Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Series in Critical Security 7

SCS 6 gave me the opportunity to delve a bit deeper into what is meant by "threats" in the discourse of National Security. Further reflection on the issue has helped me to realize a fundamental reality of security: the condition of relationships between entities (for lack of a better word). I came to this understanding by breaking down the different parts that constitute the concept of a "threat." In order for there to be a threat, there must be a vulnerability. If there were no vulnerabilities then threats would cease to be considered a threat. Secondly, in order to calculate vulnerabilities there must exist some potential capacity to exploit that vulnerability. So in a very structural and schematic way "threats" are relational. My use of relational in this instance is meant to describe the connections between different elements in security discourse. So, for instance, in order to claim that Saddam's supposed capacity to deploy WMDs was a threat, US vulnerability to such a capacity had to be demonstrated - thus, the relational structure.

But given the intellectual mileage already accumulated in this series, I know that "ethnic state security maps" operate as, "the basis for state elites structuring inter-ethnic relations in a fashion that best secures the current state structure" (Enloe 1980, p. 15). Furthermore, I know that state structures operate at the level of racial projects and ensure their viability through the creation of domestic and global racial hierarchies entangled with gendered, classed, and sexualized forms of difference and domination. These theoretical insights from Ethnic Studies scholarship bring another use of relational into the fold of Critical Security Studies.

This other use of relational refers to post-structuralist theory of identity formation with special regards to Derrida's use of the term differance. This term, differance (different from difference with an e), emerges from the understanding that meaning is produced because of the relationship of elements in a system. In this system there are no positive elements - no elements that can be called simply itself. The identity of a "thing" depends upon its difference from the network of other "things" that are strung together in space and time - so that its meaning is never present in itself but always deferred, delayed, put off until you have time to cross that space and time to determine the set of relations (Thanks to "Derrida for Beginners", for the helpful exposition).

If we are to mesh these concepts together then it seems plausible to think of the structure of race relations that best secures the state apparatus as the result of inter-relational racial discourses. In other words, ethnic state security maps provide the orientation of subjective identities. [This is a new idea that I'm trying to work out, so I'm not sure if this is will be fruitful in the end, so thanx for bearing with me] May be an example would help out. For instance, when the possibility of Arab immigrants carrying out a terrorist threat in the US is considered, policy elites, bureaucrats, and pundits never define the threat of such individuals solely based upon thier abilities. The definition of that threat involves merging the identity of undocumented latino border crossers with Arabs, in order to demonstrate a vulnerability. Additionally, the threat consideration will likely victimze the bureaucracy as plagued by poor funding (this has the dual effect of garnering more legislative support shifting the blame to those who oppose such policies). In a different example, the consideration of undocumented immigrants in the US is never solely based upon political rights, but rather defined in relation to thier impact on domestic workers and labor markets (especially in regard to black workers, in an effort to prevent solidarity). Additionally, the secrutity considerations of Latinas is different than that of Latinos, which links them to the stereotype of black women in thier relationship to state. These security considerations allow policy makers to make claims that security policies that create insecurity for the target population are appropriate for managing the problem. It seems that Critical Security Studies must draw from the traditions of Ethnic Studies if it is going to be able to alleviate the insecurity of state security programs.

The challenge for combining racial theory and Critical Security Studies is the double movement of dismantling the racial discourse created by the security apparatus as well as establishing new possibilities for social organization that are not the result of threat calculations. If you can think of other challenges, please bring them forward - I'd love to hear them.

Relational Threat Analysis:
  1. Structural schema which defines the "threat terrain."
  2. Unstable and fluctuating constellation of inter-referential identities, the basis of "who" in questions concerning state security.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Meta-Post and Interlude

This is NOT the end of the Series in Critical Security; we've got a long way to go still! However, I want to quickly thank the readers and commenters of the last few posts.
Thank you for engaging with my thought process - you all have helped me to make the most out of my summer readings. I hope they continue to inspire more comments, questions, corrections, challenges, etc.

Thanks to Senor Perez, I've been blog tagged to answer a few questions.

1. What is a book that changed your life? Definitely Walter Lefaber's "Inevitable Revolutions" - read this one in undergrad.

2. What is a book you've read more than once? Spawn, No.1 (Image Comics) Read this daily when it came out. I'd like to read it again to see how I've changed.

3. What is a book you'd want with you on a desert island? it's really a tie between "101 recipes for coconuts" (for obvious reasons) or "The Log of the Sea of Cortez" by Stienbeck (his ecological exploration of the northwestern desert coasts of Mexico would continually inspire hours of snorkeling around my deserted island).

4. What is a book that made you giddy?Anis Nin "The Little Birds"

5. What is a book that made you sad? I'd have to agree with Senor Perez on this one. Red Azalea, by Anchee Min. (well, he gave it to me to read)

6. What is a book you wish had been written? The History of Chinesca Culture in Mexicali, Baja California.

7. What is a book you wish had never been written? This is difficult to answer for me b/c I don't want to ascribe to any book-burning logic. I would wager to say that any book that comes into existence represents some particular subjectivity that corresponds to real people and that even bad books ought to be allowed to exist b/c someday someone will probably think that my future book will be terrible and should never have been written. I've sufficiently evaded this question.

8. What is a book you're currently reading? Samuel Huntington's "The Soldier and the State" ( a book that should have never been written btw), Aihwa Ong's "Flexible Citizenship: The Cultural Logics of Transnationality", & Dr. David Brunner & Sam Stall's "The Cat Owner's Manual"

9. What is one book you've been meaning to read? Nayan Shah's "Contagious Divides: Epidemics and Race in San Francisco's Chinatown

10. Now tag five bloggers.
Makeweight, PerformativeAmy, B(rad F)lis, Mr. Baus, & the next reader ( ...if your reading this blog for the first time then consider yourself tagged!).

