This biopolitical calculation justifies extinction in the name of saving human life.
Dillon 96—Michael, University of Lancaster [October 4, 1996, “Politics of Security: Towards a Political Philosophy of Continental Thought”]
The way of sharpening and focusing this thought into a precise question is first provided, however, by referring back to Foucault; for whom Heidegger was the philosopher. Of all recent thinkers, Foucault was amongst the most committed to the task of writing the history of the present in the light of the history of philosophy as metaphysics. 4 That is why, when first thinking about the prominence of security in modern politics, I first found Foucault’s mode of questioning so stimulating. There was, it seemed to me, a parallel to be drawn between what he saw the technology of disciplinary power/knowledgedoing to the bodyand what the principle of security does to politics.
What truths about the human condition, he therefore prompted me to ask, are thought to be secreted in security? What work does securing security do for and upon us? What power-effects issue out of the regimes of truth of security? If the truth of security compels us to secure security, why, how and where is that grounding compulsion grounded? How was it that seeking security became such an insistent and relentless (inter)national preoccupation for humankind? What sort of project is the pursuit of security, and how does it relate to other modern human concerns and enterprises, such as seeking freedom and knowledge through representative-calculative thought, technology and subjectification? Above all, how are we to account—amongst all the manifest contradictions of our current (inter)national systems of security: which incarcerate rather than liberate; radically endanger rather than make safe; and engender fear rather than create assurance—for that terminal paradox of our modern (inter)national politics of security which Foucault captured so well in the quotation that heads this chapter. 5 A terminal paradox which not only subverts its own predicate of security, most spectacularly by rendering the future of terrestrial existence conditional on the strategies and calculations of its hybrid regime of sovereignty and governmentality, but whichalso seems to furnish a new predicate of global life, a new experience in the context of which the political has to be recovered and to which it must then address itself: the globalisation of politics of security in the global extension of nihilism and technology, and the advent of the real prospect of human species extinction.
Alternative—Challenge to conceptual framework of national security. Only our alternative displaces the source of executive overreach. Legal restraint without conceptual change is futile.
Aziz RANA Law at Cornell 11 [“Who Decides on Security?” Cornell Law Faculty Working Papers, Paper 87, http://scholarship.law.cornell.edu/clsops_papers/87 p. 45-51]
The prevalence of these continuities between Frankfurter’s vision and contemporary judicial arguments raise serious concerns with today’s conceptual framework. Certainly, Frankfurter’s role during World War II in defending and promoting a number of infamous judicial decisions highlights the potential abuses embedded in a legal discourse premised on the specially-situated knowledge of executive officials and military personnel. As the example of Japanese internment dramatizes, too strong an assumption of expert understanding can easily allow elite prejudices—and with it state violence—to run rampant and unconstrained. For the present, it hints at an obvious question: How skeptical should we be of current assertions of expertise and, indeed, of the dominant security framework itself? One claim, repeated especially in the wake of September 11, has been that regardless of normative legitimacy, the prevailing security concept—with its account of unique knowledge, insulation, and hierarchy—is simply an unavoidable consequence of existing global dangers. Even if Herring and Frankfurter may have been wrong in principle about their answer to the question “who decides in matters of security?” they nevertheless were right to believe that complexity and endemic threat make it impossible to defend the old Lockean sensibility. In the final pages of the article, I explore this basic question of the degree to which objective conditions justify the conceptual shifts and offer some initial reflections on what might be required to limit the government’s expansive security powers. VI. CONCLUSION: THE OPENNESS OF THREATS The ideological transformation in the meaning of security has helped to generate a massive and largely secret infrastructure of overlapping executive agencies, all tasked with gathering information and keeping the country safe from perceived threats. In 2010, The Washington Post produced a series of articles outlining the buildings, personnel, and companies that make up this hidden national security apparatus. According to journalists Dana Priest and William Arkin, there exist “some 1271 government organizations and 1931 private companies” across 10,000 locations in the United States, all working on “counterterrorism, homeland security, and intelligence.”180 This apparatus is especially concentrated in the Washington, D.C. area, which amounts to “the capital of an alternative geography of the United States.”181 Employed by these hidden agencies and bureaucratic entities are some 854,000 people (approximately 1.5 times as many people as live in Washington itself) who hold topsecret clearances.182 As Priest and Arkin make clear, the most elite of those with such clearance are highly trained experts, ranging from scientists and economists to regional specialists. “To do what it does, the NSA relies on the largest number of mathematicians in the world. It needs linguists and technology experts, as well as cryptologists, known as ‘crippies.’”183 These professionals cluster together in neighborhoods that are among the wealthiest in the country—six of the ten richest counties in the United States according to Census Bureau data.184 As the executive of Howard County, Virginia, one such community, declared, “These are some of the most brilliant people in the world. . . . They demand good schools and a high quality of life.”185 School excellence is particularly important, as education holds the key to sustaining elevated