Challenging the politics and ontology of security outweighs anti-capitalism. The hostile relationship to Otherness at the heart of the War on Terror cannot be fully explained by capitalism.
Burke, Professor of Politics and International Relations in the University of New South Wales, 2006 [Anthony, Beyond Security, Ethics and Violence, pp. 129-134]
True, neo-liberal globalisation ‘tends to deconstruct the boundaries of the nation-state’, but not its ontology. Consider the genesis of Empire after the Second World War. Rigid, fear-soaked ontologies of Cold War anticommunism, combined with massive military expenditures, levels of strategic confrontation and internal repression, were central to the vast movement of US, European and Asian accumulation from 1950 to 1989. A rigid and coercive division between ‘democracy’ and ‘communism’, between Self and Other, was then fed into a Hegelian discourse of development and progress where the Other ideally dissolved into the Same.34 Such ontologies continued in Southeast Asia beyond that, through to the Cambodian settlement and the fall of Suharto, when they were partially dismantled through the (very limited) liberalisation of Indonesian politics and the normalisation of relations with Vietnam (which did admittedly occur in tandem with new ‘imperial’ movements of foreign capital into the socialist markets of Vietnam and China). For a period, which we can date from the early 1990s until 11 September 2001, a global binary confrontation fractured into more local and regional confrontations: the Persian Gulf War, the Balkans, Chechnya, the ﬁrst Intifada, civil war in Cambodia and Burma, repression of the Kurds and Tibetans, East Timor and Aceh, the 1998 riots in Indonesia. Surely these conﬂicts were proof that modern sovereigntyand its vicious, security-obsessed ontology was not passing. Nor was modern sovereignty unrelated to the continuing reliance of capital on strong states for ‘stability’, the control of labour, and the security of mines and oil ﬁelds. Now, the great binary confrontation has returned – between ‘freedom’ and ‘terror’, ‘civilisation’ and ‘evil’ – which draws in wider and wider sections of the global polity and reinforces modern sovereignty in the worst way. Hardt and Negri’s analysis here rests, I suspect, on having swallowed the ‘democratic peace’ theory whole, refracted via Fukuyama’s ‘end of history’: ‘sovereign power’, they assert, ‘will no longer confront its Other and no longer face its outside, but rather will progressively expand its boundaries to envelop the entire globe as its domain’.35 Where Fukuyama divided the world between the developed ‘post-historical’ world (where democratic peace would reign) and the ‘historical’ world (where war and conﬂict continue), Hardt and Negri describe a world of ‘minor and internal conﬂicts’. The ‘history of imperialist, inter-imperialist and anti-imperialist wars is over’ they say; there are only civil wars, police actions, a ‘proliferation of minor and indeﬁnite crises . . . an omni-crisis’.36 This tends to diminish the destructive power of the ‘minor and indefinite crises’ they cite, both in terms of scale, loss of life and political importance, and with them the theoretical trajectories that are most able to challenge them. While they do brieﬂy acknowledge the import of ‘postmodern’ theorising in the discipline of IR, they still (mistakenly) regard it as trapped in a death-struggle with modern sovereignty, despite their earlier admission that such scholarship ‘strive[s] to challenge the sovereignty of states by deconstructing the boundaries of the ruling powers, highlighting irregular and uncontrolled international movements and ﬂows, and thus fracturing stable unities and oppositions’.37 National Deconstruction, David Campbell’s study of the interpenetration of sovereignty and conﬂict in Bosnia-Herzegovina, for example, starkly illustrates the dangers of assuming sovereignty’s passage or irrelevance. There he shows how purist discourses of sovereignty and territorial identity both drove ethnic cleansing and crippled international responses. In turn, his attempts to critically rethink sovereignty and democracy, via Derridean deconstruction and Levinasian ethics, provide invaluable tools for preventing such a disaster from ever reoccurring. Two-hundred thousand dead, UN humiliation, instability in Yugoslavia and the Kosovo war were the legacies of the very violent, and thoroughly contemporary, perseverance of sovereignty in a crisis that was far from ‘minor’.38 The theoretical double-movement that asserts the disappearance of modern sovereignty from reality, and the obsolescence of anti-modernist thought as a political guidepost, has