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More on "ethnic state security maps," threat analysis, and Ethnic Studies in SCS 7, stay tuned.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Series in Critical Security 6

Without coursework, I'm much better at responding to current events.

Michael Chertoff, the U.S. homeland security secretary, told reporters earlier, "We believe that these arrests [in England] have significantly disrupted the threat, but we cannot be sure that the threat has been entirely eliminated or the plot completely thwarted." NY Times. "Plot to Bomb Jets Is Thwarted in Britain".
The recent terrorist threat to British and American airlines crossing the Atlantic to the US provides us with an excellent opportunity to inquire about the production, dissemination, and consumption of "threats."
I think its useful to examine first what is meant by the word "threat." (thanks to Craig for the methodology)

Old English þreat "crowd, troop," also "oppression, menace," related to þreotan "to trouble, weary," from P.Gmc. *threutanan (cf. Ger. verdrießen "to vex"), from PIE *trud- "push, press" (cf. L. trudere "to press, thrust," O.C.S. trudu "oppression," M.Ir. trott "quarrel, conflict"). Sense of "conditional declaration of hostile intention" was in Old English The verb threaten is Old English þreatnian; threatening in the sense of "portending no good" is recorded from 1530.


  1. An expression of an intention to inflict pain, injury, evil, or punishment.
  2. An indication of impending danger or harm.
  3. One that is regarded as a possible danger; a menace.
  4. Taking advantage of a vulnerability.
  5. A combination of the risk, the consequence of that risk, and the likelihood that the negative event will take place.

Today was the first time that the US has been put on the red SEVERE threat level. But what does this mean, beyond the call for all of us to, "remain vigilant"? What are the political consequences of such a declaration? Is it possible to examine this moment as a discursive event? - creating facts through fiction.

David Mamet wrote Secret Names in the Threepenny Review saying, "...the application of jargon, is an understood tool for the manipulation of behavior... If we say that the government has lowered [or raised] the threat level, then we must mean that the government is in charge of the threat. Semantically, what else is the meaning of this "color code"? One cannot act differently on a day coded red than on one coded orange, and indeed no one even suggests that one can... He who defends everything defends nothing, as Napolean said... So semantically - that is, as judged by the way in which words influence thought and so action - the procolamation of the threat level is an admission that there is no threat. Or that if a threat exists, the government is powerless to deal wth it. And those who accept the reiteration of the threat level have submitted... daily trading submission first for an abatement of anxiety and, as time goes by, for painful and shameful self-examination." Even Mamet's thoughts do not truely hit the mark though, in my opinion.

Is this crazy talk? I mean people have died, right? Don't we need to pay attention to this shit to prevent more suffering? This analysis of discourse is not meant to belittle or demean the pain, suffering, and death of the victims of terrorism. It is an effort to understand the context of that violence to honor thier lives by examining the masquerade orchestrated by the state, in which the victims occupy center stage. What could be more belittling than to prop up someone's suffering as a vindication for more suffering. More importantly, this masquerade represents an unwillingness of the state to critically examine thier own, "ethnic state security maps."

The etymology of the word threat contains interesting references to notions of state security. First, the word þreat refers to a crowd or troop signaling a recognition to challenges to soveriegnty and legitmacy. Second, the last instance, "The verb threaten is Old English þreatnian; threatening in the sense of "portending no good" is recorded from 1530." The notion of "good" as in the public good or national good is problematic; it has been used to rationalize nearly any kind of state violence that exists - from genocide to forced sterilizations etc. At this point it is possible to make that claim that the words threat and security are not antonyms, but work mutually together in security discourse to produce a politico-social affect. In this formulation the security of the state is garnered through the strategic creation and management of "threats."

This is done discursively, but responsibility has to be placed upon geo-political actions that also generate threats that necessarily require management. President Bush's declaration today that we are at war with Islamic Fascism, is a historically produced situation. Systemic US intervention in Muslim affairs have removed the political center to allow only extremes to exist. Here's where the management comes in. Once the extremes become more popular as modes of understanding the geo-political landscape, the more the US can make claims like Bush did this morning. The creation of a particular political reality requires continual discursive maintanence to harness the political and rhetorical power of the situation. A process that sequesters more and more authority in the face of contradiction.

The acceptance or rejection of the "threat" level is not simply a matter of access to education and information as some may argue or political affiliation (The right-wing Minutemen group rejects any threat level that is not SEVERE). Or even just a matter of ignorance. I think it also has to do with your position in the "ethnic state security map." If you are positioned poorly in this model, you will likely view security as political manipualtion and a threat to your personal security. If you are located in a favorable position, it is likely that you will agree with the security protocol proclaiming your allegence to the system of inequality that produces your priviledge.

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"What can I wear today, I don't have anything to go with SEVERE!"

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Click HERE for continuation of comment stream on defintions and use of 'discourse'

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Series in Critical Security 5

Shadow Wolves - Native American Customs Agents

"Shadow Wolves are summoned units on a timer which lasts 60 seconds. Shadows Wolves have Critical Strike and are invisible except when they are attacking." - Quote from Warcraft III Handbook.
In this series, one of the most important questions to ask is, "How is something/someone governed?" The technique, practice, personnel, training, materials, and skills are important to understanding what "affect" the act of governance is to have on a population and territory (to use the language of governmentality). The Shadow Wolves are another example of how "ethnic state security maps" racialize and construct ethnicity in order to produce particular "national security" outcomes. The Shadow Wolves are a select group of men from the Tohono O'Odham nation located in Southern Arizona along the border. The enlistment of Native American "trackers" for service in the Bureau for Immigration and Customs Enforcement presses many interesting issues of security discourse to the foreground, but for this post I'll be addressing the issue of security discourse and Native American identity.

