Wartime presents serious challenges for democratic societies constitutionally grounded in freedom, individual rights, and limited government. The US Constitution asserts that two of its central purposes are to provide for the common defense and secure the blessings of liberty. Yet these twin aims often find themselves in tension during crises when efforts to satisfy the former end up impinging on the latter. While war is an inexact term in an age without congressional declarations, Mary Dudziak is certainly on firm ground in emphasizing the US armed forces' ongoing lack of downtime. Supporting the broad claim that America has been in wartime for a century and that this experience poses an urgent threat to core American values would seem to require an extensive cataloging of overreach during that bellicose century. The real challenge with wartime comes on those rare occasions when existential threats put the Constitution's restraints on government action on a collision course with its call for the government to protect the country.
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|Published - Jul 1 2012