The Agenda of Securitization and Military Force
Since the end of the Cold War, facilitated by the breakup of the Soviet Union, the war on terror is now the main military agenda for the United States; it is also an attempt at a securitization of potential future economic markets in a neoliberal political agenda. The creation of new political entities and the reshaping and streamlining of the American military are a reflection of a new political and economic reality facing the United States in the twenty-first century—mainly the unseen enemy in a global economy—fear of the unknown. The United States has maintained a tight control over its domestic economic and political policies but it has limited control over global concerns—especially in the third world countries that are not participating partners in the capitalist marketplace. The subaltern economies that have little residual value to the economic hegemonies ruling the global economy have made inroads into the economic and political discourse by way of fostering and harboring those who believe that recognition, for them, can only be achieved through anarchy. The most obvious example being that it is politically and economically impossible for the hegemonic powers to compete, in a market sense, with a monopoly that has very little overhead—the suicide bomber as a political and military arm of Islamic radicals.
The department of Homeland security was created in the wake of the 9/11 to protect the United States from future terrorist attacks. One of the main tenets of good government is to protect its citizens from danger. While many may assume that this is strictly referring to physical danger it is also, perhaps equally important, to protect financial security as well. According to the Homeland Security websites section, Preventing Terrorism and Enhancing Security,
Protecting the American people from terrorist threats is the reason the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was created, and remains our highest priority. Our vision is a secure and resilient nation that effectively prevents terrorism in ways that preserve our freedom and prosperity… The Department’s efforts to prevent terrorism are centered on a risk-based layered, approach to security in our passenger and cargo transportation systems and at our borders and ports of entry. (1).
Two very important factors in this directive reference prosperity and risk. When thinking of the Department of Homeland Security, the immediate image is of the need for protection from the al-Qaeda operatives who hijacked the planes that crashed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the Pennsylvania plane crash. What is not generally considered is the amount of money, real and potential, that become ‘at risk’ when terrorists bring chaos to the market place by way of an attack. The attacks need not be physical; they could be, and most certainly will become, more cyber in nature. In Randy Martin’s book, An Empire of Indifference, American War and the Financial Logic of Risk Management, Martin informs that the ideals of physical and financial danger exist in a symbiotic space: “Risk management bridges security and finance. Financial risk is the prospect of a greater than expected return on investments. Security is the converse: ‘preventing adverse consequences from the intentional and unwarranted actions of others’ (18).” It would seem that the task for Homeland Security would be to eliminate risk, not perpetuate a ‘risk-based’ policy to stifle risk. This would appear counter-intuitive but, certainly since the 9/11 attacks, action is the order of the day and this action comes in the intervention ability of American military’s Special Forces.
The Special Forces has taken on a more expanded role in securitization with respect to American foreign policy and the global economy. Where the United States relies on the Federal Reserve Board to enact preemptive financial security within the United States—as far as keeping inflation under control and the economy free from disruption—the Special Forces are more frequently deploying forces to preempt any geopolitical disruptions to our interests in the global economy. This is evidenced by the guiding principles taken from the Special Forces website titled: Counterterrorism, Stopping Terrorists Before They Strike,
Special Forces are often deployed to preclude, preempt and resolve terrorist incidents abroad. They prevent, deter and respond to terrorist activities and train other nations' military in the basics of fighting terrorism. One of the current main goals of the Counter Terrorism exercise is to thwart terrorist uprisings or cells from forming. Special Forces Soldiers are now more important than ever in the fight against global terrorism. Since the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York, Special Forces Soldiers, working with our allies, have captured numerous al-Qaeda members, disassembled terrorists cells and cut off funding to those groups in countries like Pakistan and Indonesia. Soldiers continue to work with local governments and police forces to watch and hunt down growing terror networks around the globe (1).
There is evidence that the Special Forces branch of the American military is taking a greater role in the protection of American interests globally. According to a nytime.com article,
The importance of Special Forces appears likely to grow in coming years. In February 2012, American officials said that the plan to wind down the combat role of the United States in Afghanistan a year earlier than expected would rely on shifting responsibility to Special Operations forces to hunt militants and train foreign security forces. At a time of declining Pentagon budgets and a waning public appetite for large wars of occupation, the Obama administration hopes to depend more on foreign troops and security forces to tackle extremist threats abroad (1).
Does this development signal that the military is also moving to more information based, services oriented platform of operations? By using its special forces to train local populations to mediate America’s global interests, it is outsourcing its manpower to foreign entities to mitigate risk, financial and physical, as well as creating a more cost effective strategy. While it may be disturbing to think of an elite, secretive, military killing force in the terms of the policy directives of a multi-national corporation, it is merely the unfolding of a measure of transparency as to the historical operational principles of the United States military complex—as not only the defenders of a more peaceful world, but also a more profitable world for ourselves and our allies.
