Counterinsurgency

Against the Romance of Community Policing

Community policing is a confusing term. It joins together two of the most ambiguous words in the English language. Despite this ambiguity, its power resides not in what it purports to mean—a partnership of the police agencies and the people they protect forged through the fluid exchange of intelligence from the latter to the former—but in what it reveals about the purpose and mechanism of the police-led fabrication of social order. Here are some thoughts about why we should be wary not simply of community policing but of community itself.

New Publications on Pacification and Protest Against It

Over the past couple weeks, I've published some new articles. Most importantly, Humanity has published my article "To Secure the Global Great Society: Participation in Pacification." This is my first sole-authored peer-reviewed journal article, and it's in one of my favorite journals, so I'm very excited about it. The article grows out of a chapter of my dissertation, and it also continues some of the research and thinking that first appeared in a journal article and a book chapter that I co-authored with Ananya Roy and Emma Shaw Crane.

Here is the abstract:

The U.S. federal mandate of community participation, which defined the social-welfare programming of the Great Society’s War on Poverty, was recapitulated in U.S. foreign aid through Title IX of the 1966 Foreign Assistance Act. Many agencies adhered to this mandate, including, surprisingly, those concerned with counterinsurgency in South Vietnam. This article, therefore, inquires into the mechanics of pacification, demonstrating that the population whose security was at stake was responsible for its own participation in achieving security. By placing the linkage between community development and security in a transnational frame, this article shows that pacification must be considered a productive, not simply destructive, form of governance.

The article has several goals, all organized by an insistence on placing US domestic governance and US overseas rule in a single analytic frame.

Gene Wise - Warren Susman Prize, American Studies Association

I presented a paper on a wonderful panel at the 2014 American Studies Association annual meeting in Los Angeles. This year's annual meeting was a special one for me personally because the president of the American Studies Association is Lisa Duggan, professor in my department and one of the primary influences for me to join American Studies. The panel was entitled "What Comes of Fury? Responses to California’s 1960s and 1970s Urban Crisis," and it was organized by Nic Ramos and also featured Aaron Bae and Ryan Fukumori. We all analyzed various aspects of state and emergent public-private responses to, and definition of, "urban crisis" in California, from policing to education to healthcare. The panel was well-received, organically cohesive, and, to my mind, fascinating. Professor Daryl Maeda chaired, and Professor Josh Sides commented.

Another highlight of the annual meeting was that I won an award from the American Studies Association for the best paper presented at the meeting by a graduate student, the Gene Wise - Warren Susman Prize.

Dirty Wars, Nasty Reviews (post 2 of 2)

In the previous post, I discussed the film Dirty Wars and a response to it in the context of my own dissertation research on counterinsurgency and police assistance. In the mailbox when I got home from seeing that film was the new issue (June 2013) of the American Historical Review, which contains a review of the recent book Modernizing Repression by Jeremy Kuzmarov.

Dirty Wars, Nasty Reviews (post 1 of 2)

The other night two things happened. I’ll save part two [updated] for the next blog post. First, I saw Dirty Wars, the documentary that follows Jeremy Scahill’s investigative reporting into the once highly secret Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC). The film was actually much better than I had expected, and I would highly recommend it.

Pouring Cooking Oil on the Road, or the Great Traffic Accident of US History

It can be difficult to read about terrorism if your goal is actually learning something. If ever there was a use for the word “pleonasm,” it’s the aftermath of a terrorist attack. In this post, I will talk a little bit about what the aftermath of the Boston bombings tell us about what we choose not to know, with the main point of showing how the jokes about terrorists’ harebrained schemes (also here and here) might become less funny if only we were less ignorant about the history of US empire.

Gun Violence in the United States: Reverberations of Empire

I don’t know much about guns. Nor do I, an otherwise inherently inquisitive type, want to know that much. Playing with GI Joe figures as a white boy in the suburbs in the 1980s was enough, thank you very much. What I do know something about, however, is the boomerang effects of colonial forms of rule: how techniques of power deployed in far-off lands by imperial rulers tend to be repatriated for domestic use. Hannah Arendt advocated a version of this thesis in The Origins of Totalitarianism (1950). For her, the roots of the Nazi Holocaust sit with the Boers in South Africa. Michel Foucault in Society Must Be Defended, a collection of 1975-1976 lectures, refers to the “considerable boomerang effect”

Lyndon Johnson's Tuesday Lunch, Hold the Counterinsurgency

Derek Gregory has a very interesting post on the precedents and lineages of today’s drone executions, which I suggest you read before this piece. I am thinking about this stuff this week in preparation for my presentation at the Social Science History Association annual meeting. Recent reporting has detailed how President Obama personally approves each overseas drone attack even though a wide range of intelligence and defense officials participate in the assessment of threats and identification of targets. Even critics of President Obama’s use of drones for “targeted” assassinations across the globe are likely to see something defensible, if not admirable, in his hands-on approach, whereby he reviews the evidence and orders the killing. Still, supposedly novel in this approach is the “decentralization of targeted killings across the globe and the simultaneous centralization of state power in the executive branch of government.” Through a discussion of President Lyndon Johnson’s “Tuesday Lunch” meetings, Gregory rightly points out that this decentralization-centralization double-movement is not as new as it seems.

© 2017 Stuart Schrader