What is National Security?

2015 Essays

What is National Security?

Oct 7, 2014 25 min read

What is National Security?

Kim R. Holmes, PhD

The challenge in devising a reliable measure of U.S. military power is that the effort must be rooted in a concrete understanding of what national security is and what it is not. This essay examines the elements of national security, providing both definitions of terms and a clarification of related concepts. It concludes with a number of takeaways from this analysis to help guide the making of a National Security Strategy.

A Short History of National Security

Modern concepts of national security arose in the 17th century during the Thirty Years War in Europe and the Civil War in England. In 1648, the Peace of Westphalia established the idea that the nation-state had sovereign control not only of domestic affairs such as religion, but also of external security.

The idea of the nation-state is commonplace today, yet it would be wrong to assume that it is the only way to look at international security. The pre-Westphalia international system was based on the assumption that there existed a universal principle governing the affairs of states led by emperors, popes, kings, and princes. That was indeed the principle of the Holy Roman Empire. The new idea of the nation-state took a different approach. Peace and stability could be better served if people were not slaughtering each other over some universal principle—in that case, religion. It would be far better to have an international system based on the equilibrium of nation-states dedicated to the limited purposes of national sovereignty and self-defense.

This idea was challenged by the philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724–1804), who resurrected the universal principle idea not in the old religious context, but in a secular one inspired by the Enlightenment. In his 1795 essay “Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch,” he outlined his idea that the system of nation-states should be replaced by a new enlightened world order. Nation-states should subordinate their national interests to the common good and be ruled by international law.

Thus was born the secular view of supranational institutions governing international affairs, which today is reflected in the global worldview of liberal internationalism and most clearly manifested in the United Nations.

It is important to keep these two schools of thought in mind when considering the various definitions of national security. They are present in current debates over national sovereignty, international law, and the role of international institutions in world affairs. American liberal internationalists for example, with their dedication to the United Nations and international governance, are neo-Kantians, whereas realists tend more to the views of Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679), Hugo Grotius (1583–1645), and other philosophers who espoused the supremacy of the nation-state.

Some Basic Definitions

Before analyzing different definitions of national security, it is important to understand some of the concepts the term incorporates.

The first is the concept of power.It can best be defined as a nation’s possession of control of its sovereignty and destiny. It implies some degree of control of the extent to which outside forces can harm the country. Hard, or largely military, power is about control, while softpower is mainly about influence—trying to persuade others, using methods short of war, to do something.

Instruments of power exist along a spectrum, from using force on one end to diplomatic means of persuasion on the other. Such instruments include the armed forces; law enforcement and intelligence agencies; and various governmental agencies dedicated to bilateral and public diplomacy, foreign aid, and international financial controls. Variables of power include military strength, economic capacity, the will of the government and people to use power, and the degree to which legitimacy—either in the eyes of the people or in the eyes of other nations or international organizations—affects how power is wielded. The measure of power depends not only on hard facts, but also on perceptions of will and reputation.

Another term to understand properly is military strength. This term refers to military capacity and the capabilities of the armed forces, and it is a capacity that may not actually be used. It often is understood as a static measure of the power of a country, but in reality, military strength is a variable that is subject to all sorts of factors, including the relative strength of opponents, the degree to which it is used effectively, or whether it is even used at all.

Force is the use of a military or law enforcement capacity to achieve some objective. It is the actual use of strength and should not be equated with either strength or power per se. Using force unwisely or unsuccessfully can diminish one’s power and strength. By the same token, using it effectively can enhance power. Force is an instrument of power just as a tool or some other device would be, but unlike institutional instruments like the armed forces, its use in action is what distinguishes it from static instruments of strength like military capacity. Thus, force should be understood narrowly as an applied instrument of coercion.

