National security refers to the security of a nation state, including
its citizens, economy, and institutions, and is regarded as a duty of
Originally conceived as protection against military attack, national
security is now widely understood to include non-military dimensions,
including economic security, energy security, environmental security,
food security, cyber security etc. Similarly, national security risks
include, in addition to the actions of other nation states, action by
violent non-state actors, narcotic cartels, and multinational
corporations, and also the effects of natural disasters.
Governments rely on a range of measures, including political,
economic, and military power, as well as diplomacy to enforce national
security. They may also act to build the conditions of security
regionally and internationally by reducing transnational causes of
insecurity, such as climate change, economic inequality, political
exclusion, and Nuclear proliferation.
2 Dimensions of national security
2.1 Physical security
2.2 Political security
2.3 Economic security
2.4 Ecological security
Security of energy and natural resources
3 Issues in national security
3.1 Consistency of approach
3.2 National versus transnational security
3.3 Impact on civil liberties and human rights
4 Country-by-country perspectives
4.4.1 United Kingdom
4.5 United States
Security Act of 1947
4.5.2 Obama administration
4.5.3 Empowerment of women
National security state
5 See also
7 Further reading
8 External links
The concept of national security remains ambiguous, having evolved
from simpler definitions which emphasised freedom from military threat
and from political coercion.:1–6:52–54 Among the many
definitions proposed to date are the following, which show how the
concept has evolved to encompass non-military concerns:
"A nation has security when it does not have to sacrifice its
legitimate ínterests to avoid war, and is able, if challenged, to
maintain them by war." (Walter Lippmann, 1943).:5
"The distinctive meaning of national security means freedom from
foreign dictation." (Harold Lasswell, 1950):79
National security objectively means the absence of threats to
acquired values and subjectively, the absence of fear that such values
will be attacked." (Arnold Wolfers, 1960)
National security then is the ability to preserve the nation's
physical integrity and territory; to maintain its economic relations
with the rest of the world on reasonable terms; to preserve its
nature, institution, and governance from disruption from outside; and
to control its borders." (Harold Brown, U.S. Secretary of Defense,
"National security... is best described as a capacity to control those
domestic and foreign conditions that the public opinion of a given
community believes necessary to enjoy its own self-determination or
autonomy, prosperity and wellbeing." (Charles Maier, 1990)
National security is an appropriate and aggressive blend of political
resilience and maturity, human resources, economic structure and
capacity, technological competence, industrial base and availability
of natural resources and finally the military might." (National
Defence College of India, 1996)
National security is the] measurable state of the capability of a
nation to overcome the multi-dimensional threats to the apparent
well-being of its people and its survival as a nation-state at any
given time, by balancing all instruments of state policy through
governance... and is extendable to global security by variables
external to it." (Prabhakaran Paleri, 2008):52–54
"[National and international security] may be understood as a shared
freedom from fear and want, and the freedom to live in dignity. It
implies social and ecological health rather than the absence of
risk... [and is] a common right." (Ammerdown Group, 2016):3
Dimensions of national security
Potential causes of national insecurity include actions by other
states (e.g. military or cyber attack), violent non-state actors (e.g.
terrorist attack), organised criminal groups such as narcotic cartels,
and also the effects of natural disasters (e.g. flooding,
earthquakes).:v, 1–8 Systemic drivers of insecurity, which
may be transnational, include climate change, economic inequality and
marginalisation, political exclusion, and militarisation.
In view of the wide range of risks, the security of a nation state has
several dimensions, including economic security, energy security,
physical security, environmental security, food security, border
security, and cyber security. These dimensions correlate closely with
elements of national power.
Increasingly, governments organise their security policies into a
national security strategy (NSS); as of 2017, Spain, Sweden, the
United Kingdom, and the United States are among the states to have
done so. Some states also appoint a National Security
Council to oversee the strategy and/or a National
Although states differ in their approach, with some beginning to
prioritise non-military action to tackle systemic drivers of
insecurity, various forms of coercive power predominate, particularly
military capabilities. The scope of these capabilities has
developed. Traditionally, military capabilities were mainly land- or
sea-based, and in smaller countries they still are. Elsewhere, the
domains of potential warfare now include the air, space, cyberspace,
and psychological operations.
Military capabilities designed for
these domains may be used for national security, or equally for
offensive purposes, for example to conquer and annex territory and
Elements of national security and Elements of national power
In practice, national security is associated primarily with managing
physical threats and with the military capabilities used for doing
so. That is, national security is often understood as the
capacity of a nation to mobilise military forces to guarantee its
borders and to deter or successfully defend against physical threats
including military aggression and attacks by non-state actors, such as
terrorism. Most states, such as South Africa and Sweden,
configure their military forces mainly for territorial defence;
others, such as France, Russia, the UK and the US,
invest in higher-cost expeditionary capabilities, which allow their
armed forces to project power and sustain military operations abroad.