professional and financial status across generations. In fact, some schools are even “adopting a curriculum . . . that will teach students as young as 10 what kind of lifestyle it takes to get a security clearance and what kind of behavior would disqualify them.”186 The implicit aim of this curriculum is to ensure that the children of NSA mathematicians and Defense Department linguists can one day succeed their parents on the job. In effect, what Priest and Arkin detail is a striking illustration of how security has transformed from a matter of ordinary judgment into one of elite skill. They also underscore how this transformation is bound to a related set of developments regarding social privilege and status—developments that would have been welcome to Frankfurter but deeply disillusioning to Brownson, Lincoln, and Taney. Such changes highlight how one’s professional standing increasingly drives who has a right to make key institutional choices. Lost in the process, however, is the longstanding belief that issues of war and peace are fundamentally a domain of common care, marked by democratic intelligence and shared responsibility. Despite such democratic concerns, a large part of what makestoday’s dominant security conceptso compelling are two purportedly objective sociological claims about the nature of modern threat. As these claims undergird the current security concept, by way of a conclusion I would like to assess them more directly and, in the process, indicate what they suggest about the prospects for any future reform. The first claim is that global interdependence means that the U.S. facesnear continuous threats from abroad. Just as Pearl Harbor presented a physical attack on the homeland justifying a revised framework, the American position in the world since has been one of permanent insecurity in the face of new, equally objective dangers. Although today these threats no longer come from menacing totalitarian regimes like Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union, they nonetheless create of world of chaos and instability in which American domestic peace is imperiled by decentralized terrorists and aggressive rogue states.187 Second, and relatedly, the objective complexity of modern threats makes it impossible for ordinary citizens to comprehend fully the causes and likely consequences of existing dangers. Thus, the best response is the further entrenchment of Herring’s national security state, with the U.S. permanently mobilized militarily to gather intelligence and to combat enemies wherever they strike—at home or abroad. Accordingly, modern legal and political institutions that privilege executive authority and insulated decisionmaking are simply the necessary consequence of these externally generated crises. Regardless of these trade-offs, the security benefits of an empowered presidency (one armed with countless secret and public agencies as well as with a truly global military footprint)188 greatly outweigh the costs. Yet, although these sociological views have become commonplace, the conclusions that Americans should draw about security requirements are not nearly as clear cut as the conventional wisdom assumes. In particular, a closer examination of contemporary arguments about endemic danger suggests that such claims are not objective empirical judgmentsbut rather are socially complex and politically infused interpretations. Indeed, the openness of existing circumstances to multiple interpretations of threat implies that the presumptive need for secrecy and centralization is not self-evident. And as underscored by high profile failures in expert assessment, claims to security expertise are themselves riddledwith ideological presuppositions and subjective biases. All this indicates that the gulf between elite knowledge and lay incomprehension in matters of security may be far less extensive than is ordinarily thought. It also means that the question of who decides—and with it the issue of how democratic or insular our institutions should be—remains open as well. Clearly technological changes, from airpower to biological and chemical weapons, have shifted the nature of America’s position in the world and its potential vulnerability. As has been widely remarked for nearly a century, the oceans alone cannot guarantee our permanent safety. Yet, in truth they never fully ensured domestic tranquility. The nineteenth century was one of near continuous violence, especially with indigenous communities fighting to protect their territory from expansionist settlers.189 But even if technological shifts make doomsday scenarios more chilling than those faced by Hamilton, Jefferson, or Taney, the mere existence of these scenarios tells us little about their likelihood or how best to address them. Indeed, these latter security judgments are inevitably permeated with subjective political assessments, assessments that carry with them preexisting ideological points of view—such as regarding how much risk constitutional societies should accept or how interventionist states should be in foreign policy. In fact, from its emergence in the 1930s and 1940s, supporters of the modern security concept have—at times unwittingly—reaffirmed the political rather than purely objective nature of interpreting external threats. In particular, commentators have repeatedly noted the link between the idea of insecurity and America’s post-World War II position of global primacy, one which today has only expanded following the Cold War. In 1961, none other than Senator James William Fulbright declared, in terms reminiscent of Herring and Frankfurter, that security imperatives meant that “our basic constitutional machinery, admirably suited to the needs of a remote agrarian republic in the 18th century,” was no longer “adequate” for the “20th- century nation.”190 For Fulbright, the driving impetus behind the need to jettison antiquated constitutional practices was the importance of sustaining the country’s “preeminen[ce] in political and military power.”191 Fulbright held that greater executive action and war-making capacities were essential precisely because the United States found itself “burdened with all the enormous responsibilities that accompany such power.”192 According to Fulbright, the United States had both a right and a duty to suppress those forms of chaos and disorder that existed at the edges