Finally, there is national defense. Strictly speaking, this refers to the ability of the armed forces to defend the sovereignty of the nation and the lives of its people; however, since the attacks of September 11, 2001, the mission of homeland security—using domestic as well as military instrumentsto defend the nation from terrorist and other attacks either inside or outside the country—has come to be understood as an element of national defense.

International Systems of Security

Understanding the major schools of thought on international security that have arisen since the end of World War II will also help to explain the international context in which American national security is expected to operate. These schools of thought include:

  • Collective Defense. Collective defense is an official arrangement among nation-states to offer some defense support to other member states if they are attacked. It is the basis of the classic defense alliances like the Triple Entente among the United Kingdom, the French Third Republic, and the Russian Empire before World War I and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization today. It is distinguished not only by geographical limitation, but also by its focus on military commitments.
  • Collective Security. Collective security refers to various types of arrangements. Strictly speaking, collective defense involving mutual commitments of member states could be considered a form of collective security, albeit one limited geographically to military defense. More often, however, collective security is thought of as a regional and global concept represented by such international institutions as the League of Nations and the United Nations. Often, such arrangements are buttressed by concepts of international law and international aid and governance. Their distinguishing characteristic is their hybrid character between collective action at the international level and the acceptance of nation-states being ultimately responsible for their own security.
  • Global Security. Global security is a set of ideas, developed largely by the United Nations since the end of the Cold War, that the world’s security is everybody’s business. It rests on the premise that no single nation is secure unless all are secure. While lip service is given to the idea of national defense, the far greater focus is on attempting to eliminate conflict through international law, aid, confidence-building measures, and global governance. The use of force should thus be reserved largely for international peacekeeping, peace enforcement, and the protection of innocent citizens from violence and should be decided upon and organized by the U.N.
  • International Law. To the American ear, the use of the term “law” in the phrase “international law” conjures up the idea of binding rules enforced by judicial authorities and law enforcement officials. However, what Americans understand as “law” in a domestic context is often out of place in considering U.S. compliance with “international law.” The U.S. government must comply with the supreme law of the land, which the U.S. Constitution makes clear consists of the Constitution itself, laws made in pursuance thereof, and “all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States” (quoting Article VI of the Constitution). The United States also makes a practice of following what is known as “customary international law,” which “is comprised of those practices and customs that States view as obligatory and that are engaged in or otherwise acceded to by a preponderance of States in a uniform and consistent fashion” (quoting United States v. Yousef, 327 F.3d 56, 91 n. 24 (2d Cir. 2003), cert. denied, 540 U.S. 993 (2003)).

Non-Military Ideas of National Security

For most of the 20th century, national security was focused on military security, but as a concept, it expanded over time beyond what armed forces could do (or not do as the case may be). In 1947, the United States created the National Security Council to “advise the President with respect to the integration of domestic, foreign, and military policies relating to the national security....”1 In the wake of total war, and at the dawn of the nuclear age, it was well understood that the days of defining national security solely in terms of armies fighting it out in set-piece battles were things of the past.

Since then, national security has come to mean different things to different people. Today, there are all kinds of “national securities.” They include economic security; energy security; environmental security; and even health, women’s, and food security. This proliferation of definitions has not always been for the good. In some instances, for example, it is merely a rebranding of domestic agendas to shift resources away from the Pentagon. In other cases, it is adjusting to the complexities of a changing international environment.

The following list provides definitions of the major contending views of non-military definitions of national security, with no analysis of their merits or deficiencies.

