National Security

Mar 30, 2020 in Research Paper

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The development of the concept of national security emerged after World War II and focused on states protecting their borders against external aggression by other countries. As such, the use of military force was the dominant form of response. Technological development and globalization have changed the threats that countries face, which has prompted policy makers to consider the broader conceptualization of national security. This research paper explores national security literature that demonstrates its evolution and its current status. 

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National Security

According to Hynes, Carrie and Andrew (2007), national security refers to the protection of  country’s territorial integrity and sovereignty against external aggression. In this definition, the purported aggressors are other states with definite borders. Hollenbach (2016) supports the perception of security from a national perspective by arguing that the primary role of any country is to protect its borders. The perception of national security in that manner is the original view after the Second World War when countries concentrated on improving their fighting and deterrence capabilities (Jolly and Deepayan 2007). Some of the means through which states achieve national security systems include military strikes, diplomacy, and the development of nuclear weapons (Rizer 2011).Therefore, the effects of seeing national security as protection from outside forces include the allocation of large proportions of national budgets to support the military and the acquisition of weapon systems (Reveron and Kathleen 2011). Cooke and Stephen (2009) argue that treating national security narrowly by focusing on improving military capabilities may not achieve security but cause conflicts. The assertion emanates from the fact that each country is in an arms race to develop weapons of mass destruction, which increases tension and probability of a war outbreak. According to Swain (2012), the narrow interpretation of national security as a means of keeping other nations from attacking a state is no longer enough because it cannot effectively protect borders. Mahmud, Muhammad, Abdus and Sharmin (2008) assert that the current behaviors of countries demonstrate how ineffective the definition is. Fakiolas (2011) clarifies that many powerful countries are engaged in external conflicts as they attempt to fight radical terrorists far from their borders. However, despite the use of numerous resources in such endeavors, attacks within their borders continue to increase, which challenges the definition and the effectiveness of national security. 

Human Security

The inadequacies of the traditional perception of national security in defending state borders have led to the development of another perspective that sees human security as national security (Dodds and Tim 2013). The dynamics of the modern world and interdependence of states have made it impossible to deal with national security without considering human one. According to Rice, Corinne and Carlos (2010), human security refers to the liberation of populations from situations that make them vulnerable such as hunger, diseases, and lack of freedoms and democracy. From the definition, it is clear that human security explores the problems that individual citizens face within their states’ borders (Dodds and Tim 2013). Those who support human security as an essential part of national security argue that when individuals within states lack their basic needs and freedoms, they may become desperate and engage in activities that may threaten national security (Rubin, Kim, Jason and Hillary 2014). The sociological conflict theory states that the understanding of human societies is achievable by comprehending people’s competitive nature (Alqahtani 2013). According to the theory, there is resources’ limitation and people will always compete for them. As such, depriving people of education and social support by diverting resources to protecting national borders would further increase their scarcity and thus lead to conflicts and insecurity. Therefore, proponents of human security appeal to leaders to accept human security as national safety. Their appeal has received much support because developed countries have focused on capacity building within their borders and in other weak democracies. The shift in perspective acknowledges that failing to understand and respond to individual human needs creates an atmosphere of instability. This leads to the fall of governments and the emergence of terror groups that utilize globalization mechanisms such as migration to attack other countries (Morales 2015). 


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The first conceptualization of national security focuses on competition as each nation attempted to overcome its perceived threats by improving war competencies (Alqahtani 2013). According to O’Connell (2012), the competing posture is no longer viable because of the evolution of threats. Traditionally, threats were states with known borders. However, the emergence of terror groups operating independently in various countries has made it impossible to use military strikes against them without initiating a war with such countries. Moreover, the emergence of cyber terrorism has made countries unable to act alone as such a threat is located in many countries and act virtually. As such, competition becomes irrelevant and calls for collaboration among nations to face the new threats. Diplomacy plays a vital role in the collaboration and stems from the understanding that when one country is unsafe, the rest are not secure as well. 


Currently, most countries have accepted human safety as national security and have created initiatives to cooperate rather than compete (Morales 2015). For instance, the establishment of NATO was a result of the need to combat insecurity together among members. Countries like the United States have established development projects in developing countries to strengthen their democracies and governments so that they can prevent the emergence of terror organizations. Such focus on human needs and their freedoms reflects a paradigm shift from protecting national borders to promoting human security, which in turn guarantees stability (Alqahtani 2013). 


There has been a lot of advances in the field of national security from perceiving it as a national borders’ protection to ensuring peoples’ needs are satisfied. The evolution of security threats and technological development, that has interconnected the world have made national security a complex phenomenon. As such, countries have changed their perception of national security and have accepted a broader view to accommodate emerging factors.

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