 14, 141-158.

. (1923b). The ego and the id. SE, 19, 1-66.

. (1925h). Negation. SE, 19, 233-239.

. (1926d). Inhibitions, symptoms, and anxiety. SE, 20, 75-172.

. (1927e). Fetishism. SE, 21, 147-157.

. (1985c [1887-1904]). The complete letters of Sigmund Freud to Wilhelm Fliess, 1887-1904 (Jeffrey M. Masson, Trans.). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1985.

Hartmann, Heinz. (1958). Ego psychology and the problem of adaptation. New York: International Universities Press. (Original work published 1939)

Klein, Melanie. (1975). Notes on some schizoid mechanisms. (pp. 1-24) In The writings of Melanie Klein. London: Hogarth Press. (Original work published 1946)

Le Guen, Claude; Anargyros-Klinger, Annie; Bauduin, Andrée; et al. (1986). Le refoulement (les défenses). Revue Française de Psychanalyse, 50, 1, 23-370.

Spitz, René A., in collaboration with W. Godfrey Cobliner. (1965). The first year of life: A psychoanalytic study of normal and deviant development of object relations. New York: International Universities Press.

Further Reading

Blum, Harold, (Ed.). (1987). Defense and Resistance: Historical Perspectives and Current Concepts, New York: International Universities Press.

Brenner, Charles. (1981). Defense and defense mechanisms. Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 50, 557-569.

Gray, Paul. (1994). The ego and the analysis of defense. Northvale, NJ: Aronson Inc.

Loewald, Hans. (1952). The problem of defense; the neurotic interpretation of reality. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 33, 444-449.


views updated May 29 2018


Animal defense mechanisms include a stunning array of behaviors and adaptations. Defensive behavior of prey takes four forms: anti-detection, anti-at-tack, anti-capture, and anti-consumption. Every animal has perfected some form of anti-predator adaptation, whether they attempt to go undetected by camouflaging themselves against their surroundings, or keep themselves from being eaten because they are wildly colored and dangerous-looking.

Camouflage and Mimicry

Cryptic coloration and behavior, also known as camouflage and mimicry, are common methods of anti-detection in insects, birds, fish, amphibians, and mammals. Combining camouflage with hiding behavior is a phenomenon widely used among insects. Cryptic moths and butterflies have wing colors and patterns that mimic the plants found in their environments. TheCatocala moth has whitish wings with dark linear patterns resembling birch bark so that when it rests upon a birch tree it is barely detectable.

Many animals mimic leaves. Again, most tend to be insects. Probably the most successful of all leaf-mimickers are the leaf insects of the genus Phyllium, the so-called walking leaf, from Malaysia and Indonesia. Its detailed body parts perfectly resemble a cluster of green leaves and leaf fragments. The disguise is enhanced by its behavior. By moving very slowly, advancing one leg at a time, it sways slightly like leaves being nudged by a gentle breeze.

Chemical defenses.

Even cryptic prey can be detected by keen predators. Some animals have the ability to ward off enemies with noxious tissues, stinging hairs, sticky secretions, painful injections, and foul-smelling excretions. The creatures that rely on chemical defenses also tend to have warning coloration, meaning that their bodies are boldly hued in red, black, orange, or bright yellow. This helps to remind predators of past unpleasant experiences with these species. After having eaten a warning-colored toxic prey, many predators quickly learn to retreat whenever they see the same warning display. Some of the most poisonous species of all are the South American arrow-poison frogs, in the genus Dendrobates. These frogs are brilliantly colored with patterns of red, yellow, or white on backgrounds of black or electric blue. Their poisons, which affect the central nervous system, are so deadly that Colombian Indians use it to poison their arrowheads.

Batesian mimicry.

Some edible prey have evolved to resemble bad-tasting species in an effort to take advantage of the visual response predators have to particular color patterns. These deceptive species are called Batesian mimics, named for the English naturalist Henry Bates, who discovered their existence in Brazil during the 1800s. One Batesian mimic is the tephritid fly, which possesses a leglike pattern on its wings. It can wave these wings in ways that deceptively imitate the aggressive signals of predatory jumping spiders and ward off any possible fly-eating spiders lurking nearby.

Batesian mimicry can include acoustical, as well as visual, deception. For example, the ground-nesting burrowing owl makes the same sound as a rattlesnake. The owl and the rattlesnake share an underground habitat which makes the deception even more convincing.

