Convenor: Dr. Cristina Masters
Programme: MA International Politics-
International Relations Pathway
Student ID Number: 8353679
Word Count - 3035
Security is impossible. Critically engage?
The sudden terror attack in Boston on 15th April 2013 was a complete shock to the United States that, twelve years after 9/11, was beginning to slip into a relaxed state of complacency. The only apparent threat to national security at the time was the daily threat made by North Korea, which lacked the ability to attack the US mainland. The attack was another reminder of the near impossibility of ensuring ubiquitous security at all times, despite the vast amounts of money spent on homeland security in the last decade. This essay will be examining the success of the US government generally and the Department of Homeland Security specifically in securing the country from terror attacks. If the premise that total security is a myth, what therefore remains to be done to close existing gaps to such an extent that the threat is reduced to an absolute minimum? This essay will especially consider the extent to which security can be assured even with the imposition of radical, non-traditional policies that impinge on civil liberties and the rule of law. It will also be applying the theory of securitization in assessing the success of both the Department of Homeland Security and the general war on terror as well as the convergence/divergence between the theories and practices of security.
It is widely accepted that the US post war foreign policy is based predominantly on the theories of realism. Goldstein and Pevehouse define this theory as “a school of thought that explains international relations in terms of power. (Goldstein and Pevehouse 2009: 43). Realism has arguably been the dominant ideology explaining post war international relations and perceives the international system - in the absence of an overarching global government - as existing in a state of anarchy. Power, therefore, lies within states is viewed as operating on the international scene with the aim of pursuing its own interests. National governments may profess to primarily respect key principles such as democracy, human rights and the rule of law, but these should never be allowed to interfere with the pursuit of national interest (Halliday 1994: 22). The lack of credibility has precisely been the source of conflict between the United States and Muslims in the Middle East. The United States is perceived as the power with arms, that funds and perpetuates venal and corrupt Middle Eastern governments that repress their own people. It should be remembered that the original source of Osama Bin Laden’s aggression towards the United States was the issue of US military personnel situated in Muslim states. The self-interested behaviour of the US was seen as totally at odds with its professed belief in democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Therefore, this has adversely affected its credibility and the perceived legitimacy of its actions in international relations. Proponents of securitization theory on the other hand posits that ‘‘security is treated not as an objective condition but as the outcome of a specific social process: the social construction of security issues (who or what is being secured, and from what) is analysed by examining the ‘securitizing speech-acts’ through which threats become represented and recognized. Issues become ‘securitized,’ treated as security issues, through these speech-acts, which do not simply describe an existing security situation, but bring it into being as a security situation by successfully representing it as such (Williams 2003: 513). One of the theories’ developers expands this by stating, “What then is security? With the help of language theory, we can regard ‘‘security’’ as a...
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