Columns / Discourse / April 9, 2014

The greatest threat to U.S. security: America’s obsession with security

It can be hard to look inward, to our American issues, when the world seems to be in the middle of yet another wave of conflict. Yet, it is incredibly important that we take a moment for introspection in a time when so much of our political discussion is directed toward international relations.

In the post-9/11 world, the United States has become absolutely obsessed with security. We have seen, in the past decade and a half, sweeping reforms, which were made to allow our government to be bigger in the face of terrorism and stronger in terms of global security. However, we remain about as safe and secure as we have always been, begging the question: What is the greatest threat to our security?

If we are being honest, I think the answer has to be ourselves. That is, the government we have put in place and the policies that it supports. At the end of last month, Obama announced his plans to end the mass collection of data from American phones.

Yet, Senator Udall, of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has been on record for over half a year saying that despite all the rhetoric these taps and data collections have mustered in support of a safer America, there has not been one bit of proof that the methods have stopped even a single instance of terrorism.

Meanwhile, artists have taken on a project in Pakistan that consists of a giant poster of a child killed in one of the numerous drone strikes in the region. The goal of the project is to make U.S. drone operators aware of the human lives they are sacrificing by pulling the trigger on one of the drone missiles, directly combatting the “squashing a bug” terminology used in the field. 


Over 200 children have been killed from these attacks, an even more troubling statistic when considering every attack has been conducted without a warrant or express permission from a court.

Domestically, we are opening ourselves up to the risk of abuse from the federal government in their collection of personal information. More importantly though, is how incredibly cost inefficient spying on our own citizens has been. The NSA was given a budget of $10.8 billion last year, $2.5 billion of which was spent solely on data collection.


Keeping in mind that this collection has stopped a grand total of zero terrorist plots, it is not hard to see how much of the NSA’s budget could have gone to actually protecting Americans, whether it be through infrastructure repairs, more public officials or even a better defense system.

Internationally we have appointed ourselves the global police of sorts, with tragic consequences. Not surprisingly, the actions of the Obama administration have caused Amnesty International to call for a stop to the drone attacks, concluding with the limited information the U.S. has provided that many strikes have violated international law in regard to the protection of life. 


This report alone should draw serious concerns about our international politicking, but what is more worrisome to me is the precedent our actions have set. Are we, as Americans, actually safer when much of the world sees us as an unstable aggressor?

Put simply, it is our paranoia and obsession with security that actually poses the greatest threat to the United States. Common sense policies and a scale back in drone strikes will go a long way toward keeping Americans safer while showing the world that we are still capable of improving our policies.


Payton Rose
Senior Payton Rose is a political science major with minors in creative writing and Spanish. This is his first year working for The Knox Student as discourse editor. He has written a political column for TKS for two years.

Tags:  American citizen defense budget drone strikes homeland security international intervention isolation terrorism threat

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