Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

January 20, 2015

“Why has American national security policy changed so little from the Bush administration to the Obama administration?”

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Christopher Bellavita on January 20, 2015

That’s the question Michael J. Glennon asks in his book “National Security and Double Government.”

His answer: national security policy is determined largely by “the several hundred managers of the military, intelligence, diplomatic, and law enforcement agencies who are responsible for protecting the nation and who have come to operate largely immune from constitutional and electoral restraints.” The president, congress and the courts play largely a symbolic role in national security policy, Glennon claims.

You can read a Harvard National Security Journal article that outlines Glennon’s argument at this link: http://harvardnsj.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Glennon-Final.pdf.  The paper is not an especially easy read, but I found it to be well researched and – for  me – persuasive.

His book adds more analysis to the argument, using (from Graham Allison’s Essence of Decision) the rational actor model, the government politics model, and the organizational behavior model. Glennon extends that framework by discussing culture, networks, and the myth of alternative competing hypotheses.  The book is richer, in my opinion.  But the core of Glennon’s position is in the paper.

This link takes you to a video of Glennon talking about his book at the Cato Institute: http://www.cato.org/events/national-security-double-government (the talk starts at the 5:20 mark).

From the Cato site:

In National Security and Double Government, Michael Glennon examines the continuity in U.S. national security policy from the Bush administration to the Obama administration. Glennon explains the lack of change by pointing to the enervation of America’s “Madisonian institutions,” namely, the Congress, the presidency, and the courts. In Glennon’s view, these institutions have been supplanted by a “Trumanite network” of bureaucrats who make up the permanent national security state. National security policymaking has been removed from public view and largely insulated from law and politics. Glennon warns that leaving security policy in the hands of the Trumanite network threatens Americans’ liberties and the republican form of government.

Some blurb reviews:

“If constitutional government is to endure in the United States, Americans must confront the fundamental challenges presented by this chilling analysis of the national security state.”
Bruce Ackerman

“Glennon shows how the underlying national security bureaucracy in Washington – what might be called the deep state – ensures that presidents and their successors act on the world stage like Tweedledee and Tweedledum.”
John J. Mearsheimer

“National Security and Double Government is brilliant, deep, sad, and vastly learned across multiple fields–a work of Weberian power and stature. It deserves to be read and discussed. The book raises philosophical questions in the public sphere in a way not seen at least since Fukuyama’s end of history.”
David A. Westbrook

“In our faux democracy, those we elect to govern serve largely ornamental purposes, while those who actually wield power, especially in the realm of national security, do so chiefly with an eye toward preserving their status and prerogatives. Read this incisive and richly documented book, and you’ll understand why.”
Andrew J. Bacevich

“…Michael Glennon provides a compelling argument that America’s national security policy is growing outside the bounds of existing government institutions. This is at once a constitutional challenge, but is also a case study in how national security can change government institutions, create new ones, and, in effect, stand-up a parallel state….”
Vali Nasr

“Instead of being responsive to citizens or subject to effective checks and balances, U.S. national security policy is in fact conducted by a shadow government of bureaucrats and a supporting network of think tanks, media insiders, and ambitious policy wonks. Presidents may come and go, but the permanent national security establishment inevitably defeats their efforts to chart a new course….”
Stephen M. Walt, Robert and Renee Belfer

I’ve spoken to three people I consider to be members of the “shadow national security state.”   One person said Glennon’s argument is nothing new.  The second told me he’s got it exactly right.  The third said it’s even worse.



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Comment by William R. Cumming

January 20, 2015 @ 8:38 am





Comment by William R. Cumming

January 20, 2015 @ 11:26 am

Chris! Your first link has expired.

Comment by Christopher Bellavita

January 20, 2015 @ 8:57 pm

Bill — I checked both links (at 2 AM GMT on the 21st), and all links were working. Let me know which one you can’t access and I’ll provide an alternative.

Comment by William R. Cumming

January 21, 2015 @ 7:12 am

Chris! Thanks!

Comment by Mike Mealer

January 21, 2015 @ 7:48 pm

Great article. Read it a few months ago. I didn’t know whether I should feel more secure or afraid. Looking the items I highlighted and a few standout.

