Security Studies Are Strong

Following the attacks of last Sept. 11, the student-led Committee on Security Studies (CSS) set out to assess what resources Harvard offered in the areas of national security, political violence and terrorism. We concluded that Harvard’s response to the attacks was as strong as that at any university in the country. We set out with the understanding that Harvard would play a leading role in training the future political, economic and military leaders who could potentially execute not only the affairs of America but also those of other nations in the War on Terror and beyond. Our committee, comprised of undergraduates from different classes and concentrations, found that Harvard’s offerings are strong and that there is great movement to expand opportunities for scholarship in the areas related to national security.

The response of Harvard’s faculty to the attacks was phenomenal. With students ardently seeking answers about the terror attacks, we found that professors readily engaged undergraduates in discussing salient issues. Many faculty members served on panels that helped undergraduates discuss everything from the true tenets of Islam to the role of the Constitution with regard to enemy combatants.

Moreover, many courses integrated components into their syllabi that dealt with terrorism and some new courses were created. Historical Studies A-12, “International Conflict and Cooperation,” the brain-child of former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger that is currently taught by Harvard College Professor and Kaneb Professor of National Security and Military Affairs Stephen Peter Rosen and Professor of Government Andrew Moravcsik, included a new component that discussed the war on terrorism and the importance of transnational terrorism in international relations theory. Additionally, Rosen pledged $5,000 to further the study of national security issues by undergraduates.

Harvard’s administration also responded extremely well to student interest in security studies. President Lawrence H. Summers met with the leadership of CSS and, consistent with his many public statements on the subject, spoke of the great need to deal with issues stemming from the war on terrorism within the existing academic framework. Summers has repeatedly spoken of the unique leadership role Harvard plays in America and so he has sought to strengthen the standing of students who wish to serve their country in the military. Recently, the CSS worked with Brian R. Smith ’02, who successfully lobbied the Reserve Officers Training Corps to accept a Harvard course on war for credit.

Using these strong responses as a base, we believe the university can do even more to prepare students to deal with the trials of the new century. The central mission of CSS has been to expand course offerings in national security within the existing concentrations. In discussions with professors from varied disciplines we learned that there is both interest and desire to create more opportunities for such scholarship. Courses might address such diverse but vital topics as chemical and biological terrorism, the literature of terrorism or the challenges terrorism poses to democracies.

CSS maintained a purely academic focus and did not advocate for a new concentration, on the premise that these issues should be discussed within existing theories of inquiry, be they scientific or humanities-based. The University should, however, ensure that students have the academic resources to engage in serious scholarship on these issues. Such resources include professors specializing in the areas of terrorism and security policy, important data sets and academic journals.

In this respect, the University library system has excelled. This past spring, Widener Library began the process of purchasing a widely used data set among scholars of political violence that annually tabulates the number of transnational terrorist incidents around the world. Such resources are essential for undergraduates who may want to do research or even write a thesis on political violence.

Sustained support for scholarship in security studies by the University will be essential to properly train undergraduates for the challenges facing the world. As in times past, Harvard students will be at the vanguard of developing new defense technologies, developing government policy and steering an economy buffeted by so many challenges. By continuing to encourage academic pursuits in security studies, Harvard will ensure that its graduates will be able to give back more and more to their country.

Ernani J. DeAraujo ’03 and Oliver B. Libby ’03 are co-presidents of the Harvard Committee on Security Studies.

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