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Secrecy and Democracy: The Conflict between American Ideals and American Institutions

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US Army School for Advanced Military Studies Fort Leavenworth United States

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Samuel Huntington wrote about the conflict between American ideals and American institutions in 1982, identifying four episodes in which the U.S. attempted to restore the values of liberty, equality, liberal democracy, and popular sovereignty to the institutions of government. The U.S. may well be experiencing a similar episode after the experience of September 11, 2001 and subsequent security reforms. Secrecy, necessary for the function of the military and capable governance, poses a challenge to each of the foundational American ideals. Reconciling the requirements of secrecy with the peoples demand for transparency and publicity poses several challenges to the U.S. government. Changes in information technology, culture, and social dynamics all exacerbate the existing tensions between the executive, legislature, media, and the people. The U.S. military exists between these actors and must balance the requirements of defending the nation while adhering to its values. Current dynamics in the domestic and international arena could lead to significant challenges to the state, apart from as well as involving the military. In order to preserve necessary secrecy while implementing American values, the U.S. should guard against the instantiation of a garrison state, prevent the formation of a praetorian class, preserve a diversity of views despite insider threats, reform institutions based on the existing threat and strategic interests rather than political equities, and trade spectacle revelation for meaningful discourse about the meaning of American democracy.

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Technical Report,01 Aug 2013,22 May 2014



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Approved For Public Release;

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