Before I say more, please watch this video from a special edition of "COPS" from the FOX network highlighting the service of the Shadow Wolves.

Right from the start, the host, Harry L. Newman Sr., displays the "thickness" of security discourse in contemporary politics. Let's take a closer look,

Ever since 9/11, the big question in this country is, how safe are our borders. Well, the job of keeping our borders secure has fallen on a new organization called ICE. Now, we've been riding along with them in the main battle zone of this war. Let me tell ya', sometimes the fight still makes the place feel like the wild wild West.
So, again we have the obscuration of the history of national security regulating immigration through racial designations. Second, safety is used rhetorically in the question, "how safe are our borders?" but the borders have always been maintained with violence making them deadly places. Third, the rhetorical question is answered with adjective secure, making a leap in logic to change the definition of safety, as in "free from harm", to "complete containment." This is an important leap of logic because it makes the people from the "outside" dangerous, while allowing the "inside" to remain uncontaminated. Fourth, Mr. Newman (or Mr. Newman's writers) labels the border a "battle zone" of a "war." Which war is he talking about? Is he talking about the Mexican-American War, the War on Terror, or just plain old racial violence. One needs to ask this question of "which war?", because Mr. Newman still thinks it's the "wild wild west."

The "thickness" of Harry's introduction to the Shadow Wolves sets the tone for the rest of the episode. Although, the main message of the episode seems to be, "See, Indians are active members in National Security. We're not all white! Plus all Indians are "natural" trackers, born with a "special connection to nature." A connection which allows them to "hunt" out the bad guys." Mr. Newman and Roger Applegate from ICE go on to say,

The shadow wolves bring a special insight to that job [border security], becasue they are all Native American. They bring with them a whole host of skills that they bring with them, in being members of a tribe. The skills have been passed down to them through thier ancestry. The ability to track, is one of the major assests that they have now.

The This episode seems to present the Tohono O'odham nation as completely supportive of federal immigration policy decisions. In fact, naturally inclined, to the particular techniques required by federally legislated law. Instead, I would argue that the Shadow Wolves are much more like the description in the Warcraft Handbook.

  • Valuable when "summoned" for a particular service
  • Playtime is limited to a short duration
  • They should not be used frivolously, the "Critical Strike" is your opportunity to command the battle field.
  • Disposible, Invisible, Harmless
While the Shadow Wolves are busy being "summoned," other Tohono O'Odham's are struggling to live with the border maintanence policies that bisect thier traditional lands. Rose Arietta writes for the Global Policy Forum,

Operation Gatekeeper, designed to crack down on illegal immigration in the San Diego area, diverted migrants to the less crowded Sonoran Desert and Tohono O'odham land. Within a year or two, hundreds of tribe members "started calling the vice chairman's office because they were being stopped and asked for documents," says tribal general counsel Margo Cowan. "Some of them were roughed up-dragged out of their cars, spoken to with profanity, told they had to get documents or they would be arrested and deported. Some were arrested. Some were deported."

During the Immigrant-Rights marches earlier this year in May, Tohono O'odham Indians were side by side with Mexicanos and other immigrant groups denouncing the effect that national security has on thier lives.
[please see comments about this issue]

I think the case of the Shadow Wolves can be used as a good example of how "ethnic state security maps" construct ethnic and racial identities in service of producing security discourse.

There is too much here in the Shadow Wolves case to get into for one post, so I'll save some for another time. Meanwhile check out these links to other Shadow Wolf contributions to security discourse. Tell me what you think. I haven't had time to check them all out, yet.

Other Contributions to National Security Discourse
Shadow Wolves Unofficial Web Site HERE

Small Regional News and Local Business Article HERE

Smithsonian Article on "People & Culture" HERE

Customs and Border Protection Newsletter HERE

Shadow Wolves Train Moldovian Police Forces HERE

Friday, August 04, 2006

Series in Critical Security 4

The previous post, SCS 3, outlines a recurrent topic in my research, the role of borders in globalilzation, governing through security, and identity formation. I really only have this one case study (i.e. American Southwest & Iraq) to go from, but I am continually finding new sources that sorrowfully reaffirm my hunches that something meaningful is circulating between these two places creating influences on how security policy is both made and implemented.

What inspired the paper, which lead to the previous post, was a video I found on Google Video. The video shows a slideshow set to a Kid Rock song, which at the end turns suddenly violent and switches to video clips of destruction, violence, and combat. The author of the video is a BORTAC (SWAT Unit) agent of La Migra sent on contract from the DHS to serve the DoD in Iraq on one of the many border security missions. Notice the iconography of desert patrols mixed with American periphenalia - very a la frontera. There are some important messages here about who BORTAC agents believe themselves to be: authors of violence and destruction, deliverer of law and order, and models of hyper-masculine heterosexual patriotism(contains graphic scenes). Go to video HERE.

[see comments section for more about this video]

US Border Patrol missions to Iraq are a small portion of Operation Steel Curtain, a tactical operation designed to gain control over the Iraq/Syria border region. Steel Curtain is still a larger part of Operation Hunter, designed to control the whole Anbar region. One could continue this scaling excercise to bringing Hunter into Operation Iraqi Freedom, the War on Terror, U.S. imperialism, and right back to Huntington's domestic/international racial hierarchy of civil-military relations (SCS 2).

Here you'll find a series of links to an official military news site HERE, a blog entry with first- and second-hand accounts of Operation Steel Curtain HERE, and a home video by a Marine from the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines of the 81st Platoon HERE (contains graphic scenes) (try to pay attention to the lyrics of the soundtrack). My intent, is to offer a the multi-dimensional perspective on this "event."

