Identity and National Security

Posted by Mike Merritt in Politics, Society on

This blog post is different than others I’ve done. Unlike the Clash of Civilizations, which started off as a blog post and then became a class paper, this started off as a class paper, and I’m just now posting it to the blog. I think CoC is better work, but I want to post this anyway.

The role of “national identity” has an important part in shaping American security policy since World War II. The norms and values of this nation have defined how we want to see the rest of the world. Therefore, anything that has been perceived as vastly different from the identity of the nation has been deemed first as foreign to the people of the nation, and at the level of government, a possible threat. Since the end of the war, there have two major areas of security policies: dealing with communist and middle eastern states.

The first major threat after the war was the rise of communism. Here we have several new regimes popping up that are just about as different from the U.S. as possible. No more capitalist system, state-run industry on everything, a promised sharing of wealth, and to top it off, totalitarian leaders. Everything that is just about direct opposite of what Americans identify themselves as, capitalist and democratic. So, a national security policy is adopted that generally opposes these states, and one that works to eventually see a change in the regime that runs them. However, the policy was more confrontational than hands-on, because of the problem of nuclear weapons. They wanted to change the system, but not incite violence, or the problem would just increase. Hence why it never turned into a “hot war.” In the end, through persistence, among other factors, communism fell, and that problem ended.

The threat of the current day is Islamic terrorism, and those states that support it, or would work to cause violence in the world. Again, the problem boils down to those states that go against American values, particularly democracy. In this case, the government saw a need to directly intervene and act in a very hands-on way to solve the problem. The first case was in response to direct attack by terrorists who were supported by Afghanistan, and the next case because of the allegation of weapons of mass destruction. They were invaded, and new regimes are currently undergoing development.

This seems to represent another aspect of American identity, wanting to directly change things that also affect us. In World War II, we were relatively neutral until we were attacked. We may never have gotten involved if we were not affected. Then, in the Cold War, we were constantly under a perceived threat, but never directly affected, so no direct action against communist states was really ever taken (yes, I know of the exceptions, like the Bay of Pigs). Yet, here we were attacked, and the government decided that it needed to go on a mission of spreading democracy, to prevent weapons of mass destruction from being used. There have been exceptions, of course, like Vietnam, Korea, and the first Gulf War, but generally, but in terms of threats that affect us, we tend not to get involved unless we have to. So, our strong national identity of wanting to see democratic values throughout the world has shaped the U.S.’s security policies, which have been implemented in different ways depending on the situation.

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