Sunday, November 27, 2005

The Emerging Security-Industrial Complex, an Economy of Fear, and Borderlands Outcomes

In the introduction to The Rebordering of North America, the editor Peter Andreas describes the U.S. security response to the terrorist attacks of 9/11, as a convergence of debates over, “economic integration… and security” (19). After reading a litany of actions taken by the U.S. government to bolster national security efforts it becomes clear that the idea of security has touched nearly every aspect of governance. Some call this the security revolution. Andreas posits the security revolution against that of international commerce in order to contribute to, “discussions over the meaning and management of borders...[and] the shifting nature of borders and territorial politics” (2). Despite the interesting comparative perspective that the contributing authors offered between the Canadian and Mexican borders, I felt the text lacked a critical perspective on the real price of fear. In other words, I think the text overlooks the linkages between policy makers, the federal bureaucracy, and those who supply security products and services. The security revolution has resulted in the largest government restructuring in the last fifty years, thousands of new personnel positions, enormous budget increases, and more than $1 trillion dollars in security spending in the next decade. I would like to propose a field of inquiry not on economy and security, but on the economy of security. The economy of security is an important frame of analysis because it also functions socially as an economy of fear, oppression, and control.
The policy system described above is characterized by a closed process of governance that relies upon legislators, bureaucrats, and large private corporations who supply goods and services. This relationship has been called a closed policy community, an iron triangle, and an industrial complex. These ideas gained popularity with the experience of legislating expensive military contracts and later to the construction of prisons. The security revolution may be a consolidation of these policy areas as well as an expansion into new areas such as immigration control. The system I am trying to describe might be called a security-industrial complex because of the close ties between the newly formed Department of Homeland Security, legislators, and security companies. The security-industrial complex seems to rely upon the other two systems described above; military and prison. In a way, the security system encompasses them and creates interconnections. Perhaps this is the, “retooled and redesigned…part…of the “war on terror”” (1) that Andreas intended to speak to. However, other folks consider the federal reorganization to be merely window dressing to political maneuvering, yet the real effects of the security revolution and its industrial complex are most apparent in the US/Mexico borderlands, as well as Wall Street.
Mills (2004) proclaims in Forbes magazine that, “We have scarcely begun to tap technology’s potential to make our homeland more secure against terror. Security is a very big and growing tech business…a security-industrial complex is rapidly emerging…[and] the money flowing into military and homeland security infrastructure security will leverage revolutionary technologies and materials for the new digital age.” According to Mills, the security-industrial complex is a saving grace for America in a post-9/11 context. For Andreas and Biersteker as well as the other authors in thier volume the security-industrial complex functions as a virtual self-embargo to international trade. Companies that rely on cross-border trade will most likely advocate for a more “efficient” security-industrial complex, so these ideas are not inherently oppositional. Biersteker’s contribution to the volume states that, “powerful economic actors, with strong interests in the continuation and development of North American regional integration, are likely to play an important role in ensuring that physical security concerns do not displace economic and commercial ones” (155). In order to understand the economy of security we must examine the politics of demand and mechanics of supply. This entry will examine these two factors as they relate to the US/Mexico borderlands.

