Shawn has a masters of public administration, JD, and a BA in political science.
National Security Policy Defined
A vital role of any government is to provide for the national security of the country and its citizens. National security is the protection of a country from attack or other international threats through the use of military and nonmilitary means. National security covers a broad range of threats and includes military, economic, energy, environmental, and political threats. In fact, a direct military threat against the United States today is probably a lesser concern than threats from terrorism, cyber-attacks, pandemics, and ecological disasters. National security policy is the overall strategy a government takes to advance national security and the course of action it pursues to accomplish the strategy.
A country must have a strong economic foundation for effective national security. Let's take a look at the role that economics plays in national security policy.
The economy provides the resources necessary to support and advance our national security policy. It provides the money, through taxes, to build and maintain our armed forces, support our diplomatic activities, and fund our intelligence gathering apparatus, such as the activities of the Central Intelligence Agency and National Security Agency. Keep in mind that the economy not only provides the funds and raw materials needed to serve the national security interest of our nation but also an educated and skilled labor force to carry the national security policy.
A strong economy is necessary for a strong national security policy. You can think of the economy as affecting national security in at least two primary ways. First, few things in life are free, and this includes the resources necessary for providing for the national security of a country. The stronger the economy, the more tax revenue can be generated in order to engage in the activities necessary for strong national security. A weaker economy means less resources are available to protect the national security interest, and the country may be at risk.
Second, remember that a strong economy is not only a means to achieve strong national security but is one of the objectives to be achieved in pursuing a strong national security. A country with a strong, healthy, and growing economy advances the personal economic well-being and security of all citizens in the nation.
Role in International Relations
Economics plays a fundamental role in the game of nations and often forms the foundation with relations among countries. Sometimes international relations are about shared interests. For example, the United States has an economic interest in growing its foreign markets and thereby becoming economically stronger, and developing countries have an interest in economic growth and development. As we saw earlier, a stronger economy means more resources for a financially secure population and a solid tax base for expenditures necessary to protect the national interest.
Of course, countries may have competing economic interests, such as China and the United States fighting for market share. Competition can become aggressive when countries engage in trade wars, which is a conflict between two or more countries regarding tariffs and other trade barriers erected against each other to protect their respective domestic industries. A tariff, for example, is a special type of tax on imports that raises the costs of a foreign good so that domestic goods have an advantage.
In fact, trade can be used as a political weapon through use of trade sanctions and embargoes. A trade sanction is a penalty that one or more countries imposes on another country in response to unwanted behavior that may reduce trade or even cut it off. An embargo occurs when one or more countries completely cuts off trade with another country. For example, the U.S. has had an embargo in place against Cuba for decades. Sanctions have also been imposed against Iran because of its nuclear program.
Trade also is vitally important for the national security of the United States because it provides access to resources that may not be readily available or readily accessible domestically. Oil is an obvious example, but the U.S. is also fairly dependent upon imports of strategic elements and minerals, such as chromium, cobalt, platinum, and even more rare elements used for the development and maintenance of the technologically advanced U.S. defense systems.
Let's review what we've learned. National security is the protection of a country from military attack or other international threats through the use of military and nonmilitary means, while national security policy is the overall strategy employed by a country to achieve national security and the course of action it takes to implement it.
Economics plays a very important role in national security policy. First of all, economic security is a component of national security, which means a strong economy is both a means and an ends to national security. The economy provides means by which a nation can provide for its national security by providing the government the necessary resources to accomplish its strategic objectives.
Finally, economics forms the foundation of international relations with both friends and foes. Trade can help expand economic growth and be used as a weapon to discourage unwanted international behavior that is against our national security interest. Trade is also imperative for the acquisition of scarce resources not readily available domestically but essential for development and maintenance of our technologically-advanced defense systems.
Once you've finished with this lesson, you will have the ability to:
- Define national security and national security policy
- Explain the roles that economics plays in national security policy
- Understand what trade sanctions and embargoes are
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