National Security

Decision-Making & National Security

By Rana Athar  Javed

Many national security matters incline to be of a complex nature, which not necessarily falls within the clear purview of a specific governmental institution, thereby requires “joint mechanism” to gain control over the deteriorating security situation in a country. One of the formal sources is the long-term risk assessment method of decision-making process because capacity and performance of an institution depends upon the grounds on the basis of which those decisions are being implemented.

Moreover, in a parliamentary system, a crisis of political coalition, cabinet agenda, and attempts to oversight issues that professionally are out of jurisdiction could dislodge the national security policy at a premature stage. Hence, politicization of national security issue will have detrimental impact on the leadership’s ability to administrate day-to-day policy related issues. How crises of national security should be attended under such situations is a key question to chart a long-.term course of decision-making?

Typically, the military leadership finds it feasible to discuss broad issues with politicians and experts because for practical reasons, they possess the substance, knowledge and resources to prevent dramatic policy change. Conversely, primer ministers/presidents seek to control issues that are of crucial importance and, then simply try to present actions as their democratic right to achieve national security objectives. By default, a political coalition can hardly produce a unanimously agreed national security policy as its decision-making mechanism suits partisan politics, vested interests and in some cases “hidden agenda” of their external sponsors. An inherent consequence of such dichotomy generates many controversial decisions and an overall politicization of entire decision-making process.

Almost all political leadership including that of the US, UK and other major democratic countries seems to be engaged in a never-ending process of “political-give-and-take” both with the politicians and international partners. Take the example of the United States’ military involvement in every continent of the world. But, most of its broad national security issues are being driven not by the political goodwill of a democratic system, rather than its ability to expand and invade on the basis of predesigned national security policy. This characterization does not discount the right to incorporate “new” and most suitable rules of the game, it however clarifies that decision-making in terms of the US national security promotes “control” rather than democratic consultations.

Every issue of US national security is dealt by military leadership and the CIA, although on the face, the Congress and Senate did approve the military actions. Of the three major decisions the US civil-military leadership made in the past years demonstrates no more than vagueness. In terms of peace and stability, the US withdrawal from Iraq has increased violence and heightened tensions within sectarian and regional quarters. As a chief sponsor of the Middle East process, the US comprehensively failed to assert its own historical position of a mediator, thereby lost the trust of Palestinians and the neutral countries.

The 2014 US withdrawal plan from Afghanistan has also become unmanageable, ranging from US-Afghan dissent, civilian deaths caused by NATO airstrikes and the Afghan-US dubious negotiation process with the Taliban. The ostensible solution to decision-making problem can be devised “only” through the principle of “collective responsibility”. Forum of political brinkmanship may have advantages of prestige and overcoming the opponents, but efficiency and grandstanding ultimately demands professionalism and understanding of critical security issues.

Additionally, ministers are appointed primarily on the basis of their political parties. Their own political clout does not warranty expertise in their sphere of responsibilities, nor in management of national security disasters. A “non-intervening” spirit of coexistence thus casts a high degree of incompetency and problems of understanding the decision-making process of military quarters.

Nevertheless, generally high experienced political leadership performs extremely well in the fields of agriculture, economy, health and media. This reflection aptly addresses the need for capacity building and strategic training of civilian leadership, in order for the politicians to fully apprise of analysis, risk assessment and position papers of military. An integrated system of training program can enhance the trust in decision-making process of the military leadership, which in turn mitigate the “capability risks” that cabinet minister often face in board matters of national security.

To be concluded, micromanaging details of national security issues can be best handled by dissolving controversial points of engagement and grant responsibility to politicians. Without involving the cabinet ministers as stakeholders, the limited utility of decision-making will prevail, hence policy implications both for intelligence community and military leadership. This assessment in no form and shape demands the comprehensive operational understanding of military operations by the politicians, especially the cabinet ministers, but, insufficient knowledge about the significance of contemporary national security compulsions brings wrong map of decision-making in the field of politics.

Whereas the true impression of power and decision-making process flows from the democratic leaders in a government, professionalism experience, tradition and sacrifices remain the symbols of national security institutions. Conversely, political institutions cement operational successes through their policy support system and can create unending characteristics of cooperation between numerous institutions. Thus, the primary advantage of competent civil-military leadership is to hold highly ambitious objectives to protect the broader national interest – without submitting them to rigorous domestic/foreign pressures. In the twenty-first century, the need to compromise and consensus is crucial to achieve a comprehensive national security policy.