The Special Forces are in the business of arbitrage—finding value in small, risk-based, highly disruptive incursions into potential markets of security. Preemption is what the Special Forces do best—to bring future problems into the present and eradicating them. Finding and eliminating future roadblocks to securitization permits a mostly neoconservative agenda to operate in a near monopolistic arena with little opportunity for opposition. While there will always be a security/risk binary to attend to, a proactive approach allows at the very least the opportunity for speculation and potential partnerships in new and preexisting, though troubled markets.
This leads to, what Randy Martin quotes Noam Chomsky as espousing, a ‘new military humanism’ (56). Martin further states the military’s task to be,
…an assessment of the capacity to embrace private enterprise, which would become the arbiter of a nation’s future viability. Political risk would be redefined in financial terms as the ‘probability of politically determined losses for an investment in the future.’ Financial derivatives could be designed to hedge against these outcomes. Internal chaos could fetch a premium return for those willing to undertake the risk. National instability would become a market opportunity (56)
A new military humanism is much of what defines the Bush Doctrine—especially with respect to the right of preemption against any foreign government that threatens the United States’ global authority or that of their allies—such as the hunt for weapons of mass destruction that led to the second invasion of Iraq.
In a document generated by the Bush White House in 2002 titled The National Security Strategy of the United States of America, a neoconservative agenda was laid out that would combine a national political, economic, and military agenda that had a global reach. In an excerpt from this document, the rhetoric of a neoconservative agenda is presented to the American people:
The gravest danger our Nation faces lies at the crossroads of radicalism and technology…We will cooperate with other nations to deny, contain, and curtail our enemies’ efforts to acquire dangerous technologies. And, as a matter of common sense and self-defense, America will act against such emerging threats before they are fully formed. We cannot defend America and our friends by hoping for the best. So we must be prepared to defeat our enemies’ plans, using the best intelligence and proceeding with deliberation. History will judge harshly those who saw this coming danger but failed to act. In the new world we have entered, the only path to peace and security is the path of action (2).
While much of the rhetoric of this document is justified in light of the attacks of 9/11 it is also problematic as a directive in that is an open-ended justification for aggression worldwide. Because neoconservatives promote that, in reference to economics, the market is always right, they have applied this economic principle to the military’s agenda as well. In many ways, this doctrine is an homage to Julius Caesar’s crossing of the Rubicon—except that it is aggression turned outward—President Bush effectively declaring to a hostile world Caesar’s edict, taken from Setonious’ The Lives of the Twelve Caesars, "Take we the course which the signs of the gods and the false dealing of our foes point out. The die is cast… (Chapter 32).” By threatening the interests of the United States and its allies, the aggressor is certain to feel the wrath of capitalism’s sword: the American military complex, the coalition of the willing, and their paramilitary operatives.
Not only is the military operating in the financial realm now, they are now using the Special Forces commanders to employ Special Forces tactics as part of the regular military training. The goal is to reduce the number of forces needed by creating a more specialized and swift deploying army. While this is seen as a cost effective strategy, it succeeds in casting the regular soldier as ‘special,’ while in truth, he is not the elite soldier that the Special Forces purport their members to be. In a nytimes.com article by Thom Shanker titled, “Army Will Reshape Training, With Lessons From Special Forces”,
The initiatives are a recognition that the role and clout of Special Operations forces are certain to grow over coming years. Faced with impending budget cuts and public exhaustion with large overseas deployments, the military will focus on working with partner nations to increase their ability to deal with security threats within their borders. The goal is to limit the footprint of most new overseas deployments (1)
The military is taking those who are at risk—soldiers who would not be able to otherwise qualify as Special Forces soldiers—and charging them with the task of arbitrageur. They are ordering the ‘at risk’ to become the ‘risk taker’. This is a similar tactic to that which was employed in the housing crisis, where banks and lending institutions were offering up predatory loans to potential ‘at risk’ credit applicants. Where the lending industry turned a blind eye to the ability for these individuals to possess the ability to successfully participate in the market, the military is running the same risk with its soldiers. By downsizing the American military and relying on the indigenous populations that are under occupation to perform security and military operations, they are effectively creating a derivative market in the arena of global security by bundling American economic risk and dispersing it through the training of foreign security forces whom are, ostensibly, disposable.
Another important aspect of ‘specializing’ the regular army is the inherent structural unemployment that is the by-product of a technological upgrade. Where the military has been a source of structure, discipline, and economic support for many of the United States’ marginalized citizens, the technological and physical demands of the new military may render this portion of the population jobless. This scenario becomes additionally problematic because it also an opportunity to reemploy those soldiers, usually as civilian contractors, who are not only highly trained but also technically skilled—namely previously discharged Special Forces soldiers. The United States has historically been able to train its recruits to perform whatever duties it required but there are many recruits who—because of a lack of post-secondary education—may not be able, intellectually, to make the grade. For those who are entering the job market with more technological expertise, they will be more likely to join a company in a tech related industry, as their salaries would be greatly increased in the private sector compared to a government military pay grade.
