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Why reading the news keeps us safe

So, I may have missed a few weeks musing in these pages about the greatest threats to United States national security.

Deal with it.

Anyway, a potential critical threat to U.S. security is a citizenry that is uninformed and blissfully ignorant of international affairs. It frequently occurs when people are misguided by exclusively reading a headline in that day’s New York Times, or worse yet, are completely oblivious to what is happening in the outside world.

Our democracy thrives when public officials are responsive to a well-informed public. To ensure that policymakers adequately address various national security issues, it is imperative for the populace in the U.S. to become aware of precipitous events in the world’s far-flung regions and within the U.S. government itself. Only then can officials be held accountable and exercise caution in decision-making.

Though foreign policy and international issues are often perceived as irrelevant by many college students, the issues themselves impinge upon the crucial decisions elected officials and bureaucrats make on a daily basis. Our tax dollars, reputation abroad, and future security are each at stake when these officials make decisions.

When drone warfare, the Arab Spring and nuclear weapons (to name a few) go completely unnoticed by a large segment of the populace, our policymakers and bureaucrats will not be adequately scrutinized, leading to rash decision-making. Nobody should be expected to understand the intricacies of the policy debates and spend hours poring over data and information. However, a basic understanding and cognizance of international affairs and foreign policy provides an important foundation for being a good U.S. citizen.

In the digital age, no individual can be excused of being unaware of current events. Instead of watching SportsCenter for an hour or two every morning, read the online edition of the Washington Post. Or, follow some publications on Twitter. Many sources are free, and a quick reading of current events consumes half-an-hour each day. Moreover, in order to gain a broader perspective of pressing global issues, examine to foreign publications like the BBC, Al Jazeera, etc.

Do not watch cable news. In fact, stay away from the television altogether. Most coverage is a cesspool of misinformation and corporate interests and thrives on our population’s short attention-span by spewing out five-second sound bites, unfairly molding our perceptions.

U.S. national security depends upon all of us staying well-informed of issues and holding policymakers accountable for their actions. Read the news. Pay attention.