See also: Terrorism, Border guard, and
Barry Buzan, Ole Wæver,
Jaap de Wilde and others have argued that
national security depends on political security: the stability of the
social order. Others, such as Paul Rogers, have added that the
equitability of the international order is equally vital. Hence,
political security depends on the rule of international law (including
the laws of war), the effectiveness of international political
institutions, as well as diplomacy and negotiation between nations and
other security actors. It also depends on, among other factors,
effective political inclusion of disaffected groups and the human
security of the citizenry.
Main article: Economic security
Economic security, in the context of international relations, is the
ability of a nation state to maintain and develop the national
economy, without which other dimensions of national security cannot be
managed. In larger countries, strategies for economic security expect
to access resources and markets in other countries, and to protect
their own markets at home. Developing countries may be less secure
than economically advanced states due to high rates of unemployment
and underpaid work.
Main article: Environmental security
Ecological security, also known as environmental security, refers to
the integrity of ecosystems and the biosphere, particularly in
relation to their capacity to sustain a diversity of life-forms
(including human life). The security of ecosystems has attracted
greater attention as the impact of ecological damage by humans has
grown. The degradation of ecosystems, including topsoil erosion,
deforestation, biodiversity loss, and climate change, affect economic
security and can precipitate mass migration, leading to increased
pressure on resources elsewhere.
The scope and nature of environmental threats to national security and
strategies to engage them are a subject of debate.:29–33 Romm
(1993) classifies the major impacts of ecological changes on national
Transnational environmental problems. These include global
environmental problems such as climate change due to global warming,
deforestation, and loss of biodiversity.:15
Local environmental or resource pressures. These include resource
scarcities leading to local conflict, such as disputes over water
scarcity in the Middle East; migration into the United States caused
by the failure of agriculture in Mexico;:15 and the impact on the
conflict in Syria of erosion of productive land. Environmental
Rwanda following a rise in population and dwindling
availability of farmland, may also have contributed to the genocide
Environmentally threatening outcomes of warfare. These include acts of
war that degrade or destroy ecosystems. Examples are the Roman
destruction of agriculture in Carthage; Saddam Hussein's burning of
oil wells in the Gulf War;:15–16 the use of
Agent Orange by the
UK in the
Malayan Emergency and the USA in the
Vietnam War for
defoliating forests; and the high greenhouse gas emissions of military
Climate change and national security
Climate change is affecting global agriculture and food security
Refugees fleeing war and insecurity in
Iraq and Syria arrive at Lesbos
Island, supported by Spanish volunteers, 2015
Security of energy and natural resources
Resources include water, sources of energy, land and minerals.
Availability of adequate natural resources is important for a nation
to develop its industry and economic power. For example, in the
Gulf War of 1991,
Kuwait partly in order to
secure access to its oil wells, and one reason for the US
counter-invasion was the value of the same wells to its own
economy. Water resources are subject to disputes
between many nations, including
India and Pakistan, and in the Middle
The interrelations between security, energy, natural resources, and
their sustainability is increasingly acknowledged in national security
strategies and resource security is now included among the UN
Sustainable Development Goals. In the US, for
example, the military has installed solar photovoltaic microgrids on
their bases in case of power outage.
Computer security, also known as cybersecurity or IT security, refers
to the security of computing devices such as computers and
smartphones, as well as computer networks such as private and public
networks, and the Internet. It concerns the protection of hardware,
software, data, people, and also the procedures by which systems are
accessed, and the field has growing importance due to the increasing
reliance on computer systems in most societies. Since unauthorized
access to critical civil and military infrastructure is now considered
a major threat, cyberspace is now recognised as a domain of
Issues in national security
Consistency of approach
The dimensions of national security outlined above are frequently in
tension with one another. For example:
The high cost of maintaining large military forces places a burden on
the economic security of a nation. The share of government expenditure
on state armed forces varies internationally; for example, in 2015 it
was 4% in Germany, 9% in Chile, 14% in the USA, 15% in Israel, and 19%
in Pakistan. Conversely, economic constraints can limit the scale
of expenditure on military capabilities.
Unilateral security action by states can undermine political security
at an international level if it erodes the rule of law and undermines
the authority of international institutions. The invasion of
2003 and the annexation of Crimea in 2014 have been cited as
The pursuit of economic security in competition with other nation
states can undermine the ecological security of all when the impact
includes widespread topsoil erosion, biodiversity loss, and climate
change. Conversely, expenditure on mitigating or adapting to
ecological change places a burden on the national economy.
If tensions such as these are not managed effectively, national
security policies and actions may be ineffective or counterproductive.