I believe this layered and dimensional perspective is important to see and recognize becasue these "voices" are all contributing to the formation of security discourse. What is particularly interesting about the home videos from both the BORTAC agent and the US Marine is that they provide a glimpse into the interpretations, representations, and explanations that they tell to themselves and each other about thier experience. These are immensely important if we are to understand "what" the agents and soldiers are bringing back to la frontera with them from the Middle East. As the author of the Marines home video states on his website,

"From Cali to Falluja, San Diego Naval Station to the Syrian Border, 2/1 has been around the block."

The following links go to other videos. Someday this will turn into a real research paper comparing the discourse and rhetoric of these home videos and how they speak to the state-terrorism of border policing and the fascade of "national security."

  • Unofficial US Border Patrol Recruitment Video HERE (must have Windows Media Player)
  • US Marines 2/1: Operations Steel Curtain & Iron Fist HERE (contains graphic scenes)
Does anyone know if there are laws governing the taping or photographing of military missions while on duty? I seem to remember something about that. Well, after all, doesn't the military want to keep control over what images the public sees?

Series in Critical Security 3

Border Lessons: From the Sonoran Plains to the Syrian Dunes (& back)
[a version of this paper was presented @ the 2006 Bi-Annual Ethnic Studies Graduate Student Conference at USC; thanks for all who gave me feedback and encouragement. Please forgive the rough cut of this draft. Helpful comments, suggestions, and criticism will be incorporated into future drafts, thanks in advance.]

The main objective of this paper is to examine the significance of U.S. involvement in the maintenance of Iraq’s tumultuous borders. In order to do this it is necessary to work out an historical analysis which frames this situation in a broader context. Doing so may also help bridge struggles for human dignity in other contact zones of imperialism. This paper tries to make the case that the role of the U.S. Border Patrol in the establishment of Iraq’s Department of Border Enforcement (DBE) is something worth investigating? I will argue that this role represents a stretch of the arms of the U.S. administration; bringing with it political anxieties from the Southern U.S. border, hierarchical categories of social identities, and economic plans for global capitalism. Stopping at this level of analysis would do a disservice to the potential of this project by neglecting to demonstrate how wars at the imperial periphery translate and adjust to social hierarchies at home. I feel this analysis is necessary to determine if this is a direction I would like to take my dissertation, because I think it has the possibility to contribute to discussions about the cultures of U.S. imperialism, social identities & nation-states, and the militarization of immigration and border maintenance. The major point of this paper is to explore interesting avenues of research for the role of the U.S. Border Patrol in Iraq.

On August 24th of 2003 Paul Bremer, the Coalition Provisional Authority Administrator of Iraq, signed into law the creation of the Iraqi Department of Border Enforcement (DBE) charged with the duty to, “monitor and control the movement of persons and goods to, from, and across the borders of Iraq” (CPA Order 26, 2003). Mr. Bremer’s actions signal the recognition that the borders of Iraq must function as both bridges and barriers. This same issue was addressed by the US Congress in 1929 with the creation of the U.S. Border Patrol, nearly 75 years after the conquest of Mexico. It may be the case that border making has become a more important task for an imperial state than it did in previous conquests. The U.S. Border Patrol, born out Congress’s actions 77 years ago has come to have a role on the development of the Iraqi DBE. Iraq’s DBE consolidates the activities of more than five separate military and civil agencies from Saddam’s legacy. The previous border regimes were regulated by corruption and inter-ethnic violence. The new DBE is modeled on US border institutions and currently receives training from US agents from those organizations; which is to say that the border violence and corruption have not disappeared but merely changed form, an issue that I will address later. New DBE agents receive training at the Jordanian International Police Training Center in Amman. As the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) reports, trainers, consultants, and managers from the Bureau of Immigration & Customs Enforcement (BICE) and the Bureau of Customs & Border Protection (BCBP) “are bringing security directly to the threat in the war on terror. Our people are on a vital mission to train Iraqis to protect their own borders and build an institution that will safe guard the new freedoms and democratic principles being established” (BCBP 2004). The US government is not only importing expertise but also ideology to the DBE as a quote from an anonymous BCBP official makes evident, “[we] are teaching members of the Iraqi Department of Border Enforcement how to secure their frontierlands” (Hammerstrom 2005; emphasis added). This discourse of enforcement may be of significance to the outcomes of Iraq’s border projects.

The first large offensive of Iraq’s own military forces was called Operation Steel Curtain (initiated in November 2005), a US collaboration to control the Syrian/Iraq border region. This was a strategic operation to prevent both Syrian forces from joining the Iraqi resistance and arms smuggling networks from functioning. The symbolism of the proto-military blitz to the border echoes the violence of the U.S. frontierlands, to use the language of the anonymous BCBP official, and helps to bring the Iraqi borders into the US imperial imagination. I assert that these institutional linkages feed narratives, technology, expertise, and ideology into Iraq and circulate the horror and glory of war and militarized tactics back to the U.S. In the same month as Operation Steel Curtain, President Bush arrived in Tucson, AZ to promote his immigration policies and advertise the continued militarization of the Southern border with technology tested in Iraq; in particular, the Unmanned Aerial Vehicles for remote surveillance. Furthermore, the US Border Patrol Tactical Unit (BORTAC), the Border Patrol’s special-forces unit, has been deployed to Iraq on several missions to conduct anti-smuggling operations and counter-terrorism at Iraq’s borders. The extension of the US Border Patrol beyond US territory and into Iraq may be a method of domesticating the “foreign” as well as intensifying the treatment of domestic borders as “dangerous”.

