What Does National Security Mean Anymore?

Today’s world of social media, internet news and instant news is often boiled down to sound bites and buzz words. Unfortunately, it appears that the term “National Security” has been transformed from a term that once carried with it the gravest of consequences to nothing more than a buzz word used to elevate the attention given to lesser issues.

When I was growing up, the term “National Security” meant something. It meant the issue being discussed was of such importance and of such a grave nature that it required our full attention. Everyone was called to the table- military, intelligence and political players were all expected to work towards eliminating that threat. The nature of the threat has changed over time and has included such issues as the Soviet Union, Cuba, unrest in the Middle East and the post 9/11 terror threat.  While each threat was unique in its own way, and required different responses, they all shared one common theme – if they were allowed to go unchecked they presented a clear and present danger to the United States and our way of life. But recent events in our Nation’s Capital have seemed to cheapen the idea of “National Security” for the sake of publicity rather than security.

National SecurityAccording to our current administration, poaching- specifically the illegal taking of protected African big game including elephants and rhinos- and climate change are now matters of “National Security.” As a career conservation officer, I have made it my professional goal to combat the illegal wildlife trade whenever and wherever possible and I also have deep concerns for our environment as a whole. But, when did either of these issues become of such national concern? With all the terrible events occurring on a daily basis around the globe, THIS is what our nation’s leaders will put front and center?

Don’t get me wrong, I agree that the illegal wildlife trade has grown from Billy Bob making some extra money selling out of season game to an international criminal enterprise which often involves organized crime. Big operations dealing in rare species can easily make more money than illegal drug or firearms with far less risk and that needs to be addressed, but not in this manner. Applying the term “National Security” to any issue requires certain agencies, including the military and intelligence agencies, to become involved. While this seems like the boost that wildlife enforcement professionals need, it is likely to cause more harm than good. Instead of training foreign rangers to fight poachers as if they were an invading force, we need to train them to investigate their activities as crimes. I agree than many African poachers are also armed thugs- often with ties to local warlords- they are still criminals committing crimes and rangers need to be outfitted accordingly, but Navy SEALs are not the long term answer. Eliminating the local muscle will not stop the bigger problem, and those higher up the food chain will never be identified or prosecuted without professional law enforcement taking the lead role.

The biggest negative aspect of America’s new role in the international war on poaching is the fact that we tend to apply our own sense of right and fail to take into account the local culture which allows such activity to flourish, while at the same time ignoring similar problems at home. Take for example the case of Cecil the Lion. Americans coast to coast are “outraged” by the fact that an American killed this local favorite for the sake of bagging a trophy. Yet, we ignore two important facts. First, the local culture not only supports such trophy hunting, but the economy depends upon it. Second, while many are willing to extradite the American hunter, who has yet to be officially charged with a crime, our own criminal justice system gave him no more than a slap on the wrist when he poached a trophy bear in a National Park in 2008. We’re dealing with a similar crime and the same suspect, but a different outlook. We can’t expect other nations to “do as we say, not as we do” in regards to poaching or they will never take us seriously.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Tom Burrell

Tom enlisted in the US Marine Corps Reserves in 1987. Following service in Desert Storm, he transitioned to active duty with the US Coast Guard. In 1997 he left the USCG to pursue a position in conservation & maritime law enforcement. Tom is currently a Captain and he oversees several programs, including his agency investigation unit. He is also a training instructor in several areas including firearms, defensive tactics and first aid/CPR. In 2006 Tom received his Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Harrisburg Area Community College and in 2010 a Bachelor’s Degree from Penn State University.
Tom Burrell
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