Imperialism without occupation appears to be the new mission statement in regard to foreign policy directives of the United States government. While the United States declared war on Afghanistan and Iraq simultaneously, the careful rhetoric of the White House was that the American military would not be an occupying force—no flags would be flown to signal the occupation by America. Meanwhile, the American military has been fighting in the gulf region for the last ten years and although it has pulled its forces from Iraq, they are still fighting insurgents in Afghanistan.
The war in Iraq was predicated on supposed inside information of the stock piling of weapons of mass destruction—which turned out to be false. This should have been the point where the invading army would retreat, but quite the opposite happened. The lure of economic surplus was ultimately the goal of the military—namely the prospect of Iraqi oil. The politics of information—false information—opened the door to the invasion and then continued to rationalize the sustained military presence in the country. It became the inciting incident that would lead to the deaths of many thousands of American soldiers, as well as Iraqi citizens and militants. When using the military to expand the capitalistic ideals of a nation in the global economy, the price of doing business is death—on a grand scale.
The logic of the preemptive strike has become too great a temptation to resist. The United States military complex has become a corporate raider as well as a force for civilian protection. The technological innovations achieved by the military are cutting edge and the military seems to be looking for any opportunity, large or small, to put the new technologies to the test. By searching out the next potential danger lurking around the corner the United States is securing its future security by eliminating probable threats. The danger inherent in pursuing this line of policy is that the global market is unpredictable.
The use of derivatives in American foreign policy is in keeping with the current financial logic of the global economy. According to investopedia.com, derivatives are characterized in this manner: “Derivatives are contracts and can be used as an underlying asset. There are even derivatives based on weather data, such as the amount of rain or the number of sunny days in a particular region. Derivatives are generally used as an instrument to hedge risk, but can also be used for speculative purposes (1).” The ability for multiple agencies to combine their resources by way of a derivative contract is the investment vehicle that contains the value of our national security. Randy Martin solidifies this notion of the derivative as a policy security. The office of Homeland Security embodies this distinction; as shield of protection as well as an underlying asset that is connected to the global economic policy of the United States. According to Martin, “Billed by the Bush administration as a major initiative, a reinvention of the scope of government as we know it, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is a derivative institution of state. It was assembled from some twenty-two offices in existing secretariats like treasury…justice…health and human services…and agriculture (59).” This restructuring of government has not been seen for decades—perhaps since the end of World War II and it directly reflects the reaction of the market to the new world economy.
While the United States is bundling its toxic security debt and trying to pawn it off on unwary investors, recent history has shown that this sort of behavior leads to a false sense of value and leads to the creation of a bubble that is sure to burst. Ernest Mandel wrote in his 1991 paper, Economic Consequences of the War, in regard to the first Gulf War, about the economic danger in attempting this action,
The American arms industry was already working at full stretch before the start of the Gulf crisis. Thus there will be no extra stimulus to economic activity as a result of the war. On the civilian sectors of the economy, the effects will be wholly negative. Consumer income will fall. High interest rates will hit the construction sector. It will be more expensive for enterprises to invest. Thus, the war will slow down economic activity and employment. For the first time in two centuries, the dominant capitalist economy will see recession and war at the same time (1).
Mandel’s assessment has proven prophetic to say the least. Many Americans, rightly or wrongly, seem to assume that war inherently brings prosperity, certainly to the victor. The devil in this detail is that America has not disbanded its military since the end of World War II. American has become dependent on war to sustain its global influence, now at the expense of its own economy.
Just like the new financial vehicles of choice these days, the hedge fund and the derivative, the United States Military complex is creating a financial vehicle in security. Where, historically, security was used to defend an asset, the American government has allowed the military to trade security as an asset, effectively securitizing security. This strategy is creating a derivative market of security. What is troubling in this policy is that security is the weapon to minimize risk in the marketplace but it is now magnifying the risk.
Investopedia. “Definition of Derivative.” 5 December 2012: Website
Mandel, Ernest. “Economic Consequences of the War” International Viewpoint, Issue 200,
(1991): pp. 9–10. Website
Martin, Randy. An Empire of Indifference, American War and the Financial Logic of Risk
Management. Durham: Duke University Press. 2007. Print
Shanker, Thom. Army Will Reshape Training, With Lessons From Special Forces
nytimes.com 2 May 2012: Website
Times Topics: “United States Special Operations Command.” nytimes.com 10 December
Tranquillus, C. Suetonius. “The Lives of the Twelve Caesars: The Life of Julius Caesar.” December 2012: Website
United States. GoArmy.com: “Special Forces.” 5 December 2012: Website
United States. Homeland Security: “Preventing Terrorism Overview.” Washington 5
December 2012: Website
United States. The White House. “The National Security Strategy of the United States of
America.” Washington 17 September 2002: Website