Scholarship on the cultures of U.S. imperialism has developed a rich language to analyze this situation and has important consequences for this research. In this scholarship, borders serve a contradictory role in the imperial imagination. On the one hand they are a source of anxiety, vulnerability, and fear, while on the other hand become the stage for which power is flaunted and displayed. The border imaginary is not only spatially complex but discursively ambivalent. The imperial border fantasy is caught in an endless cycle of desire to build barriers, in a state of siege, as well as to break them down in conquest. In this case, the US military triumphantly transgressed Iraq’s borders and now struggles to guard and protect them. This may constitute a fetishization of the border environment.

In this paper I have outlined some interesting categories of inquiry for this study; political discourse, underlying economic interests, administrative styles of governance, and the social relationships between minorities in the U.S., enemies abroad and actors of U.S. imperialism. These analytical categories not only address historically relevant comparisons for the War of Iraq (2003) but contribute to a further articulation of the notion of the “agency of empire” employed by Gonzalez and Fernandez (2003) to describe the practice and ideology of American imperialism in the 20th century. Middle East has also generated its own discourse about the agency of empire as Ho (2004) recounts the colonial history of the Middle East explaining how imperial domination in this region has always been met with diasporic resistance and accommodation. Ho refers to the social disruption caused by colonialism as “imperial pollution” (2004: 41), in an attempt to communicate the fallout effect of forced migration as well as the policies that emerge to manage it. Although comparing the histories of the American Southwest with the Middle East is a far stretch it is interesting to compare the consequences and responses to the agency of empire.

This story of American imperialism and border making begins with what Haas calls epistemic communities, or,

“knowledge-based groups of experts and specialists who share a common belief about cause and effect relationships in the world as well as political values
concerning the ends to which policies should be addressed… [and] play in identifying new problems and proposing solutions.” (Haas 1990)
The formal institutionalization of the border patrol in 1929 signals the initiation of this community, although origins of this group can be linked to the Texas Rangers. An epistemic community implicitly relies upon the propagation of policies and projects that reinforce the legitimacy and supremacy of the beliefs held by the members of the community. The propagation of policies relies upon lesson drawing, or the notion that a set of actions can produce a determined outcome in different places and times. Applying this concept to the story of border making suggests the desired outcome is territorial and economic control, political domination, and cultural hegemony. In Border Games, Andreas provides an overview of border narratives which help to describe the epistemic community of border control institutions. These border narratives correspond to the struggles with regulatory capacity and the rise of the localized forms of power; for instance during the late 1990s, Congressmen and bureaucrats explained border policy according to a “combination of externally driven threats and inadequate defenses to repel them” (Andreas 2000: 144). This manner of framing border policy hands over authority for policy making to the so called “experts”, the growing epistemic community of border control institutions, as well as casting a shadow over the broader transnational supply and demand forces that govern cross border flows. Andreas argues further that this epistemic community adopts a logic of escalation in which to explain perceived weaknesses (i.e. see how bad this program is, give us more money to do it better) or for expanding projects that are perceived to work well (i.e. see how good these programs work, give us more money to do more of this). This theory suggests that epistemic communities are historically produced and cannot be understood as moments or events in which empire has agency but a process. Stoler (2002) maintains that this process is always messy, ambivalent, and riddled with contradiction.

According to Braudel (1966 in Wallerstein 2001), “events are dust,” and must be placed in the “longue durée” of history; in this case, the longue durée of U.S. imperialism. Despite the debates around when U.S. imperialism began, this study sets out to merely establish points of relevant comparison. In order to make the imperial package of domestic anxieties, hierarchical categories of social identities and plans for global capitalism more lucid, I will demonstrate some interesting historical frames of analysis. Montejano (2000: 20) contends that comparing the Middle East to the, “…situation of the Texas Mexico 150 years ago… can serve as a marker or baseline to measure how far we have come.” Almost in response to Montejano, Sharrett (2004: 126) reminds us of the parallel between 9/11 to the sinking of the USS Maine in Havana Harbor and the Lusitania in Tonkin Gulf with their political arrangement as a “useful incident” for instigating the Spanish-American War and the Vietnam War. From these references, the longue durée of U.S. imperialism appears to offer a rich context in which to examine the role of the U.S. Border Patrol in the establishment of Iraq’s DBE.

As Montejano suggests, historical comparisons can help us identify “how far we have come” (2000: 20), especially in comparison to other forms and practices of U.S. colonial governance. Examining the administrative styles of governance throughout periods of the longue durée of U.S. imperialism will help explain the organizational mechanics and methods of implementation. Foucault describes bureaucratic functions which manage actual bodies and populations as consisting of technologies of biopower (1980). If we are to understand the significance of the U.S. Border Patrol’s role in Iraq we must develop a critical inquiry into the particular practices and outcomes of institutional programs and policies. It seems reasonable to question the methods and practices being taught in Iraq by the U.S. Border Patrol given their disastrous outcomes produced along the U.S.’s Southern border. Prasad maintains that a historical frame such as the longue durée of U.S. imperialism is essential to understanding contemporary “management practices and discourses,” because he views them as, “having emerged from (and/or bearing the imprint of) the colonial encounter” (2003: 31). Cooke argues that, “imperialism was organized, and it was managed” (2003: 90), this means that not only is the structure of institutions important to compare historically, but also their institutional cultures.

