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For one of my modules, I have to give (with a partner) a 20-minute presentation on homeland security, which I have taken to be a discussion of it as security concept. I must confess, at this point I’m still pretty light on the reading (I’ve had to concentrate on finding a book to review for another module), but I have some ideas based on a flick through of Border Games by Peter Andreas, as well as a more general, casual understanding of homeland security. Before meeting with my partner today, I felt that just discussing my thoughts here might help me formulate something more concrete. So, that is the story behind today’s post, it seems off-topic, but it’ll be nice to take a break from the abduction issue for a while.

As with all things, there is a starting point for this concept. Homeland security in practice clearly gathered steam because of 9/11. The failure to react to the disparate information available on the perpetrators and their actions made policymakers believe that an amalgamated Department of Homeland Security was needed. However, the idea of homeland security undoubtedly is older than that, and individual components of the concept must stretch back even further still.

Homeland security is a recognition of what Dillon terms the “new security context”. In his paper Global Security in the 21st Century: Circulation, Complexity and Contingency. Circulation refers to the connectivity of the world. Complexity refers to the adaptive systems by which circulation occurs. Finally, contingency refers to the need to manage risk (or probabilities). Beyond the intelligence failure of 9/11, one can see the correlation between homeland security and the new security context. One such example is human trafficking: the gaps that enable the smuggling of illegal immigrants across a border can also provide access to terrorists.

This might then be seen as part of the deepening trend within security studies. The security of the state is increasingly seen as contingent upon the intrastate level as opposed to solely interstate relations. The operations of the state are increasingly being tied to the traditional security apparatus. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the role the police now play in security. Andreas expresses his surprise at the lack of previous inclusion of policing in security, despite lawmaking and enforcement (monopoly of force) being ‘the bedrock of sovereignty’. That police conduct ‘security operations’ shows an immediate linkage to the security discourse.

Interstate relations are still important, particularly the boundaries between them. Borders are a key part of homeland security. Andreas points out that in an age where globalisation is said to be weakening our borders, they are being subjected to intensified security. Writing about the US-Mexico border, he states that the border has always been porous, what has changed is the escalation of security upon it. Thus the weakening of physical borders is something witnessed through the means by which the state attempts to strengthen them.

Border control has certainly never been as tight as it is right now. US immigration officials are working in other countries, stopping problems from manifesting themselves at the end of the journey. US customs officials work in the ports of other countries, allowing shipping to be checked in a safer (for the US at least) environment. Furthermore, the justification of their concerns aside, immigration is a security fear for many people in many countries. Globalisation is not weakening the borders then. Instead it is highlighting how poorly separated society has been, or at least simply blurring borders with sub-state and meta-state interactions passing through them more easily than ever.

US border control, the centrepiece of homeland security, has been reinforced by the ability to conduct US operations abroad. Cooperation with Canada, Mexico and the European Union has enabled the US to extend its borders. This is undoubtedly a matter of power that leads one to ask: is homeland security available only to global or regional hegemonic powers? I believe that this sort of power is open to the EU in relation to its neighbours, so I suppose we can discount the need to be a global hegemon. So instead we might ask: Can the middle-tier states receive a slice of this security pie? Here I think the answer will be no. Many countries do not have the resources to successfully police their borders, and many more do not have the prerequisite stature to allow them to receive the preferential treatment the US enjoys.

Now I have a better grasp on the blanks that I have to fill and the way in which I can tackle this presentation. Thanks for reading.

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4 Comments

  1. Follow the money! Compare the crossing routes for illegal drugs, persons and crime. Is it all there together. Ask why? How are people crossing at 3000 per day, 1.2 million a year illegaly vs legally. Drugs flowing without interjection? A safe county vs an unsafe country. Does the United States need to worry? Is there ethnic incursion upon another’s way of life developing? Is there a soverignity concern to be considered? It is happening. Should it be stopped or surrendered too. What can be done?

  2. Thanks for your comment. I’ll give it some thought :)

  3. Globalisation is not weakening the borders then. Instead it is highlighting how poorly separated society has been, or at least simply blurring borders with sub-state and meta-state interactions passing through them more easily than ever.

    True. I think it’s exposed the ease with which borders truly can be crossed, as means of travel also became affordable to many of those who previously would have crossed but couldn’t.

    I wonder how groups like the Minutemen might fit into such an idea. They seem to take it upon themselves, apart from any official national policy, to guard the border out of a belief that what they’re doing is right.

    Of course, being from Massachusetts I find their name an insult to the true Minutemen, but such is life…

  4. I believe the Minutemen (not the Paul Revere kind) fall into the same category as the militias, part of keeping federal and state operations in check through civil society movements.

    Then again, they quite clearly fit into a broader global concern about immigration (which I’ve found quite strange given how porous that border has always been).

    Here in the UK, immigration has been a big enough topic to revive the extreme right-wing as a viable political option (in some quarters at least).

    Illegal immigration exploits the same loopholes available to real threats, such as terrorists. With terrorism and patriotism hitting Macarthyist proportions in the US, it is little wonder that people are attempting to do what they can to ‘preserve the purity of their bodily fluids’.

    The minutemen are thus a reactionary group acting upon their uncertainty and fears. Insecurity running amok.


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