Racial Threat and the Demand for Security
These borderlands are the site of successive waves of conquest; first with Spanish Imperialism, then Mexican Nationalism and now with American Imperialists. Each period was steeped in its own forms of conflict and coercion with different economic systems and different politics. At the core of these conflicts are particular forms of culture that create benevolent meanings out of conquest and coercion. Furthermore, these cultures are racially oriented in the way that, “race is a concept which signifies and symbolizes social conflicts and interests by referring to different types of human bodies” (Omi, Winant 1994, 55). In order to justify imperialism, the aggressor often constructs the target population as being both a victim and dangerous. In this way, imperial actions taken against the threat of danger or out of benevolent charity are applauded and encouraged. The American southwest has a history of imperial violence and in this sense also a racialized space or geography with the border as a focal point. Omi and Winant (1994) argue that racism is historically constructed and persists because of institutionalization in social structures such as schools and factories. They go on to describe what they call racial projects or coherent programs that interpret, represent, or explain, “racial dynamics, and… reorganize and redistribute resources along particular racial lines” (Omi, Winant 1994, 56). By way of immigration policies, many of the functions of the Department of Homeland Security can be understood as racial projects. Immigration policy has always attempted to “manage” the movement of people in specifically racialized ways. For instance, the Chinese Exclusion laws, the Bracero Program, and Operation Wetback among others. However, what is new about the Department of Homeland Security is the great re-inscription of racial meanings onto notions of security with extremely high levels of political investment. As Biersteker reminds us, “The very existence of the modern, Weberian state is legitmated by its ability to protect its citizens from attacks from outside its boundaries and to provide security and order within territorial space defined by its borders” (Andreas, Biersteker 2003, 153). In many ways the order within the state is a racial order and security of borders is a process of individualized racial categorization. Certainly, terrorist attacks constitute threats, but in the same breath undocumented, Mexican border crossers are conflated into similar political categories; so that catching illegal aliens is somehow the same as catching terrorists or making the nation safe and secure. This aberration means that racial meanings are beginning to blur so that dark skin makes Arabs and Mexicans impossible to tell apart and so both must be considered dangerous.
In policy terms, Andreas figures the security response as a, “politically successful, policy failure” (3) in the way that symbolic actions create political currency, but fall short in achieving implementation goals. Anderson (Sadowski-Smith 2002) perceives border militarization and industrial projects along the border as sacrificing the humanity of border residents and the land to serve the interests of D.C. politics and American investments. I think both of these authors are correct to a certain degree but misplace their causal linkages. Anderson’s sacrifice zone thesis correctly links border violence to racism but sees it as a function of proximity to the actual border line while Andreas’s analysis does not go far enough to explain why the security policies are considered politically successful. If Andreas believes the efforts to control undocumented crossing and militarize the border to be successful, then it must be attributed to the perverse satisfaction of racist attitudes. This is not to say that Andreas is racist but that those that consider the policy to be a good thing rest upon racist attitudes and ignorance not simply because of some perceived political advantage from responding to 9/11 with resolve and determination. In a similar vein, Anderson fails to recognize a broader history of imperial violence and the racial geography covering much of the southwest in areas far from the Southern border, perhaps this comes from her bio-regional place based analysis. The security-industrial complex analysis that I am putting forward advances on these two deficiencies by theorizing the ways that security policies respond to political demands by expanding police powers along pre-existing racial lines in addition to creating new ones.
Not only does the pre-existing racial order correspond to an economy dependent upon racialized immigrant labor, but the expansion of police power to “manage” immigrant populations becomes an end in itself, especially to those companies who lobby for fiscal appropriation of federal security contracts. The persistence of immigration control as a racial project extends from a history of justifications for U.S. imperial violence of the last century and a half. The current form of imperial violence toward immigrants most likely began with the Texas Rangers then federally institutionalized as the U.S. Border Patrol in 1929. Several laws in the past three decades have served to augment this institution. The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, as well as the Illegal Immigrant Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 significantly bolstered the police powers and militarization of the border. Yet, the most influential law to advance the security-industrial complex has been the Homeland Security Act of 2002. This act strengthens the relationship of military technologies for domestic use, while increasing the number of federal police officers. In other words, the Homeland Security Act has generated domestic market demand for military technologies by cultivating the notion that national security objectives will be achieved by expanding efforts to control immigration. From this critical vantage point counter-terrorism functions as counter-diversity. Winant argues that these forms of public policy constitute a white racial project and in this way the security-industrial complex represents security for white people at the price of insecurity for people of color.
As the security-industrial complex is racial, it is also gendered. Security policies rely on actual people to carry out actions and these actions correspond to traditional stereotypes of hyper-masculinized heterosexual soldier/officers. So, in a direct fashion Homeland Security relies upon males to deliver security outside of the domestic home in order to reclaim a white domestic nation. Indirectly, this positioning corresponds to a re-inscription of women as homemakers and informal housework as contributing to national security. On the dark side of the security revolution, many more of the undocumented crossers are now women and more than half of those experience sexual violence when crossing the border. Additionally, the industrialization of the Mexican side of the border demands specifically female labor, while poverty draws them out of the domestic sphere and into the factory. The increase in undocumented female immigrants has led to a re-emergence of the disgraceful imagery of the hyper-sexualized welfare mother with out of control “fertility rates”. This imagery constructs female immigrants as threats to the social welfare system and deserving of harsh treatment. The security-industrial complex relies upon the racial memory of imperial violence and in doing so revitalizes race as a national security concern. Because race is a concept of unstable conflict the strength of the security-industrial complex is dependent upon the belief that race is a strong determinant of behavior. In this sense Mills hit the nail on the head when he proclaimed the existence of untapped security markets; white people will be much more willing to spend money to allay their fears once they know how dangerous people of color are.

The Cultural Production of Fear and Its Uneven Distribution
In October of this year a Wall Street Journal front page headline read, “How Tools of War On Terror Ensnare Wanted Citizens” (Newman 2005). This article describes the recent increases in citizen detentions by the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement arm of the Department of Homeland Security. The article reports that U.S. citizens account for more than 80% of the Bureau’s interior detentions (this figure does not include undocumented border crossers). Routine visits to state institutions or minor brushes with the law often led to immigration questioning, detention, and juridical processing. Since 9/11, thousands of federal immigration agents with firearm and arrest authority are legislated into service each year. Immigration enforcement agents now constitute the largest domestic federal police force ever in existence in the U.S. The security-industrial complex enjoys unfettered growth during the intense periods of fear.
The Bush administration’s War on Terror serves an important cultural role for the security-industrial complex. The authors in The Rebordering of North America never give enough attention to the cultural aspects of increased security. As policy analysts they are mostly concerned with macro-processes and the overall effect of collective action. What they miss are the ways that fear and ignorance can inform policy and its implementation. The War on Terror combined with the Department of Homeland Security closes the imaginary distance between the far off battle field and the home-front/borderlands. The cultivation of anxiety works in multiple ways with security-industrial complex to formulate an economy of fear.
The racial order figures prominently in the economy of fear. This emotive economy functions optimally when privileged white people are made to feel unsafe. It also generates anxiety and loathing for undocumented immigrant workers ensuring that they will work for sub-standard wages. The wages of fear are the foundation for domestic economic control and are integrated into nearly all sectors of the economy. Anderson acknowledges this function of increased immigration policing but the The Rebordering of North America text does not bring this factor into their analysis, although in other work Andreas does recognize the wage depression effect.
Does this mean that security-industrial complex creates a political economy of fear? Are there certain groups of people that benefit more than others in the cultural production of fear? What benefits are created? What are the costs? Does the distribution of the costs and benefits of fear in society create social conflicts that come to define racial, gendered, and classed meanings? Several of the authors in The Rebordering of North America correctly ask the question, “security for whom?” yet fail to continue through the rhetorical logic to examine the racial inequality that emerges from the racial order inflated by the security revolution.

