After 1945, the (re-)construction of parliamentary democracies was paralleled by the development of a national security state: a system of organisations, policy procedures and other instruments directed at promoting national security - as well as the underlying ideology, culture and perceptions. How and why did this happen? Parliamentary democracies entertain an ambivalent relationship with national security. As open societies, they are more vulnerable to external threats, but at the same time they require public legitimacy to adopt security measures - which themselves might contradict democratic values. This project compares national security regimes in three Western democracies (the Netherlands, the U.S. and [West-]Germany) during the 1945-2001 period. It will provide a new view on postwar security history since it firstly rejects the 'essentialist' approach to threats and interests undertaken by traditional security studies and does not take for granted balance-of-power explanations for the build-up of military stocks and other security instruments. It rather brings the concept of national security to discussion and investigates why and how certain security threats and interests were perceived and gave rise to security measures (whereas others were overlooked), by exploring the political and social determinants that inform these measures. In the second place it will explore how these interests and threats were contested and how national security regimes transformed over time. Thirdly, it will demonstrate how the national security state became a defining aspect of parliamentary democracies. Through processes of identifying and excluding certain groups as threats to national security, the arena of democratic politics was redefined. The project adds to our understanding of the 'iron spine' of parliamentary democracies: the development of a national security state. It will analyze different types of national security regimes, the way they are determined, how 'enemies of the state' are constructed and how these regimes transformed through stages of contentious politics.
De naoorlogse overheid was niet alleen de hoeder van de democratie en het nationale welzijn, maar hield haar burgers en veiligheidsbelangen ook goed in de gaten. Dit project reconstrueert de totstandkoming van "nationale dreigingen" en hun betekenis voor de nationale identiteit in vier westerse landen.