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February 8, 2016

Responding To: The Global Future of Security

International Threats, Interdisciplinary Solutions

John Arterbury

We live in an era that seems increasingly fraught with uncertainty. The collapse of borders in the Middle East and North Africa, the meteoric rise of the Islamic State, and the largest refugee crisis since the end of WWII all have dramatic implications for not only our national security, but the very foundation of our global political and economic order. Yet these worries must be tempered with some optimism – violence has mostly declined worldwide over the past few decades, and innovations in technology, medicine, and business continue to find exciting new ways in which to make our world safer and more secure.

But challenges will continue to confront and confound practitioners and policy makers. In the 21st century, this will mean finding ways to address the implications of climate change, combating the threat of non-state actors whose propensity for violence transcends established norms and national borders, and understanding the role of the United States in a world that may or may not be guided by a single global power. A health crisis in the Sahel, a political crisis in South Asia, or a natural disaster in a conflict zone can now have rippling effects around the world.

Countering the threats posed by such developments means preparing in advance and pursuing a more broad-based approach. Equally important to understanding these challenges is the ability to understand how these challenges affect the society in which we live. Indeed, the popular discourse on security issues occupies an almost equally important stage. Failing to address the greater challenges of our era in a measured, rational, and inclusive manner will not only undermine the very ideals for which we stand, but also expose us to further insecurity. To answer this, we as a society must form a more concrete and nuanced understanding of the many security challenges that we face, as well as foster an understanding that it will take time, patience, and resolve to meet them fully.

Doing so will require a plurality of voices from across a range of disciplines. Grand theories of international relations, while important tools for understanding and analysis, must be interwoven with deeper understandings of the roles played by gender, public health, identity, political economy, and food security so that we as a society can find a holistic approach to countering insecurity. As such, we as a society will be better equipped for understanding – and contending with – the multifaceted threats and insecurities that touch every fabric of our daily lives.

John Arterbury is a M.A. candidate in the Security Studies program at Georgetown University.

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