To explicate further, Public Administration Review is the oldest academic journal devoted to the science, processes and art of public administration; it is telling that first issue was devoted to national security and defense as well as the command structure of the civil service. The first paragraph of Harris’s cover article “The Emergency National Defense Organization” is worth quoting here,

“When a nation engages in war today, all other business and interests are subordinated to one supreme end of winning the war. While this country is not at war, the administrative problems of a large defense program are similar to those of actual war, and in a defense program it is essential to build an organization which, with modifications will meet wartime needs.” (Harris 1941:1)

For Harris, the longue durée of U.S. imperialism is the development a bureaucratic technologies of biopower and an institutional culture of war. It seems useful to situate the role of the U.S. Border Patrol in Iraq as a recent manifestation of this development process.

If we take our cues from Marxist economic historians then we must accept that the modern state, that is to say the U.S. government throughout the longue durée of its ongoing imperialism, is invested in capitalist modes of production and deploys biopower over lower classes in order to preserve profitable advantages (Wallerstein 1997, 2001, & Wolf 1997). Wolf reminds us that throughout history war and trade, “necessarily fed upon each other” (1997: 106), therefore if we are to understand the violence of U.S. imperialism we must understand the access to material resources and global routes of distribution and visa versa. The Spanish-American War cannot be understood without comprehending the significance of Alfred Mahan’s military-strategy of networked islands with coaling stations to support military protection of U.S. trade interests. Similarly, the War of Iraq (2003) can not be explained without acknowledging the enormous oil fields lying beneath the Syrian Desert. Not unrelated, the Mexican-American War must be connected with urban class anxieties in the Northeast U.S. (Streeby 2002) as well as the need to class race with the creation of Anglo land-owners and a Mexican proletariat through land claims law (Limerick 1987). This is all to say that the role of the U.S. in Iraq’s borders may have important economic undertones, as one World Bank memo suggests – Iraq’s borders are an important element for preparing Baghdad for direct foreign investment in export manufacturing as well as securing oil exports (World Bank 2005).

For Iraq it is clear that oil and pipelines dominate the economic space such that the location of oil reserves, refineries, and ports are important land marks that define political interests in the region. They attract the attention of the Iraqi resistance as well as US occupation forces. The borders of Iraq must also serve to link the desert nation to other regional sites of production. A majority of its imports come from Syria, Jordan, and Turkey to support domestic consumption. The US occupation of Iraq has not only created social unrest, but has destroyed the national economy already crippled by more than a decade of trade embargoes. In a World Bank Trade Facilitation paper, the financial institution recognized the poor conditions of the Iraqi economy but states that,

“There are substantial opportunities for employment generation and private sector led economic growth in construction (and reconstruction), services (including retail and wholesale commerce), agriculture, and more import-substituting industries. All of these depend vitally, in part, on the availability and cost competitiveness of importing inputs. The pace of recovery and the affordability of consumer goods will be critically dependent… on the efficiency and competitiveness of inbound supply chains and trade logistics” (World Bank 2005).
This quote reflects a forward thinking mentality with a specific vision for the borders of Iraq. From their perspective, “borders must be both secure and business friendly” (Andreas 2000). To follow up on their analysis of Iraq’s trade potential, the global financial institution has initiated a pilot border project for the Turaybil, Iraq/Al-Karameh, Jordan (TK) crossing [see appendix 1]. This project marks a dramatic change in Iraq’s ports of entry because of its history as being a state-led economy, at war, and under embargo. The TK border already provides transit for nearly US$1.5 billion dollars of trade between the two nations. Yet the long wait-times, un-standardized procedures, lack of security protocol, and logistical coordination problems increase uncertainty and inefficiency that, as the report suggests, will damage the ability of the Iraqi economy to expand. Therefore, Iraq’s border crossing institutions also figure prominently into the future of both the Iraq economy and the regional network. In this way the World Bank is attempting to alter the transnational dynamics of the regions economy while developing a specific localized form of border management. The border itself emerges as a place-based node in regional circuits of production.

The World Bank report proposed to develop the TK border as a model to be propagated to the other crossing points to improve Iraq’s viability as a trade partner and profitable site for foreign investment. It is implied that Iraq will recover only with the assistance of foreign sources of capital; it thus follows that investments in border controls are prerequisites to improving the domestic investment environment within Iraq. For the TK pilot, Environmental Chemical Corp. International (ECCI) has already completed housing for DBE personnel and basic port of entry infrastructure (Eliah 2005). Meanwhile US Army Lt. Gen. Petraeus, who serves as a link between the DBE, DHS, and the US Army expects to install radios for communications, back-scatter x-ray machines to inspect vehicles, and ground sensors that will detect movement along the border outside of the official crossing point; all technology developed through the history of border control in the American Southwest (AFPS 2004). Between 2002 and 2004 ECCI was awarded US$1.5 billion in Iraq contracts from the US federal government (CPI 2005). The no-bid contracts for these projects are the new forms corruption at Iraq’s borders. The World Bank would argue that the establishment of secure and efficient border crossings will not only help the suppression of Iraqi resistance but also the recovery of the domestic economy. The AFPS announced that the US occupation plans to build more than 180 border forts in the next year (2004). These efforts will advance DBE plans for more than 251 forts (Global Security 2005). Because of this I suggest that these development trends position borders themselves as place-based sites in the geography of power. To control the places of the border is to govern the manner in which Iraq becomes networked with regional and global systems of production and consumption.