Other Anti-Capture Methods

What if cryptic or warning behavior still doesn't keep the predator from closing in on its prey? Some animals use anti-capture methods. By startling the predator momentarily, the animal has a chance to escape. The catocala moth mentioned earlier shows only its white and dark-gray wings while resting. If attacked by a blue jay, the moth can display its hind wings, which are orange, yellow, or red bands on a dark background. The sudden flash of color will surprise the jay, who may inadvertently release the moth.

Another anti-capture weapon is sheer vigilance, or remaining alert so as to detect a rapidly approaching enemy in time to take effective action. Vertebrate prey are always scanning, sniffing, or listening for danger. The principle that many eyes, noses, or ears are better than a few could contribute to the tendency of animals to form flocks, herds, and other social groups. It also has been proven that the more animals scanning for danger, the faster the response to that danger.

Alarm calls.

Most flock animals rely on alarm signals, or special calls that alert the others in the flock to a possible hazard. The risk of the signal-giver being singled out for predatory attention is lessened because the group flees together, which confuses the predator. In fact, non-calling animals attempting to escape are more than ten times as likely to be killed than alarm-givers. Ground squirrels that live in high densities in mountain meadows give a high-pitched whistle as they dash for cover when a hawk or falcon is spotted. The species has a separate alarm call for terrestrial predators such as coyotes.

Surviving Attack

What happens to the animals that wind up captured? If the prey can somehow convince its captor to let it go, being captured does not mean certain death. Sometimes, chemical deterrents are used to save the life of animal prey. Some salamanders excrete an adhesive that is used to ward off their enemies. If captured by a garter snake, for example, the salamander writhes and thrashes while releasing secretions from the tail and body. The snake can become so coated by the glue that its body becomes stuck to itself and it is rendered completely helpless.

Another way of surviving attack is to induce the predator to strike a body part other than the head. This is critical because brain damage quickly immobilizes prey and removes all chance of survival. This is why animals often hide their heads when under attack. Some animals have evolved false heads on body parts that can be sacrificed without causing death. Hairstreak butterflies have false heads on their hind wings so that when birds attack, the butterfly has a chance to fly away unharmed.

Expendable body parts are another lure used by animal prey. Some lizards, such as the young skins, have brightly colored tails. Skinks twitch their brightly colored tails when threatened to distract the predator's attention from their heads. When a snake attacks the tail, it breaks off and continues to wildly thrash on the ground. Distracted further, the predator generally attempts to subdue and eat the thrashing tail, giving the skink time to escape.

see also Behavior; Camouflage; Mimicry.

Ann Guidry


Alcock, John. Animal Behavior, 6th ed. Sunderland, MA: Sinauer Associates, 1998.

Macdonald, David. Encyclopedia of Mammals. New York: Facts on File, 1984.

McGrath, Kimberley A., ed. World of Biology. New York: McGrath Publishers, 1999.


views updated Jun 08 2018

de·fense / diˈfens; ˈdēˌfens/ (Brit. de·fence) • n. 1. the action of defending from or resisting attack. ∎  attempted justification or vindication of something: he spoke in defense of a disciplined approach. ∎  an instance of defending a title or seat in a contest or election. ∎  military measures or resources for protecting a country: [as adj.] defense policy. ∎  a means of protecting something from attack. ∎  (defenses) fortifications or barriers against attack. ∎  (in sports) the action or role of defending one's goal against the opposition: we played solid defense. ∎  (the defense) the players in a team who perform this role.2. the case presented by or on behalf of the party being accused or sued in a lawsuit.3. one or more defendants in a trial. ∎  (usu. the defense) [treated as sing. or pl.] the counsel for the defendant in a lawsuit: the defense requested more time to prepare their case.


views updated May 09 2018


The forcible repulsion of an unlawful and violent attack, such as the defense of one's person, property, or country in time of war.

The totality of the facts, law, and contentions presented by the party against whom a civil action or ciminal prosecution is instituted in order to defeat or diminish the plaintiff'scause of actionor the prosecutor's case. A reply to the claims of the other party, which asserts reasons why the claims should be disallowed. The defense may involve an absolute denial of the other party's factual allegations or may entail anaffirmative defense, which sets forth completely new factual allegations. Pursuant to the rules of federalcivil procedure, numerous defenses may be asserted by motion as well as by answer, while other defenses must be pleaded affirmatively.

A frivolous defense is one that entails a vacuous assertion, which is not supported by argument or evidence. The rules of federal procedure provide that on motion such defense may be ordered stricken from the pleadings.

A meritorious defense is one that involves the essence or substance of the case, as distinguished from technical objections or delaying tactics.

With respect to a criminal charge, defenses such as alibi, consent, duress, entrapment, ignorance or mistake, infancy, insanity, intoxication, and self-defense can result in a party's acquittal.