Monday, June 17, 2013

The "National Security State" Isn't

The “National Security State” Isn’t
P. Schultz
June 17, 2013

            The phenomenon that is called the “national security state” isn’t. That is, it isn’t secure nor is that its underlying purpose. And this for at least two reasons.

First, this state doesn’t make us secure or more secure. In fact, it makes us less secure – and this is recognized frequently by those who operate its power levers. Deposing Saddam Hussein did not make us more secure. Rather, it generated more terrorists, as is often recognized.

Second, this state serves the status quo to such an extent that it should be called the “status quo state.” The “national security state” privileges protection and those who provide it. Former ambassador to Vietnam, Kenneth Young, went so far as to assert in 1961 “He who protects, governs.” Well, that depends on how one understands “governing.” If one understands “governing” as an activity devoted to meeting the needs of a people or a nation, then Ambassador Young’s assertion was incorrect. However, if one understands “governing” as placating, then his assertion is correct.

Thus, if protection is taken to be primary, governing, in the more appropriate sense of meeting the needs of a people or a nation, need not be done at all insofar as protecting trumps governing. Thus, so long as we view the world as dangerous, ready to explode at any time, we will demand protection or security; we will demand or acquiesce in a “national security state.” As a result, those who propose actually meeting the nation’s needs, those who would be interested in governing in this sense, will be held at bay, kept out of power, thereby preserving the status quo and serving those who benefit from that status quo.

This dynamic was visible in Vietnam where, consistently, the U.S. failed to push the South Vietnamese government to actually “govern,” that is, to meet the needs of its people. This happened because, as evidenced by Ambassador Young’s assertion, protection was the primary task, protection against an insurgent, Communist/nationalist victory. Those in Nam who benefitted from the status quo had little incentive to defeat the “insurgents” or to govern as either one of these activities threatened their interests. And the same dynamic is at work in Afghanistan, where the Karzai government knows that the U.S. has little leverage so long as the insurgents constitute a real threat or “a clear and present danger.” Hence, that government has little incentive to (1) defeat the insurgency or (2) to govern. Both or either one would threaten the status quo and their power. Under such circumstances, which also existed in Vietnam, defeat or failure is almost guaranteed and this regardless of how much power or money the U.S. commits to that cause.

From a well read friend:

The National Security Strategy of the United States of America (16 March 2006):

"The security environment confronting the United States today is radically different from what we have faced before.  Yet the first duty of the United States Government remains what it always has been: to protect the American people and American interests.  It is an enduring American principle that this duty obligates the government to anticipate and counter threats, using all elements of national power, before the threats can do grave damage.  The greater the threat, the greater is the risk of inaction – and the more compelling the case for taking anticipatory action to defend ourselves, even if uncertainty remains as to the time and place of the enemy’s attack. There are few greater threats than a terrorist attack with WMD.

"To forestall or prevent such hostile acts by our adversaries, the United States will, if necessary, act preemptively in exercising our inherent right of self-defense. The United States will not resort to force in all cases to preempt emerging threats.  Our preference is that nonmilitary actions succeed.  And no country should ever use preemption as a pretext for aggression.

"Countering proliferation of WMD requires a comprehensive strategy involving strengthened nonproliferation efforts to deny these weapons of terror and related expertise to those seeking them; proactive counterproliferation efforts to defend against and defeat WMD and missile threats before they are unleashed; and improved protection to mitigate the consequences of WMD use.  We aim to convince our adversaries that they cannot achieve their goals with WMD, and thus deter and dissuade them from attempting to use or even acquire these weapons in the first place" ( [Emphasis added.]

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