The last frame of analysis for this historical comparison of the longue durée of U.S. imperialism is ideological, or in other words reflecting the system of beliefs, attitudes, and values that guide society to maintain political legitimacy and class domination. Marx referred to this as the superstructure of society and saw it as emerging from the basic structure of the economy to support particular modes of production and the class divisions necessary to extract a surplus value from trade in commodities. The ideological underpinnings that the epistemic community of U.S. border experts carry with them rests upon a history of racism in the Southwestern U.S. It is very much concerned with the categorization of people not only according to their relationship to the economy but also to a racially charged White-State. This kind of ideological frame of analysis ultimately means the comparison of socially constructed identities across space and through time. These socially constructed identities correspond to ideological reference points of a social hierarchy. For instance, the political projects of Manifest Destiny, the Spanish-American War, and the War on Terror all re-inscribe negative characteristics to different kinds of bodies as naturally subordinate to white American male domination. Just as all “other business and interests are subordinated to…winning the war.” so too is the ideological superstructure and its hierarchy of identities. This means that identities are not static and exclusive; to the contrary, it is more accurate to view socially constructed identities as fluid and ambivalent because of their continuous contestation and relation to other groups in other places. Take, for instance, the practice of calling Filipinos niggers in the Spanish-American War, or Mexicanos as peons in the Mexican-American War, or Chinese as coolies in Manifest Destiny, or Arabs as terrorists in the War on Terror. These identities locate people within a social hierarchy justifying genocide, servitude, demonization, and control.

Examining the ideology which supports the U.S. role in establishing Iraq’s DBE may have important lessons about how socially constructed identities are employed, translated, and adapted in addition to the consequences of their circulation between the U.S./Mexico border and Iraq’s borders. Saldivar writes that “American identity is the “continuous movement” between places characterizing a new transnational “becoming”” (1997: 29). This idea challenges the notion that the U.S. Border Patrol is simply on a border-making errand in the Middle East. At this point we may ask, what does this situation mean for the American identity and what is in continuous movement between these locations? Kaplan asked similar questions of Manifest Destiny and the Spanish-American War to come to the understanding that U.S. imperialism “emphasizes the collapse of boundaries between here and there, between inside and outside, and the incoherence that the anarchy of empire brings to the making of… culture” (2002: 15). In this historical analysis the role of the U.S. in Iraq’s DBE should be compared to other instances of administering U.S. imperialism to examine what social constructions are employed and transformed in the process of speaking political discourse, securing resources and trade routes, ensuring class divisions and racial hierarchies, and using technologies of biopower.

In August, 2005 Minas Mizra of Michigan plead guilty to several counts of alien smuggling. Minas and three others were involved in a smuggling ring that facilitated the movement of well paying Iraqis and Jordanians. The smuggling route first brought the immigrants to South America where visas and other documents were produced and then led through the southern US border (ICE 2005). This case motivates the DHS personnel to coordinate immigration controls at Iraq’s borders as a national security measure for US borders. The logic of escalation at work in the DHS automatically connects localized notions of border security with global border management. Whether surveying Mexican or Arab border crossers in either Iraq or the US the threat is perceived to be the same with equal consequences. Perhaps, the epistemic community of US border control can be thought of as Orientalizing borders; as in the production of authoritative knowledge about border management and the mastery of techniques to tame the frontierlands of the global borderlands.

The ultimate reason for this research is to explore resistance to the hardening of national borders amidst a global political and economic crisis. In particular, I want to undertake this study because I want to bring the situation at the U.S./Mexico border under a more critical light. I see this as necessary because of the standardization and normalization of this condition in other geo-political situations; Israel/Palestine and India/Pakistan, to name a few. In order to challenge these methods of “solving” social problems I think it is necessary to de-stabilize these strategies of bureaucratic control. In short I want to demystify the public policies of U.S. imperialism in the borderlands and pull back the proverbial curtain to reveal the agency of Empire. I view this task as illuminating strategic fissures for breaking state legitimacy. I also want to illustrate U.S. imperialism’s use of hierarchical categories to show their ambivalence and viciousness. My hope is that challenging the situation at the Southern border will also challenge the history of hierarchical categories and the role of borders as “marking” identities.

Works Cited
American Forces Press Service. 2004. “Iraq’s Border Enforcement Department Graduates First Cadet Class” News Articles. Amman, Jordan. Sept. 29.

Andreas, Peter. 2000. Border Games. Cornell University Press: Ithica, NY.

Braudel, Fernand. 1966. La Méditerranée et le monde méditerranéen á l’ époque de Philippe II. 2nd ed. enl. Paris: Aramand Colin in Wallerstein, Immanuel. 2001. Unthinking Social Science: The Limits of Nineteenth-Century Paradigms. 2nd ed. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

The Center for Public Integrity. 2005. “Contractors.” The Wind Falls of War.

Coalition Provisional Authority. Order Number 26. “Creation of the Department of Border Enforcement.” Aug 24, 2003.

Eliah, Elaine. 2005. “Team Builds Border Post to Enhance Iraq’s Security.” News Articles. American Forces Press Service. Baghdad, Iraq. Nov. 18.

Foucault, Michel. 1980. Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews & Other Writings 1972-1977. ed. Gordon, Colin. New York: Pantheon Books.

Global Security. 2005. “Iraq Border Police / Department of Border Enforcement” Intelligence.

Gonzalez, Gilbert. & Fernandez, Raul. 2003. A Century of Chicano History: Empire, Nations, and Migration. New York: Routledge Press.

Hammerstrom, Cari. 2005. “Border Patrol lending a hand in Iraq.” The Monitor. Feb. 1.

Harris, Joseph. “The Emergency National Defense Organization.” Public Administration Review. Vol. 1, No. 2, Winter 1941.

Kaplan, Amy. 2002. The Anarchy of Empire in the Making of U.S. Culture. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Limerick, Patricia. 1987. The Legacy of Conquest: The Unbroken Past of the American West. New York: W.W. Norton & Company Inc.

Montejano, David. 2000. “Old Roads, New Horizons: Texas History and the New World Order.” in eds. Zamora, Emilio; Orozco, Cynthia; & Rocha, Rodolfo. Mexican Americans in Texas History: Selected Essays. Austin: Texas State Historical Association.

