John Stuart Mill and Jeremy Bentham established the Utilitarian ethics whose fundamental premise is that activities or actions that offer the greatest good over evil are moral or ethical choices. This implies that it is ethically justifiable for a nation to torture criminals or terrorists to save many innocent people. Following the 9/11 terrorist attack, it was evident that terrorism is a form of violence that was ethically blameworthy, and therefore the actions of security agents to counter terrorist activities had implicit ethical justifications. The term security denotes freedom from danger where danger characterises any serious threat to ethically significant interest. Security enhances survival and survival is the highest moral principle of a nation. The nation holds no rights to jeopardise its national interests for the sake of particular moral principles. National interests that include security overpower morality. This means that the desire for national interests is ethically justifiable. This paper contends that security is at all costs an ethical justification to protect the community.

Security refers to an extent of protection of values (Wolfers 1952). A country is safe to the degree to which it does not sacrifice its core values when it wishes to evade war. A nation can be said to safe if it is in a position to uphold its core values. The fall and rise of security is determined by the capacity of a nation to defeat or deter an attack. Wolfers (1952) claims that security is a value, which a state can hold more or less. A nation aspire to have security in lesser or greater measure. Similar to wealth or power, which are values of considerable significance in international affairs, security can be viewed as a subsidiary value like many others. While power measures the capacity of a nation to control the actions of others and wealth measures a country’s material chattels, security measures the nonexistence of threats that the wealth and power of a nation would be attacked (Williams, 2012). A country’s security can run a broad range from a sense of insecurity to a complete sense of security. Baldwin (1997) confirms that security entails preservation of obtained values and not absence or presence of threats. He contends that nations respond to earthquakes threats through adopting building codes. While building codes do not affect the likelihood of earthquakes, they reduce the likelihood of damage to the obtained values.

Security is one of the public policy goals competing for scarce resources. Nations do not react the same way when faced by similar external threats. If security were a prime value that outranks other values, all nations would react the same way in their response to similar security threats. For instance, following the 9/11 terrorist attack, many governments and people were alarmed when the U.S Administration stated that it would destroy and disrupt terrorists’ organisations. Similarly, when French requested for additional security guarantees after the First World War, other Powers in the confederation turned down the request and instead settled for objective evaluation of France’s security (Wolfers, 1952). In this respect, nations differ extensively in their response to similar external threats. While some underestimate the danger, others exaggerate it. The same way nations and groups within a country differ in their reaction to threats, the same way they differ to get more security. To regard security as of prime value requires that people consider the perspectives of all human beings. This is because human understanding of consciousness is subject to and protected by morality. For instance, democratic nations adopt policies in the name of their people who must own the same policies. Take for example the formal standard of justice, treat similar cases alike or treat equals equally. This principle does not suggest that any given conduct is morally needed, but policies and practices adopted by the community must be all equally pertinent. The efforts of nation to attain greater security are a function of the power and prospect possessed by nations for lowering danger through their own efforts.

Security leaves an area of danger, anxiety, doubt and challenge. Efforts for security are a burden because security entails the absence of evil. As a result, nations are motivated to lessen these efforts often keeping them at a level that provides them with adequate protection. In most cases, several domestic facets that include national prejudices, preferences, tradition and character influence the security level. Nations do not have the freedom to choose the effort needed to ensure their security. Instead, efforts for security vary with nations while other things remain equal. In the contemporary world, people make sacrifices to preserve and protect what appear as the minimum national core values, territorial integrity and national independence. The desire for security amounts to a desire for power and comes with challenges. The desire for security differs among nations given that the choice to adopt different security measures depends on numerous variables that include anticipations relating to political and psychological developments, and moral and ideological convictions. Therefore, security is an intermediate goal that can be justified as a means to an ultimate end. Conventionally, the preservation and protection of national core values have been viewed as ends. However, in the contemporary world, national security must be justified with respect to higher value it is supposed to serve. For instance, the prevention of the Russian conquest led to extermination of people and destruction of cities. The preservation of the national independence of the nation was worth the price and challenging.