National versus transnational security
Increasingly, national security strategies have begun to recognise
that nations cannot provide for their own security without also
developing the security of their regional and international
context. For example, Sweden's national security
strategy of 2017 declared:
"Wider security measures must also now encompass protection against
epidemics and infectious diseases, combating terrorism and organised
crime, ensuring safe transport and reliable food supplies, protecting
against energy supply interruptions, countering devastating climate
change, initiatives for peace and global development, and much
A US fighter jet over a burning oil well in
Kuwait during the Persian
Gulf War, 1991
The extent to which this matters, and how it should be done, is the
subject of debate. Some argue that the principal beneficiary of
national security policy should be the nation state itself, which
should centre its strategy on protective and coercive capabilities in
order to safeguard itself in a hostile environment (and potentially to
project that power into its environment, and dominate it to the point
of strategic supremacy). Others argue that security
depends principally on building the conditions in which equitable
relationships between nations can develop, partly by reducing
antagonism between actors, ensuring that fundamental needs can be met,
and also that differences of interest can be negotiated
effectively. In the UK, for example, Malcolm Chalmers argued
in 2015 that the heart of the UK's approach should be support for the
Western strategic military alliance led through
NATO by the United
States, as "the key anchor around which international order is
maintained". The Ammerdown Group argued in 2016 that the UK should
shift its primary focus to building international cooperation to
tackle the systemic drivers of insecurity, including climate change,
economic inequality, militarisation and the political exclusion of the
world's poorest people.
Impact on civil liberties and human rights
Approaches to national security can have a complex impact on human
rights and civil liberties. For example, the rights and liberties of
citizens are affected by the use of military personnel and militarised
police forces to control public behaviour; the use of surveillance
including mass surveillance in cyberspace; military recruitment and
conscription practices; and the effects of warfare on civilians and
civil infrastructure. This has led to a dialectical struggle,
particularly in liberal democracies, between government authority and
the rights and freedoms of the general public.
Security Agency harvests personal data across the
Even where the exercise of national security is subject to good
governance and the rule of law, a risk remains that the term national
security may be become a pretext for suppressing unfavorable political
and social views. In the US, for example, the controversial USA
Patriot Act of 2001, and the revelation by
Edward Snowden in 2013 that
Security Agency harvests the personal data of the general
public, brought these issues to wide public attention. Among the
questions raised are whether and how national security considerations
at times of war should lead to the suppression of individual rights
and freedoms, and whether such restrictions are necessary when a state
is not at war.
See also: Civil liberties, Human rights, and Mass surveillance
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (December
Security ideology as taught by the US Army School of the
Americas to military personnel were vital in causing the military coup
of 1964. The military dictatorship was installed on the claim by
military that Leftists were an existential threat to the national
National security of China
China's Armed Forces are known as the
People's Liberation Army
People's Liberation Army (PLA).
The military is sizeable with 2.3 million active troops in 2005.
The Ministry of State
Security was established in 1983 to ensure
“the security of the state through effective measures against enemy
agents, spies, and counterrevolutionary activities designed to
sabotage or overthrow China’s socialist system.”
Muslim separatists in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region are China's
most significant domestic threat.
In the years 1997 and 2000, Russia adopted documents titled "National
Security Concept" that described Russia's global position, the
country's interests, listed threats to national security and described
the means to counter those threats. In 2009, these documents were
superseded by the "National
Security Strategy to 2020". The key body
responsible for coordination of policies related to Russia's national
security is the
Security Council of Russia.
According to provision 6 of the National
Security Strategy to 2020,
national security is "the situation in which the individual, the
society and the state enjoy protection from foreign and domestic
threats to the degree that ensures constitutional rights and freedoms,
decent quality of life for citizens, as well as sovereignty,
territorial integrity and stable development of the Russian
Federation, the defense and security of the state."
The primary body responsible for coordinating national security policy
in the UK is the National
Security Council (United Kingdom). It was
created in May 2010 by the new coalition government of the
Conservative Party (UK)
Conservative Party (UK) and Liberal Democrats. The National Security
Council is a committee of the Cabinet of the
United Kingdom and was
created as part of a wider reform of the national security apparatus.
This reform also included the creation of a National
(United Kingdom) and a National
Security Secretariat to support the
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National security of the United States
Security Act of 1947
Main articles: National
Security Act of 1947 and United States
The concept of national security became an official guiding principle
of foreign policy in the United States when the National
of 1947 was signed on July 26, 1947 by U.S. President Harry S.
