"I WELCOME THIS DEBATE": THE LIMITS OF DEMOCRATIC DELIBERATION OVER NATIONAL SECURITY POLICY IN THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION

Restricted (Penn State Only)
Author:
Bergmaier, Michael J
Graduate Program:
Communication Arts and Sciences
Degree:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Dissertation
Date of Defense:
August 14, 2017
Committee Members:
  • J. Michael Hogan, Dissertation Advisor
  • J. Michael Hogan, Committee Chair
  • Rosa A. Eberly, Committee Member
  • Jeremy David Engels, Committee Member
  • John Selzer, Outside Member
Keywords:
  • rhetoric
  • deliberation
  • democracy
  • war
  • foreign policy
  • national security
Abstract:
This study explores the limits of public deliberation over contemporary national security policies. In the years since the 9/11 attacks, the United States has grappled with the new global reality of the post-Cold War era, in which the most immediate security threats have come from stateless adversaries empowered by international instability. The nation has addressed these threats through military operations, the development of new technologies to combat terrorism, and the frequent reevaluation of the proper balance between civil liberties and public safety. I argue that the discourse surrounding the Obama administration’s national security policy calls for critics—both within the academy and in the broader public—to engage in meta-deliberative critique. To illustrate how such a meta-deliberative critique could function in different contexts, I submit three chapters, each of which explores a different area of the Obama administration’s national security policy: traditional war powers and military interventions, the use of targeted killing in the “war on terror,” and the surveillance state. I argue that each of these case studies illustrates the importance of exploring the underlying conditions of public debate, in order to better understand the forces that shape the public’s capacity to meaningfully participate in democratic processes.