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Why National Security Matters



Many of our nation’s leaders are at sea on matters of this nature hence my excursion into this sphere for this week’s column! “National security is 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 terrorists! It refers to the security of a nation state including its citizens, economy, and institutions, and is regarded as a duty of government.

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, 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. The concept of national security has evolved from simpler definitions which emphasised freedom from military threat and from political coercion.

“A nation has security when it does not have to sacrifice its legitimate interests to avoid war, and is able, if challenged, to maintain them by war.” “National security then is the ability to preserve the nation’s physical integrity and territory; to preserve its nature, institution, and governance from disruption from outside; and to control its borders.”

“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. 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 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. “It may also 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. Potential causes of national insecurity include actions by non-state actors, (e.g. terrorist attack), organized criminal Systemic drivers of insecurity, which may be transnational, include climate change, economic inequality and marginalization, political exclusion and militarisation.

In view of the wide range of risks, the security of a nation has several dimensions, including economic security, energy security, physical security, environmental security, food security, border security and cyber security. Progressive and modern states are 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.

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. Economic security 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.

The high cost of maintaining large military forces places a burden on the economic security of a nation such as Nigeria. The share of government expenditure on state armed forces varies internationally. 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. 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.

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. National security challenges tend to impinge negatively on 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 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, as they say, once you have national security challenges, the first casualty is human rights! You cannot isolate human rights abuses from military and police operations to restore security!”