Assessing US Elections Part III: Looking at the National Security and Military Frame
Previously published on May 21, 2010
Looking at issues through broad frameworks allows a leader to better manage policies on a vast number of issues while this technique gives voters the opportunity to properly assess whether or not a leader has a clear understanding of the issues. Although frames are only a convenient means of grouping issues and individuals can develop their own frames to help them objectively assess a broad range of issues, using an economic frame, a foreign policy frame, and a national security frame enables voters to properly assess issues that the leaders of this Nation face everyday. Over time, these frames can take on various descriptions depending on what titles best fit the current circumstances and needs of the Nation. The national security frame actually deals with the state's interest in protecting its citizens and the state's interest in securing those citizens' freedoms.
The national security frame differs from the economic frame in that issues, which fall within the military frame, may still be viewed through the economic frame, but they are generally shielded from economic realities. Although the Country was headed into the worst recession since the Great Depression, for example, spending on Iraq did not decreased nor does our Nation generally decrease spending on security measures, even if the cost outweighs the value of the actual security benefit. In some respects, this is good since we need to set long-term priorities, but it can also be bad as our leaders often over focus on the least effective security measures instead of meaningful ones, thus wasting money and failing to secure our Nation. At the same time, blindly pursuing security measures can also lead to a lack of focus on our state interest to secure the freedoms of citizens.
The national security frame clearly involves the various branches of the military, but it also includes the local, state, and federal police as well as civil liberties. Broadly speaking, the military's responsibility is to protect America from hostile forces and, over the years, this responsibility has drastically moved away from foreign military threats to include non-state based terrorist threats. The actual rationale for stabilizing Iraq and Afghanistan, for example, is that the democratization of the Middle East will foster greater peace between the West and the Middle East. Unfortunately, many national leaders had failed to recognize the military cost of building and stabilizing Iraq, as well as Afghanistan, weakened our military influence over such nations as Iran, North Korea, and Sierra. When the military cost of stabilizing Iraq and Afghanistan did not outweigh our global military threats, the investment was warranted. From the end of the George W. Bush Administration into the Obama Administration, our leaders began to recognize this was no longer the case.
Furthermore, the challenge of homeland security is not necessarily crushing crime or preventing acts of terrorism, but rather, accomplishing these tasks while respecting the rights of the citizens. The Constitution allows, in very limited situations for a limited amount of time, the restrictions of an individual's rights. Regrettably, with the taste of fear still on the tongues of Americans from 9/11, it is tempting to pay any price to ease concerns over terrorism. There will eventually be a debate on how effective the billions of dollars spent on national security actually were, but the current concern of our leaders needs to be the question of what balance will achieve maximum rights and freedoms while obtaining maximum security. If we give into fear, all the sacrifices and work of those who served us in the military and in the social services sector will be wasted, thus leaving America without true freedom.
Today, the national security frame covers the continued efforts in the War on Terror versus America's overall military interests around the world and the policing of our Nation without violating our freedoms. The focus, however, is shifting as our combat military operations overseas wind down and terrorists refocus their attention on attacking US soil. On the other hand, the greatest threat to America is our government forgetting that the People are the government and it is our freedoms that allow us to govern this Nation. There is a misconception shared by some that not giving up select rights protects terrorists, but these laws and the limits of police power do not exist to protect the rights of the terrorists or criminals. These barriers exist to protect the rights and individuals who are not terrorists that may be suspected to be terrorists. As such, those officials throughout our national security network must find ways of safeguarding America and protecting the rights of all citizens. Consequently, when looking at issues within the national security frame, it is imperative that an individual be able to broadly understand national security is not the only issue that must be addressed.
The significance of the national security frame demonstrates the need to address military and homeland security issues, including actions against hostile states and terrorists as well as current military operations, but a failure to broadly understand this frame will lead to an incomplete view of the dynamics of the world. National leaders, whether they are in the White House or on Capital Hill, need to deal with Iraq, Afghanistan, and the balancing of rights and freedoms with the larger military interests that have throughout our history often been over looked. A successful leader must understand the dynamics and broader issues related to national security as they are one in the same. Over time, the focus of the national security frame will shift, but it is important to recognize that there will always be broader issues that accompany the actual need for national security. It is tempting to over focus on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, along with national security policies in addressing the current threat of terrorism, but we must also remember to look at broader national security interests and the preservation of freedoms in order to be successful as a People.