  • Political security refers to protecting the sovereignty of the government and political system and the safety of society from unlawful internal threats and external threats or pressures. It involves both national and homeland security and law enforcement.
  • Economic security involves not only protecting the capacity of the economy to provide for the people, but also the degree to which the government and the people are free to control their economic and financial decisions. It also entails the ability to protect a nation’s wealth and economic freedom from outside threats and coercion. Thus, it comprises economic policy and some law enforcement agencies but also international agreements on commerce, finance, and trade. Recently, it has been defined by some in a human security context to mean eradicating poverty and eliminating income inequality.
  • Energy and natural resources security is most often defined as the degree to which a nation or people have access to such energy resources as oil, gas, water, and minerals. It would be more accurate to describe it as access freely determined by the market without interference from other nations or political or military entities for non-market, political purposes.
  • Homeland security is a set of domestic security functions that since 9/11 have been organized in a single agency, the Department of Homeland Security. It includes airport and port security, border security, transportation security, immigration enforcement, and other related matters.
  • Cybersecurity refers to protection of the government’s and the peoples’ computer and data processing infrastructure and operating systems from harmful interference, whether from outside or inside the country. It thus involves not only national defense and homeland security, but also law enforcement.
  • Human security refers to a concept largely developed at the United Nations after the end of the Cold War. It defines security broadly as encompassing peoples’ safety from hunger, disease, and repression, including harmful disruptions of daily life. Over time, the concept has expanded to include economic security, environmental security, food security, health security, personal security, community security, political security, and the protection of women and minorities. Its distinguishing characteristic is to avoid or downplay national security as a military problem between nation-states, focusing instead on social and economic causes and an assumed international “responsibility to protect” peoples from violence. It is to be determined and administered by the United Nations.
  • Environmental security is an idea with multiple meanings. One is the more traditional concept of responding to conflicts caused by environmental problems such as water shortages, energy disruptions, or severe climate changes; it is assumed that these problems are “transnational” and thus can cause conflict between nations. The other, more recent concept is that the environment and the “climate” should be protected as ends in and of themselves; the assumption is that the environmental degradation caused by man is a threat that must be addressed by treaties and international governance as if it were the moral equivalent of a national security threat. In the past, natural disasters were not considered threats to national security, but that presumption is changing as the ideology of “climate change” and global warming takes hold in the national security community.

What National Security Is Not

It is true in life, as in strategic planning, that if you try to do everything, you will likely end up doing few things right. America’s definitions of national security should be guided not only by a sensible understanding of what is truly vital to the nation’s security, but also by what the nation can practically expect the government to do and not to do.

It is particularly important that the Department of Defense and armed forces understand this point. An “all of the above” definition of national security, which primarily suits political constituencies, will only lead to confusion, waste, distractions, and possibly even military failures as the U.S. government is asked to do things that are either beyond its capacity or, worse, tangential to the real mission of protecting the country from harm.

It is thus critical to identify what national security is not. The best way to do this is to establish clear criteria for what exactly constitutes a threat to national security.

Is it, for example, truly a threat to the American people and the American nation as a whole? Can it be tolerated, or must it be eliminated? If the latter, does the nation have the proper means to defeat, contain, or influence the threat? If not, can it obtain those means within a reasonable time frame to make a difference and at an affordable cost?

Is the threat external or internal? If internal, is it from foreign, unlawful, and unconstitutional sources and thus reasonably understood as hostile and a risk to peoples’ freedoms, or is it merely an act of lawful dissent or protest by Americans? The last thing the nation’s leaders should do is to mistake political dissent as a threat to homeland security; although surveillance and intelligence-gathering capabilities are necessary to combat terrorism, it is imperative that America’s leaders keep a bright line between watching terrorists and monitoring the political views of Americans.

Are the threats man-made or natural in origin? Natural disasters like hurricanes can be very dangerous, but even if one assumes they are caused by climate change (which is disputable), are they threats to the nation? Are “threats” from the weather, disease, or lack of food due to manipulations by states or terrorist groups or natural in origin, to be dealt with accordingly?

Finally, a crucial question: To what extent is the insecurity of other peoples related to our own? Does U.S. national security come into play only when the safety and security of allies who share America’s values and interests are endangered? Or is America committed generally not only to the safety and security of all peoples around the globe, but also to their health, human rights, and general well-being?

The answers to these questions are not difficult.

