The Changing Countenance of American SecurityJuly 10, 2008 By Daniel Gleick“Among the major challenges that the United States will face over the coming decades are climate change, water scarcity, food insecurity, and environmental degradation. These are challenges that will threaten the economic well-being and security of all countries on earth, and by dint of their global nature, their effects cannot be overcome unless we adopt a global perspective and strategy,” writes Gayle Smith of the Center for American Progress in In Search of Sustainable Security, where she argues that the United States must improve its security by coordinating and modernizing its global development programs and re-engaging in international institutions.
The sustainable security Smith proposes combines three elements:
- National security, “the safety of the United States”;
- Human security, “the well-being and safety of people”; and
- Collective security, “the shared interests of the entire world.”
According to Smith, U.S. security policy is currently focused almost exclusively on direct, traditional threats—nations, terrorist cells, and rebel groups—and it goes about combating those threats unilaterally. As a result, the United States has withdrawn from the global community. Yet in efforts such as the war in Iraq, we have seen that security is unattainable without strong states and strong societies in which people feel they have economic and social opportunities. Even enormous military commitment cannot guarantee security in the absence of these conditions.
Over the course of the past several years, the Department of Defense (DoD), including Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, has increasingly recognized the role development plays in security. “The Pentagon’s development budget has soared from 5.6 percent of the executive branch total in 2002 to 21.7 percent, or $5.5 billion, in 2005, and is slated to increase further. New authorities have been secured, new programs have been initiated, and with DoD Directive 3000.05, the U.S. military is now mandated to treat stability operations as a core mission on par with combat operations,” writes Smith. A 2007 working paper by the Center for Global Development also addressed the DoD’s expanding role—and interest—in international development.
“America used to be the champion for all of us, and now it is the champion only for itself,” the report quotes a young attorney in East Africa as saying. By re-energizing our commitment to global development and multilateral engagement, we can once again become the world’s champion—and strengthen our own security at the same time.