Political Science | Democracy and National Security
Y311 | 25743 | Oetken
This course analyzes the complex relationship between democracy and
national security. Ideally democratic governments reserve decision-
making authority for its citizens and ensure civil liberties.
However, governments are also charged with the responsibility of
maintaining national security. Contemporary political events
demonstrate how the immediacy and complexity of security issues
challenge us to consider where our priorities lie. Do national
security interests demand greater priority than constitutional
rights and civil liberties, or vice versa? Can we balance these two
This course focuses on political tensions that arise as democratic
governments seek to protect democratic values while providing
national security. The course readings deal primarily with US
constitutional rights and national security policy-making. In
addition to exploring the meaning of democracy and national security
as political concepts, we will focus on three contentious debates.
The first debate emerges from the United States’ status as a major
global power and how this status influences national security policy-
making. We discuss whether the United States should take an active
role in promoting democracy throughout the world. In the second
debate we contemplate whether US national security policy-making is
undemocratic. We consider the pros and cons of reserving this
decision-making process to a small circle of executive elites.
During the third debate we delve into tensions that exist between
protecting civil liberties and protecting the nation. In this final
section we examine contemporary and historical controversies with
respect to civil liberties in wartime.