Working for a Safer World
“My interest in and passion for international security began at UIC. As an undergraduate I was fortunate to study Russian with UIC scholars including Sonia Hosington, Wanda Sorgente, Lauren Leighton and James Cracraft. I also had the opportunity to interact with newly-arrived émigrés after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991,” said LAS alumnus Derek Reveron (’93 political science and Russian). Reveron continued at UIC for graduate school and earned his PhD in public policy analysis in 2001.
Reflecting on his days in LAS, Reveron credits the study of Russian literature with providing an important window into the Soviet Union. “However, as the USSR’s authoritarian structures broke down, my interest in the transformative power of civil society carried me into the political science department,” he said. “There I considered the positive role of political philosophy from Professor Ike Balbus, learned the challenges of democracy with Professor Dick Johnson, and gained an appreciation for historical underpinnings of social change from Professor Frank Tachau (1929-2010). The department’s Model United Nations program gave me an opportunity to debate ideas and experience college-level global affairs.”
Reveron is now an acknowledged expert in his field, serving as EMC Informationist Chair and Professor of National Security Affairs at the U.S. Naval War College. He is also on the editorial staff of the Atlantic Council and is the author or editor of seven books on national security.
Challenges like disease, climate change and poverty tend to facilitate instability that is exploited by subnational and transnational actors.
“To summarize my work, I examine non-traditional security challenges and the responses generated by the U.S. national security system,” said Reveron. “In the 1990s, this meant ethnic conflict; in the 2000s, this meant terrorism. Today, I am focusing on understanding the intersection of human security and national security.”
In 2010 Reveron authored Exporting Security: International Engagement, Security Cooperation, and the Changing Face of the U.S. Military (Georgetown), which examines the non-combat role of the U.S. military and the critical part that work plays in international relations and national security. Human Security in a Borderless World, co-authored with Kathleen A. Mahoney, (Westview Press, 2011) considers issues such as globalization, climate change, pandemic diseases, endemic poverty, weak and failing states, transnational narcotics trafficking, piracy, and vulnerable information systems in terms of their effect on national security.
Cyberspace and National Security.
Reveron’s latest work, Cyberspace and National Security: Threats, Opportunities and Power in a Virtual World, was published by Georgetown University Press in September, 2012. In this edited volume, he brings together chapters by scholars, policy analysts, and information technology executives to consider this 21st-century threat to national and international security.
“Being both an officer in the Navy Reserves and a War College professor, I consider myself a practitioner-scholar of international security. This began in graduate school where my dissertation advisor Professor Dick Johnson supported my work with Heartland International,” said Reveron. “While at Heartland, I was fortunate enough to work for the organization’s founder Karen Egerer, who provided me the opportunity to implement democratization programs and work directly with people from Central and Eastern Europe who were working hard to transform their societies into democratic ones. Drawing on my academic experience, I quickly learned that good theoretical insights into democracy can be useful and help others around the world improve their own societies.
“My academic research tends to be informed by my experiences. For example, when I worked for NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander in 1998-9, I was very much struck by how four-star officers are as much policy entrepreneurs as they are warfighters. The security-studies literature didn’t have the vocabulary and theory to make sense of this, but my public policy studies at UIC helped me understand this and fill a key gap in the literature. As I continued to research the non-war fighting aspects of the military, I saw that presidents of both parties use the military to support long-term allies, assist new partner countries, and respond to humanitarian disasters. This doesn’t mean that weapons are beaten into ploughshares, but rather that the military’s medical personnel, engineers and transportation specialists are very active outside of combat zones.
“While some decry the non-war fighting uses of the military, it is important to know that a key export from the United States is security. Today, the U.S. partners with almost every country in the world to confront subnational and transnational challenges,” noted Reveron. “Some incorrectly call this ‘empire’, but that overlooks the level of effort made by Americans to work equally with partners. Unlike past global powers, American political culture is different. While there are material benefits such as broadening U.S. influence, gaining access to strategic locations, and developing partners for multinational military operations, Americans don’t go abroad to acquire territory or raw materials. Instead, Americans’ charity and belief in positive change are better explanations for this behavior. For example, during my year in Kabul, I worked alongside militaries from 50 countries who all shared a commitment to the Afghans’ war and are attempting to give Afghans a chance to chart their own future.
Reveron (right) with journalist Dan Rather. Reveron is receiving a military commendation.
“More recently, I have been researching the emergence of human security challenges on the national security agenda,” Reveron continued. “Challenges like disease, climate change and poverty tend to facilitate instability that is exploited by subnational and transnational actors. In the United States, we tend to see human security challenges being best addressed at the city or state level, but in many countries, these challenges rise to the level of national security. When drug traffickers build and operate submarines or gang members outnumber infantry, countries tend to seek U.S. security assistance. The United States rarely engages these threats directly, but provides expertise to support sovereign governments like Qatar, the Philippines and Colombia in order to ensure regional stability, support counterinsurgencies and to thwart international terrorism.” In support of these efforts, Reveron has worked with militaries in dozens of countries in East Africa and Latin America.
“My cultural understanding and my scholarship deeply benefit from my students at the Naval War College, which is a professional school for both military officers and federal civilians,” Reveron said. “While ‘war’ is the college’s middle name, that designation is an artifact of its 19th-century founding. Today, the college is better thought of as a place dedicated to improving international security and international cooperation. About 60 countries send officers to Newport, Rhode Island to study with us and we have a robust international outreach program where we support schools around the world.”
Photos courtesy of Reveron, book cover images courtesy of Georgetown University Press