The Dark Side of National Security: Borderlands Outcomes
I use the phrase dark side of national security for a few reasons. First, the dark side refers to the view of the security-industrial complex from a non-white perspective. Second, it refers to the unseen effects of increased security on informal markets such as undocumented labor or smuggling. Third, I use this phrase to develop a counter-discourse to the pristine notion of national security and patriotism.
In the first use of the dark side of national security I turn to my experience as an organizer for a community group fighting racial profiling by Border Patrol agents of Mexican American border residents in the town of Douglas, AZ. During my time there I quickly ran into difficulties because of the pervasive integration of the immigration enforcement institution. In the small town of Douglas, AZ most people live and work within the town and are under the threat of racial profiling in all parts of their daily lives. When asking people about their experiences they are quick to complain and voice resentment toward the agents. However, no one is willing to voice their opinions public for fear of being black listed. Because the Douglas sector has the most agents of any other the activities and needs of the agents come to dominate the economic base of the town. Mechanics garages are always full of vehicle repairs, restaurants are always packed with bureaucrats and agents, hotels are booked with agents on rotation, real estate markets adjust to the purchasing power of Border Patrol agents, and they spend their dollars in every grocery and clothing store. The expansion of the security-industrial complex in Douglas also led to the expansion of passive aggressive economic coercion.
In the second use of the dark side of national security, Douglas, AZ continues to provide insight. The Douglas/Agua Prieta border town is now the most popular crossing point for clandestine border crossers and drug smugglers. Several years ago Border Patrol agents discovered a series of tunnels connecting the two border towns. Through these tunnels thousands, maybe millions, of kilos of cocaine and marijuana where smuggled to the U.S. As enforcement continues to grow so to does the premium for illicit goods and services. Not only do drugs becomes more profitable but so too does the business of undocumented border crossing. If you cross the border from Douglas into Agua Prieta you will be amazed to find the number of one night motels, sporting goods stores with camping gear, and catholic votive stores stocked with patron saints of migrants and travelers. As the U.S. federal government increases border patrolling, coyotes and snake-heads increase their profits and expand their operations. Lastly, if the border is a magnet and attracts immigration enforcement agents, then the agricultural fields 30 miles north of the border repel those agents to work for their wages in fear.
In the third instance of the dark side of national security, I bring the focus to the history of border vigilantes in Douglas. As Anderson acknowledges in her contribution, white supremacy and anti-immigrant ranchers have picked up their American flags and rifles and headed for the border to find the alien law breakers. Unfortunately, the security revolution and 9/11 have provided a platform from which these vigilante groups spout their hate and aggression. From the Minuteman project to day labor site patrols in states far from the border to protests outside of Banks for offering checking and housing mortgages to undocumented workers these racist anti-immigrant groups are demonstrating the effects of a political economy of fear. The uneven distribution of the production of fear generates conflicts that led to oppressive conditions and have social control outcomes such as segregation and unrequited racial violence.
In this entry I have argued for the treatment of the development of the War on Terror and the Department of Homeland Security as a security-industrial complex that operates as a powerful racial project with a political economy of fear that supports its existence and expansion. From this thesis the title The Rebordering of North America should perhaps shift to The Re-Ordering of North America in order to reflect the specific racialized foundations in which such programs rest.


Works Cited
Andreas, Peter & Biersteker, Thomas eds. 2003. The Rebordering of North America: Integration and Exclusion in a new Security Context. Routledge: New York.

Mills, Mark. “On My Mind: The Security-Industrial Complex.” Forbes. Nov. 29, 2004.
Retrieved on 11/25/2005.

Newman, Barry. “New Dragnet: How Tools of War On Terror Ensnare Wanted Citizens.” The Wall Street Journal. October 31, 2005. p. A1.

Omi, Michael & Winant, Howard. 1994. Racial Formation in the United States From the 1960’s to the 1990’s. Routledge: New York.

Sadowski-Smith, Claudia ed. 2002. Globalization on the Line: Culture, Capital, and Citizenship at U.S. Borders. Palgrave: New York.

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