“The dirty little secret here,” a former associate counsel in the Bush White House, Brad Berenson, explained, “is that the United States government has enduring institutional interests that carry over from administration to administration and almost always dictate the position the government takes.”178 P34

Its cohesion notwithstanding, the Trumanite network is curiously amorphous. It has no leader. It is not monolithic. It has no formal structure. P32

The maintenance of Trumanite autonomy has depended upon two conditions. The first is that the Madisonian institutions appear to be in charge of the nation’s security. The second is that the Madisonian institutions not actually be in charge. P34

Public opinion is, accordingly, a flimsy check on the Trumanites; it is a manipulable tool of power enhancement. It is therefore rarely possible for any occupant of the Oval Office to prevail against strong, unified Trumanite opposition, for the same reasons that members of Congress and the judiciary cannot; a non-expert president, like a non-expert senator and a non-expert judge, is intimidated by expert Trumanites and does not want to place himself (or a colleague or a potential political successor) at risk by looking weak and gambling that the Trumanites are mistaken. So presidents wisely “choose” to go along. P70

Comment by John Comiskey

January 22, 2015 @ 7:14 am

Civic Education 101

Glennon laments as did Justice Souter, the pervasive civic ignorance of the citizenry.

Democracy requires an informed and engaged citizenry.

The recent and ongoing debates about the role the police in society raise similar question and doubts about our social contract and governance for the 21st century.

Where to from here?

A national conversation about civics and K-12 civic education.

What is the proper role of citizens in society?
What is the proper role of our polity?

Comment by William R. Cumming

January 22, 2015 @ 8:53 am

Again interesting thread and comments. The use of the term “Trumanite” is unfortunate and totally inaccurate IMO! Truman reluctantly signed the National Security Act of 1947 to resolve the documented failures of Jointness between the Army and Navy in WWII [the Secretary of War and the Secretary of the Navy–Stimson and King]! Truman was personally opposed to the establishment of the CIA for many good reasons.

What is the real failure is the creation of the Nuclear Priesthood which largely failed to guard its secrets from other Nation-States and individuals and the warping into the DEEP STATE [the better term than DOUBLR GOVERTNMENT]!

And now IMO the DEEP STATE is about to DEEP SIX the Career military in the US as it organizes violence and the SURVEILLANCE STATE outside the ARMED FORCES.

A close study of the overturning of the ALIEN AND SEDITION Acts of 1798 which destroyed chances for a second term for John Adams and created the first real Presidential Election in the USA, the Presidential Election of 1800, which brought into officer Jefferson, but almost brought Aaron Burr to real power.

Study of James Madison so-called VIRGINIA RESOLUTION opposing the ASA is fully warranted. Too bad John Yoo did not know this history.

Comment by William R. Cumming

January 22, 2015 @ 2:43 pm

I need to mention that I did read the article and listened to the Cato Institute Panel.

The Panel presentations might lead one to argue that Double or nothing or the DEEP STATE what difference does it make past, present, or future?

My short answer is that Government of the people, by the people, and for the people [the Lincoln formulation] probably expired with the dead of Hiroshima and Nagasaki! Perhaps not but until argued and proven otherwise that is my conclusion! Perhaps wrong and hoping so!

Comment by Jack

January 24, 2015 @ 2:47 pm

A fascinating and needful argument, though I think we could make as much of the supine legislature that lends weight to Glennon’s argument as he does the “permanent” executive agency security apparatus. If they’re to be properly responsive to public will, executive agencies need better written laws.

The Critical Infrastructure Protection Act or CIPA, which passed the house in 2014, would, “require the Assistant Secretary of the National Protection and Programs Directorate to: (1) include in national planning scenarios the threat of electromagnetic pulse (EMP) events…” (emphasis mine). The national planning scenarios were rescinded in 2011, making CIPA either a very easy or very hard law to execute.

Likewise, the Biggert-Waters flood insurance reform act of 2012 altered regulatory definitions for “substantial damage” and “substantial improvement” by misunderstanding the way field damage assessments are performed under the National Flood Insurance Program.

Which means, I suppose, that we need more able legislators…which may be unlikely if more Americans don’t know Publius from Curly.

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February 24, 2015 @ 3:58 pm

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