First, national security is not something that merely affects the well-being of Americans. Rather, it involves their safety, their security, and their freedoms. It is becoming more commonplace to view perceived social “injustices” as national security problems, but this distorts the very concept. Perceptions of social injustice or inequality are domestic concerns, not national security matters. Making less money than a neighbor is hardly as important to one’s life as being safe from incineration in a skyscraper in a terrorist attack.

A similar distinction holds true for so-called health security. While a pandemic disease could endanger the safety and security of thousands of Americans, unless it is committed as an act of biological terrorism, it should be considered a matter of health and domestic safety, not national security. As for the social implications, whether individuals have health insurance is vital to their lives, but that is a matter for them and their insurance agents or program administrators at the Department of Health and Human Services. It is a matter of “social” security, not national security.

Admittedly, global security concepts like health and human security come into play mainly overseas—in definitions of international security—and not in defining American security. But even there, some distinctions need to be made. “Food security” often means little more than preventing malnutrition or responding to famine caused either by natural causes or by political instability or war. The causes of these problems can be addressed through humanitarian aid, mediation, or (in extreme cases) peacekeeping or even military intervention, but little is gained by creating neologisms that may intend to heighten political concern but do little to help shape an adequate response for solving them.

A similar problem exists with the concept of environmental security. Clearly, wars can cause environmental damage and disruptions. Water shortages can create transnational and social tensions that may lead to conflict, and melting polar caps could open up waterways that exacerbate international tensions. As far as national and international security is concerned, however, the root causes of those conflicts are not environmental; they are political and military. Environmental issues are tangential and, at best, merely contributing factors. For example, Saddam Hussein did not burn the oilfields to damage the environment; he burned them to disrupt America’s military advance. Water shortages exist, but the problem begins when rival nations or groups start manipulating that scarcity for political purposes. Tensions with Russia over Arctic routes are rooted in Russia’s geopolitical ambitions, not in purported concerns about the ozone layer.

A current example of problematic thinking about national security can be found in ideas about environmental security and its link to climate change. Some purport that climate change is a “threat multiplier” insofar as it supposedly could create natural disasters, exacerbate conflicts, and make the operating environment for U.S. armed forces more difficult. Some also see it as a problem for “safeguarding the global commons,” which is a foreign policy problem. From this perspective, government policies focus on using international “engagement to transition to a low-carbon growth trajectory” for the entire planet.2 As for the Pentagon’s new role, it is about studying global warming’s supposed impact on military installations, the operating environment, and the Arctic and the assumed increased role in humanitarian assistance and relief that it expects to be caused by “climate change–induced” disasters.

As noted earlier regarding the confused thinking that results when policymakers conflate social conditions or public health matters with “national security,” there are a number of questionable assumptions behind current environmental security policy. There may be a scientific consensus on the fact that the climate warmed for a period, but there is no consensus on how much it is still warming or exactly how factors like vapor and the sun contribute to it. Thus, the more alarmist predictions are unreliable.

This sort of uncertainty means not only that there may not be a grave threat, but also that, at the very least, we have little idea how bad it could be or when it could occur. One sympathetic study of the risks of climate change concluded confidently that there is a one-in-20 chance that catastrophic outcomes could cost $701 billion worth of coastal damage by the “end of the century.”3 But that is 85 years away. In the computer modeling world it is fairly common to come up with such precise figures (why not $700 billion or $702 billion instead of $701 billion?), but in the real world—especially one that is almost nine decades away—many unpredictable things can and will happen.

Such unpredictability and such poorly disciplined thinking about national security are problematic for Pentagon planning. How do military planners make reliable plans for predictions that span almost a century and for which short-term predictions are highly unreliable? It may be appropriate for military planners to study possible long-range implications, especially for the Arctic if one assumes the global warming forecasts to be accurate, but it would be imprudent to assume that any specific adjustments to installations or operational planning can be made reliably for periods of time further out than 10 or 20 years.4

Further, if things like climate change, global public health, or volcanic eruptions in some distant corner of the world are accepted as threats to national security, they are threats over which the United States does not exercise sovereignty. Yes, the U.S. could choose to do things to help improve the health of its citizens or mitigate the impact on its cities of changing weather patterns, but it stretches reason to assert that the U.S. military should be shaped to account for the policies and conditions of other countries and peoples relative to their own efforts in such cases.

