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Deconstructing the Narrative of Arctic War

The Royal Navy Trafalgar submarine HMS Tireless at the North Pole, courtesy TimWebb/flickr

This article was originally published by the World Policy Institute on 9 March 2016.

In many public debates around the globe, the narrative of ‘”Arctic War” has become the predominant narrative of the future of Arctic security:

Driven by climate change, the Arctic ice cap is melting and large amounts of untapped oil and gas resources as well as lucrative shipping routes are becoming increasingly accessible. As a part of their response, Arctic states are making far reaching territorial claims in order to secure this tremendously rich treasure, and some, especially Russia, are emphasizing their regional ambitions by increasing their military capabilities in the High North. Trapped in an unavoidable arms race, the Arctic states are on a slippery slope toward military confrontation.

While advancing this narrative, supporters too easily apply interest-driven predictions of an uncontrollable arms race in the High North. Interestingly enough, one region seems to be exempted from this trend: the Arctic itself. This either means that the Arctic is “sleepwalking” into “unavoidable military escalation,” blinded by its long history of cooperation, or that it is worth taking a second look at the “narrative” of Arctic War.

Natural Resources, Territorial Claims, and Militarization?

First, what would be the source of a potential Arctic conflict? For many observers this seems to be very clear: economic interest. In 2008, a U.S. Geological Survey considered the Arctic to contain most of the world’s still undeveloped oil and gas. In addition, as the ice melts, lucrative shipping routes, like the Northwest Passage and the Northern Sea Route, are becoming more and more accessible. Since then, nearly every national submission to the extension of the Arctic state’s continental shelf (and thus the right to exploit the resources in the seabed) is considered a “provocative,” sometimes even “offensive” act.

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Obama’s Failure to Demilitarize US Foreign Policy

Obama exiting a camouflaged Air Force One. Image: Truthout/Flickr

This article was originally published by War on the Rocks on 30 October, 2015.

The Obama administration has received much attention for its policy of rebalancing to the Asia-Pacific region. The rebalance has been described as President Obama’s signature foreign policy initiative. Launched in 2009, it has received much attention from academics, practitioners, think tanks, and the media. In reality, the rebalance to the Asia-Pacific has been more evolutionary than revolutionary; a U.S. shift in focus and grand strategy began well before President Obama’s inauguration in January 2009.

If the Obama presidency in fact initiated a revolutionary rebalancing, it was his effort to rebalance American foreign policy generally from over-reliance on the military and toward greater reliance on diplomacy and development. Despite a concerted effort, when viewed through several lenses it seems clear that demilitarization has failed and U.S. foreign policy remains very, perhaps overly, militarized. As a result, the Pentagon can expect to be handed messy military operations short of inter-state war that it may not be prepared, equipped, or organized to handle efficiently or effectively. » More

Can Militarizing Public Security Reduce Violence on the Streets of Honduras?

Honduran police officers. Image: Paulien Osse/Flickr

This article was originally published by Southern Pulse on 4 December, 2014.

In recent years Honduras has been on a trajectory to militarize its police force. Towards the end of 2011, the Honduran National Congress approved a decree allowing military personnel to perform duties normally carried out by police officers such as making arrests, disarming civilians and raiding private residences. In 2013, militarization practices became more solidified when Congress authorized the creation of two new forces, the Tropa de Investigación y Grupo de Respuesta Especial de Seguridad (TIGRES) and the Policía Militar del Orden Público, (PMOP, or Military Police). The Military Police currently has 2,000 officers and is expected to reach 5,000 officers. The 2013 legislation granted the PMOP power over patrolling and securing violent neighborhoods and arresting people deemed a threat to public security. This militarization occurred under the guise of what appeared to be the strengthening of a weak and non-functioning police force. The involvement of police in crimes and extrajudicial killings in recent years was used as grounds for the government to slowly phase out traditional methods of law enforcement and implement this new military approach to policing. The paradox herein lies in the fact that military personnel in Honduras have an equally horrific track record of abusing power and human rights. » More

Why Are Police Becoming More Like Soldiers?

Image: Sdlewis/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by openSecurity on 1 September 2014.

In the last decades, militarisation of the state and surveillance of the population have grown exponentially in many western countries. Police forces, civilian institutions and even urban spaces have followed this trend of securitisation. Images of heavily armed police forces clashing against protesters in the US, UK, France and many other countries are becoming increasingly common. Leaked official documents have detailed the extensive surveillance programmes several states use to spy on their denizens, under the auspice of “national security”.

While the “war on drugs” and the “war on terror” have often provided the pretext, those affected by militarisation and surveillance are mostly neither criminal kingpins nor “terrorists” but ordinary citizens. It has been political activists and groups, those who express dissent and protesters, as well it is true as small-time criminals, who have been on the receiving end of police SWAT team raids, extensive (often illegal) surveillance and assaults by heavily-armoured riot police.

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From Cops to Counterinsurgents – the Militarization of America’s Police

Image: Thomas Hawk/Flickr

This article was originally published by OpenDemocracy on 14 August 2014.

Jason Westcott was afraid.

One night last fall, he discovered via Facebook that a friend of a friend was planning with some co-conspirators to break in to his home. They were intent on stealing Wescott’s handgun and a couple of TV sets. According to the Facebook message, the suspect was planning on “burning” Westcott, who promptly called the Tampa Bay police and reported the plot.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, the investigating officers responding to Westcott’s call had a simple message for him: “If anyone breaks into this house, grab your gun and shoot to kill.” » More