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America’s Role in the World: What Does National Security Mean in the 21st Century (NIF Issue Guide)

One of the National Issues Forums Institute’s issue guides, America’s Role in the World: What Does National Security Mean in the 21st Century (updated edition, 2013), outlines this public issue and several choices or approaches to addressing the issue. National Issues Forums do not advocate a specific solution or point of view, but provide citizens the opportunity to consider a broad range of choices, weigh the pros and cons of those options, and meet with each other in a public dialogue to identify the concerns they hold in common.

The following is excerpted from the introduction to the issue guide:

It is time for us to take stock of America’s role in the world. How shall we approach the world in an environment in which our power is diminished but in which we face increased volatility, more competition, and a variety of global threats?

In other words: What does national security mean in the 21st century?

This issue guide provides three options for responding to that question. Each reflects a fundamentally different concern, and each suggests actions that we might take to address it, along with possible downsides or likely tradeoffs. By working through each option, we can come to our own individual and collective decisions about what course of action we would support and under what conditions.

Following are descriptions of the three options presented for consideration in the issue guide:

Option One: National Security Means Safeguarding the United States
As the war in Afghanistan winds down, we continue to face the threat of terrorism, as well as threats from Iran, North Korea, and Pakistan. At the same time, traditional adversaries like Russia and China are gaining power. Our most important goal must be to safeguard the people of the United States.

Option Two: National Security Depends on Putting Our Economic House in Order
The United States cannot long remain a superpower if it is the world’s largest debtor nation and runs huge budget deficits. We need to focus on increasing employment, eliminating our staggering public indebtedness and improving the balance of trade. Whatever steps we take domestically to improve the economy, it will mean spending less on the military and reducing the amount of money that flows overseas.

Option Three: National Security Means Recognizing That Global Threats Are Our Greatest Challenge
Our most urgent challenge is to address the long-term threats that endanger humanity and that demand an international solution. In the 21st century, we need to rethink what “national security” means. The greatest threats facing the United States–the risk of nuclear war, environmental devastation and global warming, pandemics, and the depletion of natural resources– also endanger other countries.

More about NIF issue guides…

NIFI’s issue guides introduce participants to several choices or approaches to consider. Rather than conforming to any single public proposal, each choice reflects widely held concerns and principles. Panels of experts review manuscripts to make sure the choices are presented accurately and fairly. By intention, issue guides do not identify individuals or organizations with partisan labels, such as Democratic, Republican, conservative, or liberal. The goal is to present ideas in a fresh way that encourages readers to judge them on their merit.

NIFI offers various materials for each of the issues it produces issue guides on. The moderator guide or “guide to the forums” for each issue is available as a free download. Discussion guides (or “issue guides”) for participants are generally available in print or PDF download for a small fee ($2 to $4). DVD’s can also be purchased for some issues for just $6, for use at the beginning of your forums to introduce the topic and approaches.

All NIF issue guides and associated tools can be accessed at www.nifi.org/issue_books/.

Resource Link: www.nifi.org/issue_books/detail.aspx?catID=14&itemID=24151

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