National Security


Video: Frederick S. Wyle talks to Harry Kreisler on 'National Security and the Rule of Law'


National security refers to the requirement to maintain the survival of the nation-state through the use of economic, military and political power and the exercise of diplomacy.


Measures taken to ensure national security include:



The concept of security of a nation goes back to the dawn of nation-states themselves. Armies for domestic peacekeeping and maintaining national sovereignty have existed since the dawn of recorded history. Civil and national police forces have also existed for millennia. Intelligence agencies and secret services of governments stretch back to antiquity such as the Roman Empire's frumentarii and agens in rebus. While the general concepts of keeping a nation secure are not new, the specific modern English term "national security" itself came into common parlance in the 20th Century. Methodologies to achieve and maintain the highest possible desired state of national security have been consistently developed over the modern period to this day.


Over the history of the United States, policies such as the Monroe Doctrine, the domestic establishment of the United States Secret Service in the wake of the American Civil War, and the so called "big stick" corollary to the Monroe Doctrine by President Theodore Roosevelt all show a maturation of policies and systems of establishing and ensuring diplomatic, military, and economic security. Each nation has its own history of establishing national security mechanisms.


The modern concept of national security was introduced in the United States after World War II and became an official guiding principle of foreign policy in the United States when the National Security Act of 1947 was signed on July 26, 1947 by U.S. President Harry S. Truman.


The majority of the provisions of the Act took effect on 18 September 1947, the day after the Senate confirmed James V. Forrestal as the first Secretary of Defense. Together with its 1949 amendment, this act:


  • created the National Military Establishment (NME) which became known as the Department of Defense when the act was amended in 1949,

  • created a separate Department of the Air Force from the existing United States Army Air Forces,

  • subordinated the military branches to the new cabinet level position of the Secretary of Defense, and

  • established the National Security Council (NSC), a central place of coordination for national security policy in the Executive Branch, as well as the Central Intelligence Agency, the United States' first peacetime intelligence agency.


During the Cold War's bipolar system, states often relied heavily on the two superpowers and other aligned nations to assist their national security. This principal is referred to as collective security, a term which came into vogue after the Armistice of World War I.


Since the breakup of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, and with the rise of terrorism, national security has had to shift its focus dramatically. Security Sector Reform (SSR) and Security Sector Management (SSM) is needed in many nations for different reasons. Some are nations emerging from repressive regimes or recovering from civil wars. Others are developing nations with weak governments where national security sectors never existed or were never strong before. The United States saw its own security sector overhaul with the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.


The measures adopted to maintain national security in the face of threats to society has led to ongoing discussion, particularly in liberal democracies, on the scale and role of authority in matters of civil and human rights.


Tension exists between the preservation of the state (by maintaining self-determination and sovereignty) and the rights and freedoms of individuals.


Although national security measures are imposed to protect society as a whole, such measures will necessarily tend to restrict the rights and freedoms of individuals. The concern is that where the exercise of national security laws and powers is not subject to good governance, the rule of law, and strict checks and balances, there is a risk that "national security" may simply serve as a pretext for suppressing unfavorable political and social views. Taken to its logical conclusion, this view contends that measures which may ostensibly serve a national security purpose (such as mass surveillance, and censorship of mass media), could ultimately lead to a police state.


In the United States, the controversial USA Patriot Act and other government action has brought some of these issues to the citizen's attention, raising two main questions - to what extent, for the sake of national security, should individual rights and freedoms be restricted and can the restriction of civil rights for the sake of national security be justified?


This article is licensed under the e e GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "National security".




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