Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The National Security State

is it too big for Obama to overcome? Doug Masson over at Masson's Blog writes a bit about this in his Not Completely Transparent. After reading his post, I ran across the following from H-Net Reviews
Douglas T. Stuart. Creating the National Security State: A History of the Law That Transformed America. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008. 358 pp. ISBN 978-0-691-13371-3; $35.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-691-13371-3.

Reviewed by Diane Putney (Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense)
Published on H-War (March, 2009)
Commissioned by Janet G. Valentine

The National Security Bureaucracy: An Introduction

With Creating the National Security State, Douglas T. Stuart, professor of political science and international studies at Dickinson College, has written a provocative book focusing on the history of the National Security Act of 1947, that he believes is the most important piece of legislation in modern U.S. history after the Civil Rights Act of 1964. After explaining the disagreements and compromises leading to congressional approval of the act and President Harry Truman's signature on July 26, 1947, Stuart traces the evolution or devolution of some of the entities the law authorized: the National Military Establishment, with its Office of the Secretary of Defense, Munitions Board, and Research and Development Board; the National Security Council; the Central Intelligence Agency; and the National Security Resources Board. The general scope of the volume ranges from 1937, the start of President Franklin Roosevelt's war preparedness campaign, to 1960, the final year of President Dwight Eisenhower's administration.

In his introduction, Stuart presents bibliographic analysis citing other books dealing with the post-World War II national security state, and compares and contrasts his volume to previous works. He singles out Michael Hogan's A Cross of Iron (1998) for showing the basis of early Cold War debates as disagreement between those with a new national security ideology and those who embraced a traditional ideology opposed to statism and militarism. Stuart disagrees with Hogan and presents his own thesis called the "Pearl Harbor system" to explain the nature of the postwar debates. Although he does not fully establish his thesis, he asserts that the Pearl Harbor attack was a "turning point in modern American history," sweeping away traditional concepts of national security that included suspicions about the dangers the nation faced from a large, peacetime army (p. 2). According to Stuart, "Pearl Harbor convinced the American people that preparing for the next sneak attack was everybody's business, all the time, at home and abroad. In the jargon of contemporary constructivist scholarship, America has been 'securitized' ever since" (p. 3).
I buy into this Pearl Harbor argument. Think back to the Bush and Cheney reaction to 9/11. Listen closely to what Cheney has been saying of late. What we have learned is that democracy suffers at the hand of national security concerns.

I would also point out that whenever anyone talks about taxes and their burden always omit any mention that we were on a war footing from 1947 to 1989. Reagan kept us on a war footing but cut taxes and created a huge deficit. That is worth thinking about, too.

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