April 29, 2021

Enemies Foreign and Domestic

Democracy preservation should be at the top of the list of national security priorities. Is it?

By Carrie Cordero

In early April, the leaders of the U.S. intelligence community outlined the most pressing national security threats facing the nation during testimony to the Senate and House intelligence committees. While the written testimony from the intelligence chiefs provided a window into the breadth of hostile and malign activities from China, Russia, Iran and North Korea, as well as cross-cutting threats, this year’s hearing came across to this long-time observer as a warning of the limits of the intelligence community and affiliated national security institutions to protect the country from domestic efforts to undermine its own democracy.

Preserving U.S. democracy has always been a core national security interest; it just didn’t necessarily need to be said out loud until the country entered 2021 facing the upending of American lives, families and democracy itself in the wake of the Trump presidency, its handling of the pandemic, and then the January 6, 2021 insurrection. Efforts by political actors to cast doubt on the outcome of the November 2020 presidential election, willingness to exploit American’s fears about their liberty by flouting science and public health guidance to protect against the spread of the pandemic, and renewed efforts to make it harder for underrepresented communities to vote, are the most recent examples of the toxic brew of nationalism and truth abandonment threatening the United States’s ability to thrive.

Protecting national security means that Americans should both be, as a practical matter, and feel, as a theoretical one, reasonably safe at home.

Protecting national security means that Americans should both be, as a practical matter, and feel, as a theoretical one, reasonably safe at home. The United States spends close to a trillion dollars on defense, intelligence, homeland security and diplomacy. Americans should be able to live relatively free of fear of violence from threats, foreign and domestic, as a result. That includes protection from a nation state launching a nuclear weapon or from international terrorists flying passenger planes into skyscrapers. It should also include safety from a group of domestic terrorists invading the Capitol and sending lawmakers and their staffs hiding under tables.

Defending national security also means preserving the effective functioning of the Constitution and ensuring that public leaders uphold their oaths to it. This means that events prescribed by the Constitution like confirmation hearings, election administration and vote certification should take place safely and routinely. In a healthy U.S. democracy, it would not be a question that the election will be held on the first Tuesday of November in a designated year, or that the certification of the vote would proceed on the following January 6th. Some political drama is okay. System failure is not.

Read the full article from The Bulwark.

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