Sunday, October 16, 2011


Yesterday at the peaceful Occupy Phoenix Demonstration, a police helicopter hovered noisily in the sky above the park where demonstrators gathered.

The ubiquitous presence of the the state's repressive apparatuses demonstrates our degradation into a "garrison state"

The garrison state is a result of government by and for the military - industrial complex. While much has been written about the US as a military industrial complex, I am going to share some of my thoughts on the subject written in my book on childhood.

The excerpt below does not examine how the US polices its own population. I will leave that for another post.


The Cold War played an important role in shaping the U.S. evolution toward a security state. On March 2, 2006 Clifford A. Kiracofe Jr., a former member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, gave a speech in Berlin titled “U.S. Imperialism: The National Security State.” Kiracofe begins his speech by describing what he perceives to be the characteristic features of the U.S. security state:

"The project for the imperial Presidency, garrison state, and imperial foreign policy, was advanced after World War II by Presidents Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson, and Richard Nixon. For five decades, the project has relied on the manipulation of fear, and the creation of "emergency" conditions, through the systematic deception of the United States public and Congress about the international situation and foreign threats. "

These characteristics--the imperial Presidency, the garrison state, and imperial foreign policy--have arguably shaped everyday life and the government of American children and childhood populations abroad [all populations].

Kiracofe attributes the origins of the U.S. evolution toward a garrison state to the Korean War, which triggered escalation of the Cold War. Harold Lasswell coined the idea of a “garrison state” in 1941 to describe a “world in which the specialists on violence are the most powerful group in society” (455).

Lasswell observes that creation and maintenance of the garrison state requires a “deep and general sense of participation in the total enterprise of the state” by the populace (458).

One way this participation is fostered is through the populace’s acknowledgement of its absolute vulnerability. Lasswell suggests that aerial warfare, which abolished distinctions between civilian and military functions, enhanced this sense of collective vulnerability in the modern era (459).

The traditional distinction between civilian and military functions was completely obliterated with the development of nuclear weapons capable of eliminating entire populations. Thus, the Cold War mentality infused nearly all aspects of everyday life and popular culture.

The unprecedented U.S. military industrial complex that prevailed from the Cold-War (a.k.a. “military Keynesianism”) through the contemporary period found justification in the perils of nuclear warfare and the domino effects of “encroaching communism,” which threatened annihilation of “democratic capitalism.”

Garrison logics drove post-WWII expansion of military spending, creation of civil militias, enforced patriotism in mandatory cultural displays (e.g. pledge of “allegiance” at schools), and the centralization of executive power in the form of the “imperial presidency.”

The declared end of the Cold War with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the economic collapse of the Soviet Union failed to eliminate the garrison mentality, despite its inconsistency with libertarian, neoliberal economic ideals [of a globally integrated market governed by business].

Contemporary fears of nuclear and bio-terrorism have re-invigorated the garrison mentality, resulting in the proliferation of government and civil efforts to police populations (in the authoritarian sense) domestically and abroad.

Chalmers Johnson notes that as of 2001, the Department of Defense acknowledged at least 725 U.S. military bases outside the U.S. (4). At home, the creation of the Department of Homeland Security—a warlike administrative apparatus that centralizes otherwise diffuse police and military apparatuses—illustrates the post-Cold War growth of domestic garrison institutions.

Likewise the development of bio-weapons labs and research centers throughout the nation illustrates the way the garrison logic has captured purported engines of economic innovation such as twenty-first century bioscience.

The Cold War U.S. security state gradually evolved into the post-9-11 security state, characterized by a xenophobic “clash of civilizations” legitimized in the works of Samuel Huntington (“The Clash” 22-49) and pre-emptive warfare, articulated by former Vice President Dick Cheney “1 percent Doctrine,” which legitimized pre-emptive action against foreign nations or peoples if there existed a 1 percent chance terrorists could attain “weapons of mass destruction.” (“America’s Longest” 22).


In the American popular imagination, collective fears and anxiety about a clash civilization have been promoted by media promulgated fantasies of terrorists subversives. However, although U.S. enemies are represented symbolically as linked to the forces of darkness, a closer look reveals their geopolitical proximity to scarce resources.

Like all “great powers,” the U.S. has a history of imperial foreign policy designed to secure access to natural resources. The literature on U.S. imperialism is vast but for the purposes of this chapter what is important is growing global resource scarcity, particularly for oil and precious metals.

The U.S. “war on terror” fought primarily but not exclusively in Iraq and Afghanistan is fundamentally driven by resource insecurities, particularly oil and gas (see Engdahl 1-245; Escobar’s “Pipeline-Istan”).

The symbolic discourse of the war on terror invoked in Huntington’s “clash of civilizations” obscures the material bases of the war but appeals to a U.S. public conditioned from children by Manichaean rhetorics (see Chapter Three).

However, the war on terror is but one strategic trajectory in U.S. imperial policy. International lending, foreign aid, and philanthropic sponsored development projects have also played important roles in the promotion of the U.S. security agenda, “merging development and security” (Duffield 1-265).

The world’s impoverished populations are represented within a new security discourse as posing migration, population, resource, and environmental “risks” to the world’s affluent populations (see Cooper 90-95).

...poor populations are seen as draining resources vital to U.S. bio-security. Additionally, they are increasingly viewed as radicalized, anti-modernists who reject democracy and liberalism and thereby threaten the security of the global order.

Since these impoverished populations cannot be eliminated through war, the world’s most powerful nation states struggle to contain the threats posed by their needs and frustrations primarily through lending (IMF and World Bank 'GOVERNMENT' programs) and foreign aid....

MAJIA HERE: I wrote this in 2008. Since that time, the US has shifted more toward outright military aggression, as evidenced by the expansion of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to now include Yemen, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, and Syria (up next).

More tomorrow.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Majia,chrisk9 from ENE news here. By the way I live near that other large University in AZ. Could not agree more. No matter what else Obama has done the drone program defines him as a person to me. We certainly could be considered a terrorist state just for violating so many pther countries sovereignty and killing innocent citizens with these drone attacks.


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