Though national security will be front and center in the 2008 presidential election, few if any candidates or analysts will take the trouble to define it. Instead, we'll be treated to another round of charges and counter-charges, more spending versus less spending, flag pins and symbolic patriotism. Almost two decades after the end of the Cold War, we are long overdue for a new understanding of national security, what it means, and how to achieve it.
This Thursday, May 1st, the American Security Project will release A New American Arsenal, a groundbreaking bi-partisan proposal for understanding security and what must be done to achieve it. Rather than limit the discussion to Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan, or even the "war on terrorism," this far-reaching project challenges Americans to think more broadly about what does, and does not, make us secure, how much of that security can be achieved by military means alone, and how we can reduce partisan politics and restore a common national interest to our security deliberations.
The next president will face the following security threats, most new and different from the previous Cold War era: proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their availability to stateless nations (i.e. jihadists); ground forces exhausted by two protracted wars; energy dependence in the Persian Gulf; America's disproportionate role in protecting the global flow of oil; the security implications of climate change, and the list continues.
Issues that were recently separated into policy "boxes" are now interrelated. Consider the linkages among the cost of food and fuel, the world price of oil, increase in demand for oil in coming decades, the cost to U.S. taxpayers to protect global oil supplies, the impact of oil consumption on climate, two wars in the Persian Gulf, and so forth. Consider also how global warming is changing weather patterns. In the American West and elsewhere aquifers and reservoirs are drying up. Crops are becoming scarce and costly, thus leading to massive instability among the world's poor. In South Asia, over a billion people may lose their source of fresh water as Himalayan glaciers recede. Two of these nations are India and Pakistan -- nuclear states with indigenous terrorist movements and a history of conflict between them.
To break this cycle of interlinkage, everyone has a magic bullet. One is nuclear power. Yet mastery of the nuclear fuel cycle, traditionally necessary to develop a national nuclear power industry, is virtually inseparable from access to material and technology necessary to produce nuclear weapons. We now find out that even the promising ethanol harbors its own economic and climate risks.
These are but illustrations of the ways in which national security is increasingly becoming global security and of the limits of purely military power to achieve it. These facts also illustrate how destructive it is for political "strategists" and spin-doctors to make security a partisan issue. The American Security Project is the product of a desire by members of both political parties who have given much of their lives to the security of our nation to leave behind the politics of security and engage the American people in a new and more product dialogue and discussion.
Our goal is to open a new debate necessary for an informed citizenry to come to terms with a host of new realities in the 21st century, to transform the dialogue from sound-bite sloganeering to a serious exchange of ideas and opinions, and to set a course that ensures security for Americans and all people of good will and for future generations in the new century ahead. Please join this discussion by visiting www.americansecurityproject.org.