Enemies of the State

The making of the National Security State, 1945-2001


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.

Part of the security regime is the security apparatus. That’s why there are two PhD-projects that look into the role of two security instruments that are part of this apparatus. In the first we look into the role of the military as an instrument of national security, in the second we consider the role of intelligence and security agencies. Under what circumstances are these instruments called upon? These organizations develop their own policy, which does not always stem with the political course, so it is interesting to see when conflicts occur, or different interpretations of threats lead to different strategies.

When do changes occur? In what way are threats perceived, interpreted, and represented to policy makers, to governments, and to society? In several decades these security organizations were granted more budget, more powers, or a broader field of responsibilities. Conversely, there were also years in which money, power, and responsibilities were being taken away. Why so? In what way do the involved actors interpret and represent threats to national security, with what words do they talk of ‘the enemy’? And  under what circumstances and with what motifs, motivations, arguments, and images?

The main question we would like to answer is what the reasons are for providing security measures and what are the security ideologies and cultures that form the context in which these decisions are being made. In doing so we aim at reconstructing the postwar security regime in the Netherlands, and compare that to several other Western countries. All of which creates a better understanding of the way states deal with groups and events they perceive to be threatening to national security.

More information on the website


Project leader

Prof.dr. B. de Graaf 

PhD students

C.Y.E. Boot MA (subject: the military)

C.W. Hijzen (subject: intelligence and security)

Last Modified: 28-10-2014