The linkage between domestic politics and national security

The linkage between domestic politics and security policy has been widely examined by the International Relations and security literature. While admitting external influences from the international system as primary, Barry Buzan affirms that ‘[d]omestic political factors will always impinge on national security policy, if only because the whole decision-making apparatus of the state is largely set up in relation to domestic interest.’9 Domestic politics influence national security policy. More than half of the chapters in Jordan, Taylor and Korb (1999), Sarkesian, Williams and Cimbala (2008), and Snow (2011) are allocated to domestic political institutions, policy process and civil-military relations in the United States.10 Donald M. Snow ventures to say that ‘the changing international environment and the vagaries of domestic politics ... come into play’ in actual national security.11 Harold D. Lasswell notes that ‘American security measures should be the outcome of a comprehensive process of balancing the costs and benefits of all policies in the foreign and domestic fields.’12 In the International Relations literature, various works have unpacked the state and conducted a state-level analysis of state actions. Traditionally, the linkage between domestic politics and national security has been approached in terms of interest and competing domestic actors.

The formation of national security policy should be understood as a comprehensive domestic political process between a national government and the public, but there is a widely shared view that the role of the public is limited in the policy process. In democracies, a national government needs political support for its national security policies, but elitism, a theory of the state in Political Science, takes the view that policymaking in democracies may be the business of an elite. Walter Lippmann asserts that the role of the public in a democracy is limited because it can only obtain information that is selected and distorted by political elites beforehand.15 He sees the division between informed political elites in power and ordinary people not in power in a democracy and

Domestic credibility in national security 13 points to the considerably limited role of the public.14 He worries ‘how susceptible the public’ is ‘to manipulation’ and how ‘the public is inherently resistant to information that would call into question’ its ‘deeply held beliefs.’15 Especially in relation to foreign policy and national security policy, the involvement of the public in actual decision-making is limited due to the necessity of secrecy. The exclusion of public opinion for a coherent foreign policy is justified by Alexis de Tocqueville as well. This elitism was, for example, practiced by U.S. national security policy especially under the Truman, Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations.16 Most of the conventional literature on foreign policy does not include the role of the public in decision-making and Graham Allison’s seminal work Essence of Decision is illustrative.17 The conventional literature presents elite models in which only a small circle of elites plays a key role in national security policymaking.18

On the other hand, John Dewey proposes an alternative to Lippmann’s view on the role of the public in democracy while understanding Lippmann’s insights. Dewey still sees the public ‘not merely as authorizing power, but as genuinely authoritative in decision making.’19 The public is ‘in a supportive relationship to the state’ and ‘an inclusive state apparatus.’20 ‘[T]he public is a space that enables the democratic state to see widely and feel deeply in order to make an informed judgment.’21 The importance of the involvement of the public in the national security ‘process’ cannot be denied. Lasswell points to the significance of the democratic process for the balance between national security and civil liberties.22 The public may participate in national security policymaking through various elites. Sarkesian, Williams and Cimbala hint at the possibility of a ‘participatory making model’ in which ‘a variety of elites who represent various segments of the public, interest groups, and officials’ is supposed to play a role in national security policymaking.23 The democratic process influences political and diplomatic elites by circumscribing their political choices and justifying them. Public opinion and policy discourses may play a role here.24 National security does not give a free hand to political and diplomatic elites in this sense, though they may decide the final choice. Sarkesian, Williams and Cimbala note that ‘for national security policy to be successful in the long run, there must be some degree of participation by the public and political will within the body politic.’25

The public may support, justify, criticize and even oppose national security policy in a process of interaction between the national government and domestic politics. This is explained neither as a unitary policy process nor as a simple power competition in domestic politics. The need for political support may change the course of policy that the policymakers have decided. In addition, the revolution in information technology and the dissemination of democratic ideas have changed political and social conditions in democracies. The public’s awareness of national security issues is increasing today. This change requires a national government to respond to public needs promptly and correctly even in relation to national security issues. As Lippmann points out, the limitation of information is a constraint upon the role of the public in democracy, but thisconstraint should be reduced to realize public participation in national security debate.

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