America’s New Security State


Salus populi suprema lex: In the name of the people’s safety, the dictator’s will is law.

This essay is an excerpt from Angelo Codevillo’s new book (Hoover Press).

Angelo M. Codevilla writes: The loss of peace abroad has upset the balance between the various elements of life in America, fed domestic strife, and resulted in the loss of peace at home. The need for protection against foreign jihadists and their American imitators occasioned the empowerment of a vast apparatus of “homeland security” that treats all Americans as potential enemies—with only a pretense of even-handedness. In fact, the sense that enemies among us must be dealt with reinforced our bipartisan ruling class’s tendency to regard its own domestic political opponents as another set of persons whose backward ways must be guarded against and reformed. A spiral of strife among Americans resulted. In the light of history and of reason, any other outcome would have been surprising.51lKW4N7eLL._SL110_

[Angelo M. Codevilla‘s book: To Make and Keep Peace Among Ourselves and with All Nations is available at]

After 9/11 our ruling class came together on the proposition that, at home as well as abroad, America is at war against enemies so evil that there must be no limit to fighting them, whose identity we must always seek but can never know; that to focus on, to “profile,” the kinds of persons who have committed terrorist acts, is racist and provocative; that any American is as likely as any other to be a terrorist, and hence that all must submit to being sifted, screened, restricted—forever. Childhood in the “land of the free, the home of the brave” must now include learning to spread-eagle and be still as government employees run their hands over you. Patriotism is now supposed to mean obeisance to the security establishment, accepting that the authorities may impose martial law on whole cities, keep track of all phone calls, or take whatever action they choose against any person for the sake of “homeland security,” and that theirs alone is the choice whether to disclose the basis for whatever they do.

While the Obama administration ceased to use its predecessor’s term “war on terror” to describe its actions abroad, it redoubled commitment to “homeland security,” reorienting it to home-grown “extremism” defined ad hoc. The result seems less compatible with words such as “peace,” than with “Oceania,” the country in which George Orwell’s novel, 1984, is set.

Homeland Security as Domestic Nation-Building

George Washington had warned that foreign war naturally increases partisan strife at home. Indeed, strife at home and abroad often stems from the same presumptions of primacy. Recall that during the first half of the nineteenth century, Americans in the North and South devolved into nations yearning to force one another to recognize the superiority of their ways. The resulting Civil War’s winners first gloried in their disastrous attempt to reconstruct the losers and then fancied themselves entitled to improve, to reconstruct, lesser beings throughout the world including in the Northern states.

President Woodrow Wilson’s personal commitment to forcible reform dated to his post-Civil War student days: “I remember a classmate of mine saying, ‘Why, man, can’t you let anything alone?’ I said, ‘I let everything alone that you can show me is not itself moving in the wrong direction, but I am not going to let those things alone that I see going downhill.’”

The point is that, so long and insofar as any ruling class is possessed of this Wilsonian sense of intellectual-moral-political entitlement to nation-build, it must be a disturber of the peace—especially where it has the greatest power to do it. At home.

Instantly after 9/11, our ruling class intoned as a mantra that the event had “changed everything”—in America. But what, why, and to what end? We will now discuss how, post-9/11, our bipartisan ruling class brought home its oblivion of peace, and how this corrodes America’s core: the equality and interchangeability of rulers and ruled, liberty, the rule of law, peace among fellow citizens.

Nations, like armies, are seldom as cohesive, so at peace internally, as when first confronted by enemies-in-arms. Foreign terrorists having broken America’s domestic peace for foreign causes, Americans naturally drew closer to one another against the powers that embody those causes—the several Palestinian powers, Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Iran, etc.—as well as against their sympathizers and their cultures. But then our ruling class demanded that Americans put out of their minds that 9/11 had been perpetrated by Muslims acting on behalf of Muslim causes; it demanded that the American people put aside the distinction between fellow citizens and those who despise us, between our culture and theirs; that, as a gesture of peace toward the Muslim world, Americans make no distinction between themselves and the people, culture, and causes responsible for 9/11 and nearly all other acts of terror.

That meant demanding that Americans believe that any among ourselves are as likely as not to be terrorists. In sum, it demanded that Americans trust each other less than ever, but that they trust the authorities more than ever. Thus having diminished the natural distinctions between citizen and foreigner, familiar and alien, friend and enemy, our ruling class accentuated the artificial distinction between rulers and ruled. The former set of distinctions tends to bind a people together. The latter divides them…(read more)

Hoover Institution


4 Comments on “America’s New Security State”

  1. […] Pundit from another Planet Salus populi suprema lex: In the name of the people’s safety, the dictator’s will is […]

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