The Legitimate Claims of National Security
National security, once a trumpet call to the nation to man the ramparts and repel invaders, has fallen into disrepute. A victim of complications arising from the Vietnam syndrome and from its own internal contradictions, it has come to signify in many minds unreasonable military demands, excessive defense budgets, and collusive dealings within the military-industrial complex. Watergate revelations have fueled suspicions that it may be little more than a cover for executive encroachments upon civil liberties and a free press. As Madame Roland lamented of liberty, even crimes are committed in its name.
As one who has spent most of his adult life in activities related to national security, I am naturally distressed by the evidence of its present low estate and by indications that many citizens question not only specific actions and programs under its aegis but the very essentiality of the concept. If indeed excesses have been committed in its name, that unhappy fact does not diminish one whit the very real need to protect those things which we consider indispensable to our survival, power or well-being and hence deserving the expenditure of effort and resources to gain, retain or enjoy. The national valuables in this broad sense include current assets and national interests, as well as the sources of strength upon which our future as a nation depends. Some valuables are tangible and earthy; others are spiritual or intellectual. They range widely from political assets such as the Bill of Rights, our political institutions and international friendships, to many economic assets which radiate worldwide from a highly productive domestic economy supported by rich natural resources. It is the urgent need to protect valuables such as these which legitimizes and makes essential the role of national security.