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The national security discourse is changing

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Policymakers and practitioners lead the emerging consensus on the need to fundamentally reassess assumptions

The global security landscape is changing rapidly, creating complexities and new realities like never before in the recent past. From a rising China to the pressures of climate change; from the challenges of counterterrorism to a seemingly endless COVID-19 pandemic (the four Cs), the old order is crumbling much faster than the ability of nations to lay the foundations for a new one. Debates and discourses on national security are undergoing, quietly but surely, an almost revolutionary transformation. While academia has long spoken of the need for a “holistic” conception of national security, much of this debate has been viewed as far too esoteric by practitioners. Today, it is policy makers and practitioners themselves who are leading the emerging consensus on the need to fundamentally reassess our assumptions about national security thinking.

Change in the United States

American policymakers have begun to shift their cognitive perspective when it comes to shaping national security policies. A process initiated by former US President Donald Trump has been enthusiastically continued by the Biden administration. Claiming that “foreign policy is domestic policy and domestic policy is foreign policy,” US President Joe Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan suggested his team’s task is to reimagine “national security”. America for the unprecedented combination of crises we face at home. and abroad: the pandemic, the economic crisis, the climate crisis, technological upheavals, threats to democracy, racial injustices and inequalities in all their forms ”. He went on to say that “the alliances we rebuild, the institutions we lead, the agreements we sign, all should be judged by a fundamental question. Will it make life better, easier and safer for working families across the country? “

American policymakers have begun to shift their cognitive perspective when it comes to shaping national security policies.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also reiterated this message in his comments that “more than at any time in my career – perhaps in my lifetime – the distinctions between domestic and foreign policy have simply disappeared ”and that“ our renewal and our strength in the world are completely linked, and our way of working will reflect this reality ”.

Both Mr Sullivan and Mr Blinken took their cue from their boss, President Biden, who had campaigned on a “foreign policy for the middle class” and did not hesitate to say that the United States must “invest in our people, sharpen our innovative advantage and unite the economic might of democracies around the world to develop the middle class and reduce inequalities and do things like counter the predatory business practices of our competitors and adversaries ”.

There is growing bipartisan recognition in the United States today that if the demands of American national security during the Cold War could be largely met by its fleets of bombers, nuclear missiles, aircraft carriers and bases in the United States. abroad, today’s strategic environment demands a different response: one that strengthens the domestic industrial base, helps maintain preeminence in critical technologies, makes supply chains for essential goods more resilient, protects critical infrastructure against cyber attacks and responds with a sense of urgency to climate change.

At a time when the Indian armed forces faced the People’s Liberation Army across the line of the real line, this exposed India to a new realization that dependence on foreign supply chains is a major national security challenge, which can no longer be overlooked. .

Not a new idea

The idea that foreign and domestic policies are closely intertwined is not new. All serious serious strategic thinking in democracies, ultimately, seeks to feed off popular public support. Mr. Trump’s rise and his ideas have challenged both liberals and conservatives in the American foreign policy establishment by pointing to the growing rift between the political community and the American hinterland. Mr. Biden and his team have learned their lessons. Mr. Sullivan is working to integrate the National Security Council with other components of the White House such as the National Economic Council, with the Home Policy Council, with the Office of Science and Technology Policy. This will inevitably present its own challenges, but there is no fear of this new reality.

The Indian situation

In India too, we have seen greater recognition of the challenges emanating from national vulnerabilities to national security. One of the most important consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, highlighted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself, has been to reveal how much India depends on Chinese manufacturing for its essential supplies. At a time when the Indian armed forces faced the People’s Liberation Army across the line of the real line, this exposed India to a new realization that dependence on foreign supply chains is a major national security challenge, which can no longer be overlooked. . India has since moved towards building national capacities in critical areas and has also started to look at free trade agreements from a new perspective.

The leadership of the military has done well to stress the role of the armed forces in maintaining a broader conception of national security than to focus primarily on war.

The head of the Indian army, General MM Naravane, in his remarks, also pointed out that opinions on the military leadership of this country are also evolving. He argued that “national security includes not only war and defense, but also financial security, health security, food security, energy security and environmental security apart from the security of the information ”and suggested that instead of looking at national security“ primarily from an army conflict perspective, there is a need for a whole-of-government approach to security ”.

Highlight synergies

In the post-pandemic world with serious pressure on national resources, it will be important for policy makers to stress the synergies between the civil and military spheres. The army chief rightly pointed out a range of tangible and intangible means by which investment in the armed forces contributes to the national economy, such as the indigenization of defense purchases, the revitalization of indigenous industries, aid to civil authorities or humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. (HADR) protecting infrastructure, the demand for high-tech military products by the armed forces stimulating entire industries, and the transport and logistics capabilities of the armed forces acting as catalysts of force for the government in an emergency.

The leadership of the military has done well to stress the role of the armed forces in maintaining a broader conception of national security than to focus primarily on war. As nations around the world reconceptualize their strategic priorities to better balance their ends, ways and means, issues of resource allocation will become even more controversial and policymakers will need to think more creatively about the roles of the various instruments of governance. ‘State. The thinking about national security is changing. India cannot be left behind.


This comment was originally posted in The Hindu.



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