two effects that must be interrogated. First, it imagines a new kind of political subject, the ‘multitude’, which can hopefully mimic and subvert the same deterritorialising movement of capital without succumbing to it; and, second, it enforces the new description of rule, ‘Empire’, as the most pressing political task. Yet we can reasonably ask whether this subject is so ripe for fruition, or whether the continued operation of modern technologies of sovereignty and identity might not be in danger of crippling its emergence; likewise we can ask whether in order to liberate the multitude we need to continue to critique and ﬁght modern sovereignty, to ﬁght its hold on subjectivity, its violence, and its complex enabling relationship with global capital. Only then can we begin to grapple with the irony William Connolly identiﬁes: ‘the more global capital becomes, the more aggressive the state is with respect to citizen allegiances and actions’.39 In short, the teleological metaphor is the wrong one. We need instead to think in terms of a strategic coexistence of imperial and modern ontology whose objectives are somatic and spatial: the control and production of bodies, land and space as a necessary (but not always umbilical) adjunct to the ﬂow and exploitation of capital. Tactical sovereignty: post-Suharto Indonesia Contemporary Indonesia certainly provides one of the most stark examples of the work of Empire, but it is also an example of the contemporary perseverance of sovereignty. Pressed to open its capital markets during the 1990s, and long inﬂuenced by the liberal development advice of the World Bank (which chaired the aid consortium the Consultative Group on Indonesia), tens of billions of short-term capital ﬂooded in during the 1990s, much of which was channelled into property and sharemarket speculation and the corrupt business practices of the Suharto family and other cronies. Such capital account liberalisation, with its complex interrelationship with currency speculation, corruption and political crisis, was a major factor in the terrible ﬁnancial crash of 1997–8.40 In the wake of this ‘Asian’ crisis, the IMF grossly infringed the sovereignty of the Indonesian state with detailed programmes that amount to indirect control of its entire economic policy. We could be forgiven, in the face of this, for thinking sovereignty was passing. The IMF simultaneously demanded and utilised that same sovereignty as it forced the Indonesian state to bail out insolvent private banks – assuming liability for their bad loans, the often worthless piles of assets and the crippling responsibilities of debt service. Such debts – incurred through IMF ‘bail-out’ packages and the issue of bonds to insolvent banks – now reached US$154 billion, and required 51 per cent of the national budget in servicing amid forced reductions in subsidies and spending on health and education.41 The bailout also helped Indonesia’s corrupt elite by socialising their burden of debt, and quarantining assets in the Indonesian Bank Restructuring Authority (IBRA) which has since been the subject of an unseemly struggle to prevent assets being sold in the hope that they can be shifted – minus the debt they originally secured – back to their former owners.42 Needless to say, this has caused enormous hardship and misery, and further disenfranchised an already marginalised population. We may wonder whether sovereignty in such contexts is less a secure ontological container, or a stable site of political agency and authority, than a strategic handhold for power – abrogated here, incited there, deployed, evaded and reinvented within a struggle over who can seize and shape its myriad administrative, economic, cultural, spatial and political potentials. Here is a symptom of the loss of economic autonomy and authority that was assumed to attach to sovereignty, but also of its continuity as an enabling juridical structure for both domestic and transnational capital; sovereignty as a site of tactical contest not only between classes and social groups, but between corporations and sectors of capital itself. The imperial ‘sovereignty’ exercised by the IMF on behalf of Western banks and investors depends on the modern sovereignty of states, which continues to perform a signiﬁcant channelling, policing and legalising function both of capital and labour. This has been recognised by scholars of ‘international political economy’, who emphasise the enabling role of the state in the creation of that most profound symptom of Empire, the liberalisation of global ﬁnance. Susan Strange argues that ‘markets exist under the authority and permission of the state’, while Jeffrey Frieden tellingly reminds