Finally, there is the issue of energy security. All nations need energy to survive, but the market can supply most of their energy needs. Nations like Russia use energy as a geopolitical tool of coercion. Indeed, the Ukrainians can attest to how serious this coercion can be. Other nations like China make satisfying their energy-hungry economies a central part of their foreign policy. By and large, however, whatever attempts these and other countries make to use energy as a geopolitical tool run up against the demands of the international market. Oil and gas markets are highly influenced by nations and cartels, but they are also global in nature. This means that global economic demand also affects the price of energy and typically exerts greater leverage than do the actions of any one country.

Energy security thus becomes more a policy task of keeping the global energy market as free and open as possible than a programmatic objective of national security or even foreign policy. America’s main energy problem has been an intentional limit on domestic production and infrastructure like pipelines and liquid gas facilities. Although energy insecurity is a real problem for some nations, the solutions for the United States are largely economic and infrastructural in nature. Energy “security” is mainly about taking advantage of new techniques such as fracking, more drilling for oil, and building more refineries, pipelines, nuclear reactors, and liquid gas facilities at ports for export purposes.

Focusing the Idea of National Security

It is clear that policymakers need a sharper focus as to what is and is not national security. It cannot be all things to all people; if it were, it would be meaningless. The definition of national security must be limited not only to decide what the government should be expected to do, but also, just as important, to decide what it should not do. This is especially true because of budget restraints. While it is proper to task the U.S. government with protecting a spectrum of national security interests—from the financial and economic system to access to natural resources—the lion’s share of the government’s interest and thus budgetary resources should be dedicated to safeguarding the country and its interests from foreign aggression.

Focusing national security policy on what matters most requires a more accurate understanding of power. As mentioned earlier, power is the degree to which a state can influence and control its destiny. All too often in the debate over “trade-offs” between soft and hard power, people assume that the former is interchangeable with the latter. In its crudest interpretation, it is the misguided belief that U.S. diplomats and troops are somehow interchangeable. Diplomats, particularly skilled ones, are no doubt important to American security, but it is inaccurate to suggest that they and U.S. troops play the same or even similar roles.

It is not uncommon for elected and appointed officials to note that the foundation of all American power is hard or military power. Unfortunately, many seem to do this as a mere rhetorical flourish, but in reality, it is a hard fact of international relations. Without military power, soft power is largely symbolic and ineffective. America draws its reputation as a world leader from three sources, and none of them derives from the unique skills of U.S. diplomats. Those sources are America’s military power, its economic capacity, and its dedication to the values of freedom and democracy.

Much of the emphasis placed on soft power comes from a political desire to spend less on defense so as to have more to spend on diplomacy and foreign aid. It may very well be that more can be done in some of these areas, but that still begs the question of whether hard power and soft power are interchangeable.

Those who think that they are interchangeable, or that soft power is actually superior to hard power, point to the supposed success of the European Union, but this reveals a misunderstanding. The EU’s soft power diplomacy is influential only because Europe’s basic security needs, provided largely by America’s armed forces, are already being met. Not having to spend money on defense enables Europe to spend disproportionately on foreign aid and social development programs. Furthermore, it is important to keep in mind that the confidence the world has in European stability is based in part on the security guarantee provided by the United States.

This is not a model that the United States has the luxury of following. Unlike Europe, the U.S. has no one to whom it can turn for its security. It is a net security provider, not a security taker as the Europeans are; for this reason alone, America’s hard military power responsibilities are unique and should be a top priority. This does not mean that the U.S. should not do a better job in diplomacy, foreign aid, and other means of soft power influence. It means only that any assumptions of zero-sum trade-offs between hard and soft power are fatuous.

