A Career in Defense and Security
The security policy landscape has undergone fundamental change since the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s. Some of the greatest challenges to peace and security are crimes which, while committed on national territory, permeate national borders and affect entire regions. At the same time, armed conflict between states using conventional military forces has become less significant. The risk to international security today comes from transnational threats, such as terrorism and organised crime. As new criminal or terrorist networks evolve and distance themselves from the logics of territoriality and national political grievances, their goals expand across borders and their reach throughout the world become unprecedented, stemming from an increasingly interconnected international system. A threat with such disruptive global impact understandably requires a comprehensive and concerted effort by the international community in order to counter it.
In today’s world, national security is interdependent with global security and sovereign states acting alone are incapable of protecting their citizens. This represents a profound but underappreciated truth about globalization that the fate of states is inextricably linked and hinges upon mutual cooperation. One could argue that the events of 9/11 functioned as a wakeup call on that truth, a paradigm shift in the international governance of counterterrorism efforts, as we witnessed a more prominent and authoritative role of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and a renewed impetus in combating a threat that has become a crucial focus in national and international discourse. In other words, the perception of the threat changed radically after 9/11, leading countries to a new awareness of this transboundary issue, a characteristic that was lacking in pre-9/11 narratives on terrorism in particular but also on the whole national security strategies in general.
Multilateral and international cooperation on crime and terror is as necessary as it is difficult. For instance, to this day there is no universally accepted definition of what “terrorism” constitutes. The failure to reach an agreement within multilateral institutions and develop a consensus normative framework on the definition of the concept severely hinders chances of progress in the field of international cooperation in the future. It is not surprising to witness this deadlock. The overwhelmingly abused notion that “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” has served the purpose of justifying the politicization the term has suffered throughout history. One-sided understandings of the concept of terrorism often prevail in state legislations, and the lack of a legally binding definition ratified by the international community advances the political value of the term over its legal one. Therefore, the designation of a group or organization as “terrorist” by a country remains ultimately subjective, and hinges upon the alignment of interests between said groups and governments. What further complicates the prospects of multilateral cooperation is that rival countries with competitive geopolitical interests might benefit from a situation where the legality of their actions is blurred and unclear.
Ensuring successful peacekeeping and peacebuilding operations in post-conflict regions will also prove to be a challenging core task for the international community as a whole. Too often multilateral action has put too much weight into immediate military action while disregarding state-building and development strategies to protect and safeguard a secure and peaceful post conflict society. This clear tension is shifting the values, alliances, and institutions that make up the changing global order, the 21st century will be defined by security threats unconstrained by borders—from economic instability, climate change, and nuclear proliferation to conflict, poverty, terrorism and disease. The greatest test of global leadership and civil society alike, will be building partnerships and institutions for cooperation that can meet the challenge global instability and transnational threats.
Defense and security are most certainly one of the most all-encompassing career fields in the realm of international relations, with opportunities in both private and public sector, think tanks, academia, government institutions and the military, NGOs, and international organizations.
The following is a list of organizations that offer the perfect platform to develop a career in international defense and security.
CSIS is one of the world’s preeminent international policy institutions focused on defense and security, and transnational challenges ranging from energy and trade, to global development and economic integration. For the past eight years consecutively, CSIS has been named the world’s number one think tank for defense and national security by the University of Pennsylvania’s “Go To Think Tank Index.”
The RAND Corporation is a research organization that develops solutions to public policy challenges to “help make communities throughout the world safer and more secure, healthier and more prosperous”. The company has grown to assist governments, international organizations, private companies and foundations with a host of defense and nondefense issues.
The International Crisis Group is an independent organization working to prevent wars and shape policies that will build a more peaceful world. The Group engages directly with a range of conflict actors to seek and share information, and to encourage intelligent action for peace.
The Euroasia Group is a political risk consultancy, one of the first firm devoted exclusively to helping investors and business decision-makers understand the impact of politics on risks and opportunities in foreign markets. Its concept—bringing political science to the investment community and corporate decision-makers—launched an entirely new industry and positioned Eurasia Group as the world leader in political risk analysis and consulting.
Part of Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs is a nonprofit and non-governmental organization that aims to promote debate on significant developments in international affairs and policy responses. Their independent research and analysis on global, regional and country-specific challenges is intended to offer new ideas to decision makers on how these could best be tackled from the near to the long term. Chatham House is routinely used as a source of information for media organizations seeking background or experts upon matters involving major international issues.
NATO is an intergovernmental political and military organization. Its fundamental goal is to safeguard the Allies' freedom and security by political and military means. It remains the principal security instrument of the transatlantic community and expression of its common democratic values. The organization represents the practical means through which the security of North America and Europe are permanently tied together.
INTERPOL is the world’s largest international police organization with 194 member countries. In an effort to maintain neutrality, INTERPOL’s work focuses mainly on transnational crimes such as drug and human trafficking, money laundering, organized crime etc.
SIPRI is an international institute based in Sweden, dedicated to research into conflict, armaments, arms control and disarmament. Established in 1966, SIPRI provides data, analysis and recommendations, based on open sources, to policymakers, researchers, media and the interested public.
IPI is an independent, international nonprofit think tank dedicated to managing risk and building resilience to promote peace, security, and sustainable development. To achieve its purpose, IPI employs a mix of policy research, strategic analysis, publishing, and convening. With staff from more than 20 countries and a broad range of academic fields, IPI has offices facing the United Nations headquarters in New York and offices in Vienna and Manama.
Hedayah is the first International Center of Excellence for Countering Violent Extremism, created in response to the growing desire from the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) and the wider international community. The organization was established as an independent, multilateral center devoted to capacity building, dialogue, collaboration, and research to counter violent extremism in all of its forms - one that can bring together experts, expertise, and experience from around the globe.
GPPi is a nonprofit think tank based in Berlin. Established in 2003, the institute focuses on topics related to foreign policy and global governance. Institute's mission is to improve global governance through research, policy advice and debate.
Carnegie is a unique global network of policy research centers in Russia, China, Europe, the Middle East, India, and the United States. Its mission, dating back more than a century, is to advance peace through analysis and development of fresh policy ideas and direct engagement and collaboration with decision makers in government, business, and civil society.
GMF is a nonpartisan American public policy think tank and grant making institution dedicated to promoting cooperation and understanding between North America and Europe.
The James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies is described as “the world's largest non-governmental organization devoted to combating the spread of weapons of mass destruction.” CNS strives to combat the spread of weapons of mass destruction by training the next generation of nonproliferation specialists and disseminating timely information and analysis. It is the largest nongovernmental organization in the United States devoted exclusively to research and training on nonproliferation issues.