us that ‘political consent made the global ﬁnancial integration of the past thirty years possible’.43 Indonesia is also an example of a central paradox of the contemporary crisis of sovereignty: the way in which the (often wilful) loss of economic autonomy is matched by an insistence on repressive, territorial images of national integrity, security and identity. As Connolly argues, ‘while political movements, economic transactions, environmental dangers, security risks, cultural communications, tourist travel, and disease transmission increasingly acquire global dimensions, the state retains a tight grip over public deﬁnitions of danger, security, collective identiﬁcation and democratic accountability’.44 Even through its ‘democratic’ transition, Indonesia still plays out a politics of security directed against a variety of threatening Others who in the past have taken myriad forms: the Chinese victims of the 1998 riots, the ‘ungrateful’ Catholics of East Timor, the Christians of Maluku, the West Papuans or the Acehnese. While there have been, admittedly, laudable efforts to promote greater autonomy for some regions, the harsh ‘security approach’ of the Indonesian military (TNI) still perseveres. The TNI’s sponsorship of militia violence in East Timor led to massive destruction and international intervention; nearly 1,000 civilians have died in Aceh since 1999, and the military has even been implicated in the religious violence in Maluku.45 This ironic situation was starkly demonstrated by two events in late 2001: within two weeks the Indonesian parliament passed a new autonomy law for West Papua and the indigenous leader Theys Eluay was killed by the Indonesian special forces command, Kopassus. In August 2002, repeating the political double-take of the year before, the Indonesian military issued an ultimatum for the Acehnese resistance movement to accept an autonomy package and abandon independence or risk ‘ﬁrmer’ military action. Their deadline? The 7 December anniversary of the invasion of East Timor.46 Indonesia, the state that haemorrhages its sovereignty to the global market, simultaneously asserts its ‘national integrity’ with increasing harshness. As it does so it performs, more and more abjectly, its failure to imagine a different form of politics, a different form of coexistence, a different model of identity than that which must always ‘appropriate and grasp the otherness of the unknown’. As Levinas asks: ‘My being-in-theworld or my ‘place in the sun’ . . . have these not also been the usurpation of spaces belonging to the other man who I have already oppressed or starved . . . are they not acts of repulsing, excluding, exiling, stripping, killing?’47 This, for me, raises an issue of political priority. What is more dangerous, the ﬂuid grasp of capital or the violent ontology of modernity? Could they not form a common and intertwined danger? Neoliberal sovereignty: security and the refugee The coercive reassertion of sovereignty amid its imperial corrosion is not conﬁned to Third World national security states recently emerging from dictatorship; it is visible, in not unconnected ways, in developed states as well. At the beginning of the twenty-ﬁrst century this has most clearly emerged in the travail of the asylum seeker. Attitudes and policies towards asylum seekers have been hardening for over a decade, in Britain, continental Europe and the United States. Anxieties over the integrity of physical borders (when borders to capital have been all but removed) are increasing, and policy is moving to match such anxieties in the face of a long-standing body of international law and new regional institutions like the European Convention on Human Rights.48 This has been most pronounced in Australia, where a neo-liberal government has been championing economic globalisation while instituting ever more repressive policies of mandatory detention, restrictions to legal process, and military operations to repel boats. Australia’s policy became world news in August 2001 with the crisis over the Norwegian ship the Tampa, which CNN compared with the Voyage of the Damned; however, controversy over beatings, protests, self-mutilation, suicide and psychological trauma in many detention centres had been developing for some time.49 At the general election in November 2001, the Howard government also drew on historical and racial anxieties about fears of invasion and Anglo-Celtic cultural integrity to retain ofﬁce. Its policies drew on and developed those previously deployed by the United States against Cuban and Haitian refugees. Flows of asylum seekers became militarised and securitised, ‘transformed into a threat not only to the state but