Another false assumption is that the U.S. needs only to “rebalance” or “streamline” its way out of a need for military capacity. This presumes that shifting the military’s focus from one region to another or being more efficient with fewer resources committed to defense will somehow lessen the requirement for hard power. In fact, the opposite occurs. Less hard power capacity undermines the effectiveness and impact of soft power, encourages opportunism by competitors, and eventually leads to even greater demand for more hard power. For example, the rebalancing strategy in Asia has been largely rhetorical and diplomatic, covering up the fact that U.S. military capacity in East Asia is dwindling.

Moreover, the notion of a “whole of government” approach, which was prominent in the 2010 National Security Strategy, appears to assume that strenuous coordination in training across departments can replace the loss of hard power capacity. “Rebalancing” and “whole of government” sound sophisticated and almost prosaic; in reality, they are covers for America’s diminishing capacity to maintain its influential role in the world.

What National Security Is

Now that it is fairly clear what national security is not, the task of crafting a definition of what it is should be easier.

National security is the safekeeping of the nation as a whole. Its highest order of business is the protection of the nation and its people from attack and other external dangers by maintaining armed forces and guarding state secrets. Since the attacks of September 11, 2001, the defense of the homeland from terrorist and other attacks, broadly understood as homeland security, has risen as a major national security concern.

Because national security entails both national defense and the protection of a series of geopolitical, economic, and other interests, it affects not only defense policy, but foreign and other policies as well. Foreign and defense policies should be seen as mutually reinforcing, not as zero-sum trade-offs in budgetary fights. While hard choices will indeed have to be made in national security spending, they should be decided by realities, not by fatuous comparisons or incoherent and tendentious concepts.

The next question to address is how to attain national security. For decades, the United States has tried to answer this question with the official National Security Strategy (NSS). Unfortunately, these official documents have a bad reputation. They are often seen more as public relations exercises than as reliable guides for strategic planning.

Crafting a full NSS is beyond the scope of this essay, but as a bare outline, the U.S. should have goals that are clear, achievable, and mutually reinforcing. The following suggestions for National Security Strategy goals are listed in descending order of importance:

  1. Preserve the safety of the American homeland and protect the integrity of the nation’s domestic institutions and systems vital to that purpose. This goal requires strong Active, Guard, and Reserve forces as well as effective intelligence, law enforcement, counter-terrorism, cybersecurity, and immigration policies to protect the homeland and secure America’s borders.
  2. Maintain a global balance of power in favor of America’s security and interests and those of its friends and allies. This requires an armed force capable of successfully completing all of the military missions assigned to it and fulfilling U.S. commitments to defend the security of America’s allies and friends.
  3. Guarantee the freedom of the seas, upon which both the U.S. and world commerce and economic viability depend. This in particular requires a strong U.S. Navy and Marine Corps and overseas bases capable of supporting the projection of American power around the world.
  4. Exert U.S. influence as much as possible overseas through the entire spectrum of instruments of power, including diplomacy, foreign aid, selective intelligence sharing, public diplomacy, and human rights and humanitarian programs. This requires integrating U.S. diplomacy and foreign aid and humanitarian programs more closely to achieve the purposes of the national strategy.
  5. Dedicate America to maintaining as much as possible a global economy based on economic freedom (sometimes called democratic capitalism), including free trade and the openness of energy markets and international financial systems based on the rule of law.
  6. Focus U.S. energy security policy on developing domestic resources and keeping the international energy market as free as possible from harmful political manipulation.
  7. Ensure that America’s dedication to values and their promotion overseas reflects not only its own history of liberty, but also the universal principles of freedom—thus defining human rights as freedom of expression, the right of democratic self-government, economic freedom, equality before the law, and freedom from persecution and oppression. Values should guide and inform the nation’s strategy, not direct or control it. Geopolitical compromises will have to be made from time to time, and America should not see itself as the world’s policeman enforcing certain values. However, it is important to recognize that this nation’s commitments to universal values like freedom and democracy are reasons why foreign nations and peoples support America.