Policy makers allocate resources to security when the marginal return is bigger for security compared to other uses. When national survival or other vital interests are truly in jeopardy, close links with even the most abhorrent regimes and leaders are justified. However, Carpenter (2015) asserts that this is a great exception, not a rule, with regard to American’s foreign policy conduct. An effort to protect the highest national interests calls for diverse, rigorous and cost-benefit analysis. According to Wolfers (1952), rational policy makers do not use insecurity of any form to rescue their nations. Security requires extra sacrifices of other values. With respect to the law of diminishing returns, gaining in security does not compensate the extra costs for achieving it (Baldwin, 1997). However, strong nations create positions of strengths to deter an aggressor. This way, such nations decide how to distribute the dependence on the available means to attaining security. The most productive and less costly means to attain security comprises of inducing the aggressor to turn away from his aggressive intentions.

Nations value security because it lowers their fears, reinforce their sense of self-esteem and satisfy their pride. Nations do not adopt policies because they consider them less evil or good than their alternatives. For instance, torturing human beings regardless of the crimes committed is not ethical. The UN Conventions makes clear that the prohibition of torture is absolute meaning that the Convention admits no justification expectations (Skorupski, 2010). However, the Bush Administration ethically justified interrogational techniques utilised at the Guantanamo Bay detention centre. Although it was wrong to torture the terrorist suspects, Bush Administration was able to discover more information regarding the terrorists’ organisations and their financiers. This way, America was able to reduce its fears and put measures in place to prevent and deter any terrorists attack. While human actions cannot escape moral judgment, sacrifice of other values is justifiable. The evil of sacrificing ethical values in the counter-terrorism policy was because of the desire to end terrorism. More security is adequately desirable to warrant such evils as the torture. The American security policy is ethically justified because it ensures an increase in the country’s security. However, moralists criticises the foreign policy adopted by the U.S in pursuing its national interests and self-interests at the expense of principles (Meho, 2009). Moralists contend that the U.S foreign policy has instigated immoral political conduct in the United States. However, Morgenthau justifies the call for national interests and self-interests as being the ultimate goal of each nation. The state holds no obligation to jeopardise its national interest for the sake of certain ethical principles. The fact that all governments seek the same foreign policy objectives suggests that the desire for self-interests and national interests such as security are ethically justifiable. Calling for perfection instigate self-destruction. Ultimate goals cannot be secured without sacrificing other values and interests Piderit (2009) asserts that even if security is not a physical good, it is essential for human survival just like other values like food, air and water. Security allows people to pursue essential values. Notwithstanding the conscience reasons, self-interests and prestige, government in most cases carry out their relations with each other with respect to commonly established rules of the game.

Nations enhances security at whatever price it may cost. The United States uses all means to prevent terrorists from doing harm against its people and nation. The U.S recognised that its offensive defence that entails offensive military action is good and justifiable. According to Wolfers (1952) claims that sacrifice, particularly if inflicted on other nations is justifiable provided it promotes national security. This suggests that most nations including the United States places national security at the value pyramid top in efforts of attaining absolute good while subordinating other values. As a result, nations are justified in defeating whatever they can utilise to promote national security. Although moralists view coercive power as a sheer evil and condemns any security policy that depends on coercive power, the American Counter-Terrorism policy has enhanced security in America and other nations. Security in lawlessness is the highest end that promotes survival. Survival justifies shifting resources in search of other goals.


Security entails the absence of threats to obtained values. It is a value that competes with other values for scarce resources Nations and individual hold scores of values that include autonomy, economic welfare, physical safety to mention but a few. Like power and wealth, the objective of security can be attained through different means. Scores of diverse policies may be adopted in search of security. The pursuit of security entails costs, which include sacrifice of goals. Although moral issues are raised in pursuit of national security, nations have the right and moral obligation to protect and preserve their values. Nations may use force in reaction to security threat. It follows that national security policies that may be evil or good may be ethically condemnable or praiseworthy based on the given circumstances. National security policies may be justified if they function to protect a nation’s values and may be condemned if they are insufficient to protect national values. Given that security is a value and one of the many policy goals competing for scarce resources, security is at all costs an ethical justification to protect the community.


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