Prasad, Anshuman. ed. 2003. Postcolonial Theory and Organizational Analysis: A Critical Engagement. New York: Palgrave MacMillan Press.

Saldivar, José David. 1997. Border Matters: Remapping American Cultural Studies. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Sharrett, Chistopher. “9/11, the Useful Incident, and the Legacy of the Creel Committee.” Cinema Journal 43. No. 4, Summer 2004.

Streeby, Shelley. 2002. American Sensations: Class, Empire, and the Production of Popular Culture. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Stoler, Ann. 2002. Carnal Knowledge & Imperial Power: Race and the Intimate in Colonial Rule. Berkeley: University of California Press.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. 2005. “Michigan Man Pleads Guilty In Scheme To Smuggle Aliens From The Middle East To The United States.” News Release.

Wallerstein, Immanuel. 1997. The Capitalist World-Economy: Essays by Immanuel Wallerstein. Paris: Cambridge University Press.

Wallerstein, Immanuel. 2001. 2nd ed. Unthinking Social Science: The Limits of Nineteenth-Century Paradigms. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Wolf, Eric. 1997. 2nd ed. Europe and the People Without History. Berkeley: University of California Press.

World Bank. “Iraq: Private Sector Development Trade Facilitation Program.” Concept Note.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Series in Critical Security 2

Recently finished Cynthia Enloe's Ethnic Soldiers: State Security in Divided Societies (1980 - University of Georgia Press). In this text she makes the interesting distinction between the semantic differences of "national security" and "state security." For Enloe, "state security is a formula for maintaining the authority of hierarchical structures," while, "national security is a formula for protecting the shared interests of a horizontally bonded citizenry" (p. 232). This is an important distinction for many obvious reasons. First, most claims of "national" security are actually "state" security programs. Second, state security formulas rarely, "protect the shared interest of a horizontally bonded citizenry." Third, the concept of a horizontally bonded citizenry is a sort of neoliberal political myth that all Americans are just Americans, which seems to be an intentional political strategy designed to make "security" into a public good that benefits everyone - so the theory goes. Through these distinctions, the use of "security" rhetoric and discourse by governments can be seen as a mode of social control and method of building hegemony. Which is basically saying that the use of references to national and state security is often in the service of preserving a particular hierarchical social order and socializing individuals to accept that social order as benign or benevolent.

In regards to this explanation of (nation-) state security policy, Samuel Huntington (pictured below) in 1957 wrote in The Soldier and the State, that, "the ordering of civil-military relations [are] basic to a nation's military security policy," (p. 2) and he continues this line of thought by asking, "what pattern of civil-military relations will best maintain the security of the American nation?" (p. 3) If we are to follow Huntington's logic, then we can understand that both the state and the nation must be structured in a way that preserves the so called "order" of both. In addition, it is the purpose of security policy to establish the capabilities of maintaining that order through civil-military relations. To contemporary policy analysts, this description of security may seem reasonable, even practical, but behind the normative language of Huntington's security concepts lie the historical foundations of a rigid American racial hierarchy, vicious genocide, white supremacist colonization, and imperial domination. If these historical foundations are the tenets to the the particular ordering of civil-military relations that Huntington claims must be maintained, then the security policies which he believes in must be related to the preservation of the governmental capacity to create and maintain a system of racial domination domestically (reference Huntington's Who Are We), as well as internationally (reference Huntington's Clash of Civilizations).

Enloe's work pivots on a useful concept she coins as, "ethnic state security maps" (p.15). She contends that these mental maps, "trace the expectations that elites have regarding the political dependability of various ethnic groups. Such mental maps become the basis for state elites structuring inter-ethnic relations in a fashion that best secures the current state structure" (p. 15). According to Enloe, "Military policies operationalize state security maps. Officials' choices in recruiting, promotions, assignments, and field deployments all articulate what state elites are usually restrained from spelling out programatically" (p. 16). Enloe has been ahead of the game for some time now. She developed these ideas nearly 30 years ago, which also speaks to enduring influence of "national security" programs in American history.

Recognizing that Enloe wrote Ethnic Soldiers in the late 70's, means that her thoeries of civil-military relations and state security did not incorporate theoretical advancements; notably critical race theory and the theory of racial formation. To me, it is interesting that her work did not recieve much aclaim. Her idea that state security policies shape and are shaped by the "ethnic identities" of groups in relation to the (nation-) state in an important theoretical contribution. Incorporating racial formation theory with Enloe's "ethnic state security maps" means describing security policies in terms of, "reproducing structures of domination based on essentialist categories of race" (Omi & Winant, 1994, Racial Formation in the U.S. p. 71). According to racial formation theory, "a racial project is simultaneously an interpretation, representation, or explanation of racial dynamics, and an effort to reorganize and redistribute resources along particular lines. Racial projects connect what race means in a particular discursive practice and the ways which both social structures and everyday experiences are racially organized, based upon that meaning" (p. 56).

In Ethnic Soldiers, Enloe categorizes ethnic groups that figure prominently in "state security maps," the following are particularly relevant for understanding the intersection of "national security" and the current immigration debate.

  1. groups residing along sensitive frontiers
  2. groups fulfilling strategic economic roles
  3. groups with sufficient political resources to challenge the existing political order

On all three accounts Latino's, specifically Mexican@s, would and do figure prominently in "national security" policies. Some policy analysts argue that 9/11 and international non-state terrorists caused immigration to be subsumed by security policies. Explaining immigration policy in this way contributes to the racial project of immigration control by obscuring the historical roots of racist immigration laws and the daily terror thier enforcement creates for immigrants of color. Rather, race has always been central to "state security" in the U.S. and regulating the colorline through laws about citizenship and immigration have always been transposed onto notions of "national security."