Truman.:3 As amended in 1949, this Act:
created important components of American national security, such as
the precursor to the Department of Defense);
subordinated the military branches to the new cabinet-level position
of Secretary of Defense;
established the National
Security Council and the Central Intelligence
Notably, the Act did not define national security, which was
conceivably advantageous, as its ambiguity made it a powerful phrase
to invoke whenever issues threatened by other interests of the state,
such as domestic concerns, came up for discussion and
The notion that national security encompasses more than just military
security was present, though understated, from the beginning. The Act
established the National
Security Council so as to "advise the
President on the integration of domestic, military and foreign
policies relating to national security".:52
While not defining the "interests" of national security, the Act does
establish, within the National
Security Council, the "Committee on
Foreign Intelligence", whose duty is to conduct an annual review
"identifying the intelligence required to address the national
security interests of the United States as specified by the President"
In Gen. Maxwell Taylor's 1974 essay "The Legitimate Claims of National
Security", Taylor states:
The national valuables in this broad sense include current assets and
national interests, as well as the sources of strength upon which our
future as a nation depends. Some valuables are tangible and earthy;
others are spiritual or intellectual. They range widely from political
assets such as the Bill of Rights, our political institutions and
international friendships, to many economic assets which radiate
worldwide from a highly productive domestic economy supported by rich
natural resources. It is the urgent need to protect valuables such as
these which legitimizes and makes essential the role of national
The U.S. Armed Forces defines national security of the United States
in the following manner :
A collective term encompassing both national defense and foreign
relations of the United States. Specifically, the condition provided
by: a. a military or defense advantage over any foreign nation or
group of nations; b. a favorable foreign relations position; or c. a
defense posture capable of successfully resisting hostile or
destructive action from within or without, overt or covert.
In 2010, the
White House included an all-encompassing world-view in a
national security strategy which identified "security" as one of the
country's "four enduring national interests" that were "inexorably
"To achieve the world we seek, the United States must apply our
strategic approach in pursuit of four enduring national interests:
Security: The security of the United States, its citizens, and
U.S. allies and partners.
Prosperity: A strong, innovative, and growing U.S. economy in an
open international economic system that promotes opportunity and
Values: Respect for universal values at home and around the world.
International Order: An international order advanced by U.S.
leadership that promotes peace, security, and opportunity through
stronger cooperation to meet global challenges.
Each of these interests is inextricably linked to the others: no
single interest can be pursued in isolation, but at the same time,
positive action in one area will help advance all four."
Security Strategy, Executive Office of the President of
the United States (May 2010)
Empowerment of women
Main article: Hillary Doctrine
U.S. Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton has said that "The countries
that threaten regional and global peace are the very places where
women and girls are deprived of dignity and opportunity". She has
noted that countries where women are oppressed are places where the
"rule of law and democracy are struggling to take root", and that,
when women's rights as equals in society are upheld, the society as a
whole changes and improves, which in turn enhances stability in that
society, which in turn contributes to global society.
In the United States, the Bush Administration in January 2008,
initiated the Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative (CNCI).
It introduced a differentiated approach, such as: identifying existing
and emerging cybersecurity threats, finding and plugging existing
cyber vulnerabilities, and apprehending actors that trying to gain
access to secure federal information systems. President Obama
issued a declaration that the "cyber threat is one of the most serious
economic and national security challenges we face as a nation" and
that "America's economic prosperity in the 21st century will depend on
National security state
To reflect on institutionalization of new bureaucratic infrastructures
and governmental practices in the post-
World War II
World War II period in the
U.S., when a culture of semi-permanent military mobilization brought
around the National
Security Council, the CIA, the Department of
Defense, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, national-security researchers
apply a notion of a national security state:
During and after World War II, US leaders expanded the concept of
national security and used its terminology for the first time to
explain America’s relationship to the world. For most of US history,
the physical security of the continental United States had not been in
jeopardy. But by 1945, this invulnerability was rapidly diminishing
with the advent of long-range bombers, atom bombs, and ballistic
missiles. A general perception grew that the future would not allow
time to mobilize, that preparation would have to become constant. For
the first time, American leaders would have to deal with the essential
paradox of national security faced by the Roman Empire and subsequent
great powers: Si vis pacem, para bellum — If you want peace, prepare
— David Jablonsky
Conceptualising and understanding the National
Security choices and
challenges of African States is a difficult task. This is due to the
fact that it is often not rooted in the understanding of their (mostly
disrupted) state formation and their often imported process of state
Although Post-Cold War conceptualizations of
Security have broadened,
the policies and practices of many African states still privilege
national security as being synonymous with state security and even
more narrowly- regime security.
The problem with the above is that a number of African states have
been unable to govern their security in meaningful ways. Often failing
to be able to claim the monopoly of force in their territories. A
hybridity of security ‘governance’ or ‘providers’ thus
exists. States that have not been able to capture this reality in
Security strategies and policies often find their
claim over having the monopoly of force and thus being the Sovereign
challenged. This often leads to the weakening of the state.
Examples of such states are South Sudan and Somalia.
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