Robert Williams and Anne Siders
“National security” has become a powerful watchword for politicians, lawyers, policy makers, and academics alike. Invocation of the “national security” label typically aims to signal that the issue under discussion is of the highest priority for public policy. And yet, when we, as students of national security law, proposed the creation of a journal dedicated to national security, one of the first questions posed to us was: How do you define national security? What is it, exactly?
In the middle of the twentieth century, the National Security Council stated that its mission was to “preserve the United States as a free nation with our fundamental institutions and values intact.” In 2010, President Barack Obama said that national security describes the United States’ ability to leverage national attributes through military might, economic competitiveness, moral leadership, and global engagement. This is an expanded, and expansive, characterization; its reach extends to a broad range of social and political institutions. The threats to our national interests are numerous and complex, and use of the term “national security” often clouds the degree to which various fields of expertise may be implicated in the effort to defend the nation against the threats we face. The term applies to military strategy and intelligence collection as well as to climate change and global financial regulation. It covers issues as old-fashioned as piracy and territorial sovereignty and as high-tech as cybersecurity and robotic warfare.
Ultimately, for purposes of this journal, we decided not to decide what the term national security means to us. After all, one of the driving motivations behind establishing the Harvard National Security Journal has been to provide a forum for discussion on the full array of issues — to facilitate the weaving together of the many threads that make up national security so as to advance discussion and help influence practice. Moreover, as it responds to current events and anticipates rapidly evolving threats, the subject matter of this journal demands a measure of agility. NSJ must be equal to the challenge: it must be flexible and accessible, not tethered to any fixed preconceptions.