of American authority. Thus, rather than being purely objective, the American condition of permanent danger was itself deeply tied to political calculations about the importance of global primacy. What generated the condition of continual crisis was not only technological change, but also the belief that the United States’ own ‘national security’ rested on the successful projection of power into the internal affairs of foreign states. The key point is that regardless of whether one agrees with such an underlying project, the value of this project is ultimately an open political question. This suggests that whether distant crises should be viewed as generating insecurity at home is similarly as much an interpretative judgment as an empirically verifiable conclusion.193 To appreciate the open nature of security determinations, one need only look at the presentation of terrorism as a principal and overriding danger facing the country. According to the State Department’s Annual Country Reports on Terrorism, in 2009 “[t]here were just 25 U.S. noncombatant fatalities from terrorism worldwide” (sixteen abroad and nine at home).194 While the fear of a terrorist attack is a legitimate concern, these numbers—which have been consistent in recent years—place the gravity of the threat in perspective. Rather than a condition of endemic danger—requiring everincreasing secrecy and centralization—such facts are perfectly consistent with a reading that Americans do not face an existential crisis (one presumably comparable to Pearl Harbor) and actually enjoy relative security. Indeed, the disconnect between numbers and resources expended, especially in a time of profound economic insecurity, highlights the political choice of policymakers and citizens to persist in interpretingforeign events through a World War II and early Cold War lens of permanent threat. In fact, the continuous alteration of basic constitutional values to fit ‘national security’ aims highlights just how entrenched Herring’s old vision of security as pre-political and foundational has become, regardless of whether other interpretations of the present moment may be equally compelling. It also underscores a telling and often ignored point about the nature of modern security expertise, particularly as reproduced by the United States’ massive intelligence infrastructure. To the extent that political assumptions—like the centrality of global primacy or the view that instability abroad necessarily implicates security at home—shape the interpretative approach of executive officials, what passes as objective security expertise is itself intertwined with contested claims about how to view external actors and their motivations. This means that while modern conditions may well be complex, the conclusions of the presumed experts may not be systematically less liable to subjective bias than judgments made by ordinary citizens based on publicly available information. It further underscores that the question of who decides cannot be foreclosed in advance by simply asserting deference to elite knowledge. If anything, one can argue that the presumptive gulf between elite awareness and suspect mass opinion has generated its own very dramatic political and legal pathologies. In recent years, the country has witnessed a variety of security crises built on the basic failure of ‘expertise.’195 At present, part of what obscures this fact is the very culture of secret information sustained by the modern security concept. Today, it is commonplace for government officials to leak security material about terrorism or external threat to newspapers as a method of shaping the public debate.196 These ‘open’ secrets allow greater public access to elite information and embody a central and routine instrument for incorporating mass voice into state decision-making. But this mode of popular involvement comes at a key cost. Secret information is generally treated as worthy of a higher status than information already present in the public realm—the shared collective information through which ordinary citizens reach conclusions about emergency and defense. Yet, oftentimes, as with the lead up to the Iraq War in 2003, although the actual content of this secret information is flawed,197 its status as secret masks these problems and allows policymakers to cloak their positions in added authority. This reality highlightsthe importance of approaching security information withfar greater collective skepticism; it also means that security judgments may be more ‘Hobbesian’—marked fundamentally by epistemological uncertainty as opposed to verifiable fact—than policymakers admit. If both objective sociological claims at the center of the modern security concept are themselves profoundly contested, what does this mean for reform efforts that seek to recalibrate the relationship between liberty and security? Above all, it indicates that the central problem with the procedural solutions offered by constitutional scholars—emphasizing new statutory frameworks or greater judicial assertiveness—is that they mistake a question of politics for one of law. In other words, such scholars ignore the extent to which governing practices are the product ofbackground political judgments about threat, democratic knowledge, professional expertise, and the necessity for insulated decision-making. To the extent that Americans are convinced that they face continuous danger from hidden and potentially limitless assailants—danger too complex for the average citizen to comprehend independently—it is inevitable that institutions (regardless of legal reform initiatives) will operate to centralize power in those hands presumed to enjoy military and security expertise. Thus, any systematic effort to challenge the current framing of the relationship between security and liberty must begin by challenging the underlying assumptions about knowledge and security upon which legal and political arrangements rest. Without a sustained and public debate about the validity of security expertise, its supporting institutions, and the broader legitimacy of secret information, there can be no substantive shift in our constitutional politics. The problem at present, however, is that no popular base exists to raise these questions. Unless such a base emerges, we can expect our prevailing security arrangements to become ever more entrenched.