The Way Forward

Any discussion of national security must be rooted in a clear understanding of the concepts it involves. The following are the four most important takeaways from this analysis of national security.

Takeaway #1: Make capacity and flexibility the watchwords of strategic and military planning so as to give the President as Commander in Chief and his military leaders as many options as possible to deal with any contingency that may arise to threaten the nation. Understand that the more capacity and credibility U.S. forces have, the less likely it is that they will be challenged and the more able they will be to respond effectively to surprises when they occur, as they inevitably will. This “peace through strength” strategy is not just a slogan; it is a tried-and-true strategy pursued largely successfully during the Cold War to avoid actual war.

Takeaway #2: Avoid the trap of artificial “trade-offs” between non-military and military programs dedicated to national security. In the real world of budgets, there will always be hard choices, but political leaders and policymakers should avoid pretending that funding for a climate change program is anywhere nearly as important as funding for a new-generation fighter aircraft or for maintaining America’s fleet of aircraft carriers.

Takeaway #3: Focus non-military instruments of power and policies on supporting the discrete goals of national strategy listed above. This means consciously aligning U.S. diplomacy, foreign aid, public diplomacy, international trade and financial policies, and human rights policies to advancing discrete national interests. While this involves a global perspective as defined by the national strategy, it does not envision the use of these instruments of soft power either to create a global order of international governance run by international organizations or to bolster the existing international “system” in which the sovereignty of tyrants and human rights abusers is assumed to equal America’s own.

Takeaway #4: Be as clear as possible about what can and cannot be achieved by military intervention. Much of the controversy surrounding the issue of military intervention stems from confusion over what can and cannot be achieved by force and, just as important, over what Americans expect their armed forces to do. Are these troops nation builders and humanitarian police forces? Or are they military defenders of narrower security interests? In truth, they have been employed for all of these purposes with varying degrees of success, but the true trade-offs of doing so are scarcely ever understood and articulated by this nation’s leaders.

The United States cannot eliminate every bad actor, right every wrong, or correct every perceived injustice in the world. That is impossible. But the United States can contribute to building a world order in which the rule of law, the integrity of national borders, democratic capitalism, freedom of the seas, democratic self-government, human rights, and international trade prevail, not as guaranteed outcomes but as opportunities. It is an exhausting and costly enterprise, but no one else can do it. Not only that: It is for America’s own good.


  1. National Security Act of 1947 (Public Law 80-253), Section 101(a), now codified at (50 U.S.C. 3021).
  2. The White House, National Security Strategy, May 2010, p. 34, http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/rss_viewer/national_security_strategy.pdfa (accessed September 15, 2014).
  3. Risky Business Project, Risky Business: The Economic Risks of Climate Change in the United States, June 2014, p. 4, http://riskybusiness.org/pdf (accessed September 15, 2014).
  4. Climate change policy supporters have been stymied by the now over 15-year temperature hiatus in the rise of the global temperatures. It is not something their computer models had predicted. Scientists are not sure why this is occurring, but at the very least, it shows the difficulty (if not futility) of using computer models to predict specific outcomes over 10- or 20-year time spans. See “Technical Summary” in Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis: Working Group I Contribution to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), p. 61, http://www.climatechange2013.org/images/report/WG1AR5_ALL_FINAL.pdf (accessed October 25, 2014). See also Judith Curry, “The Global Warming Statistical Meltdown,” The Wall Street Journal, October 9, 2014, http://online.wsj.com/articles/judith-curry-the-global-warming-statistical-meltdown-1412901060 (accessed October 28, 2014).