to the security and identity of the host society’.50 The demonisation of the Other, the Stranger, and their incarceration and punishment for simply being non-citizens, is part of the general apparatus of governmentality and biopower intrinsic to modern sovereignty; but one deployed now as a way of managing resentful publics and controlling global ﬂows. If, as McKenzie Wark argues, ‘migration is globalisation from below’, its repressive securitisation aims to preserve the privileges of globalisation from above.51 The repressive reassertion of sovereignty against the refugee is utterly bound up with the dissolution of sovereignty in neo-liberal economic restructuring, and its insistence on permanent mass unemployment; a perfect way for neo-liberal governments to evade responsibility for the palpable hardship and insecurity experienced by the losers of globalisation at home and abroad. This is a wilful displacement of the ‘permanent and irreducible’ postmodern uncertainty analysed by Zygmunt Bauman, for which neo-liberalism bears so much responsibility: the troubled context for John Howard’s promises to provide Australians with a sense of security and ‘home’, a repressive and futile panacea for the globalisation-induced upheaval he deems so necessary.52 This, to me, contradicts Hardt and Negri’s insistence that ‘the transcendence of modern sovereignty . . . conﬂicts with the immanence of capital’, and questions their traditionally Marxian insistence on capitalist power as the major focus for resistance and political action. (Their insistence on the primacy of the ‘terrain of production’ and the development of ‘posthuman’ forms of labour power is a kind of postmodern echo of the statement in the Communist Manifesto that ‘the history of all society up to now is the history of class struggles’.)53 Rather I would insist on the historical interrelationship of modernity, bio-power, sovereignty and capital (as Foucault suggested more than once); on their interrelationship as problems, and on modernity’s important status as a unique focus for critical politics. Modernity not as a ‘time’ but as a political formation which brings not just the repression and alienation of labour but detention centres, prisons, death camps, ethnic cleansing, counter-insurgency, nuclear weapons and killing at a distance.54 I write here from a ‘disciplinary’ situation. For the critical international theorist, sovereignty as a political problem occurs not merely through its abrogation or its passage towards Empire, but through the persistence of its central normative status in international relations. This is not merely nostalgia – in strategy and statecraft sovereignty remains associated with inherently violent images of security and identity that draw constant sustenance from the poisonous soil of modern ontology. Such facts underlie, for example, Jim George’s appeal ‘for serious critical reﬂection upon the fundamental philosophical premises of western modernity’.55 Just as neoliberal states collude in the construction of Empire, they continue to insist on the ontological primacy of the state and its monopoly on the legitimate use of force, a ‘monopoly’ which variously imprisons and expels refugees, incarcerates African-Americans, dispossesses indigenous people and runs ‘counter-insurgency’ operations against that most sinister threat to the nation – the movement for secession. A malign contemporary force to Hobbes’s founding conditions for the survival of the State: ‘Concord, Health; Sedition, Sickness; and Civill war, Death’.56 As I have argued throughout this book, in such a context, security ironically rests on the necessity of the insecurity and suffering of the Other. Warfare, killing and conﬂict are often driven less by the imperatives of capitalism (present though they often are) than by the logic of an ontology that refuses to coexist with otherness and seeks an absolute solution to the threat of its existence. This is as true of the Howard government’s ‘deterrence’ of asylum seekers through detention and military expulsion, as it is of the more openly violent strategy of the Israeli state when faced with Palestinian violence and demands for justice. Such images of security weld together ontological necessity, positivist epistemology, ‘realist’ morality and an instrumental image of technology in the hope of realising the modern dream of what Levinas called the absolute ‘correlation between knowledge and being’.57 This time has not passed, it is not in twilight; it enables and coexists with Empire, thwarts its temporal pull, and generates its own political urgency that is both a part of and additional to the necessary work against capital’s global sovereignty.