Academic journal article Alternatives: Global, Local, Political

Terrorism: When Risk Meets Security

Academic journal article Alternatives: Global, Local, Political

Terrorism: When Risk Meets Security

Article excerpt

This article draws attention to the changing concepts of risk and security after 9/11 and the consequences that these changes have for political constructions of the state/market relation. By focusing on how the concept of partnership designates a certain understanding of risk and security, the article questions the construction of the role of private companies in US security policy after 9/11, as well as the construction of a politics of security in the private market of insurance. The article argues that, in political texts, the private company is constructed as an agent in the provision of national security; the private company is constituted as a political actor with political responsibilities that exceed respect for the law. Additionally, the article demonstrates the ways insurance businesses strive to uphold a classical understanding of the private insurance market and its responsibility. KEYWORDS: Counterterrorism, partnerships, risk, security, private business, TRIA


Partnership has become a celebrated concept within a wide range of policy areas. Environmental policy, trade policy, and crime control are just a few examples of areas where partnerships are viewed as fundamental to political success. Although the concept of partnrship is very ambiguous, everyone seems to agree that it designates the possibility of combining, or even uniting, political, personal, and economic interests. (1)

During the past five years, partnerships between national security agencies and private business have increasingly been seen as central to the success of counterterrorism in the United States and Europe. By setting up partnerships (dialogue forums and outreach programs), the actions of private business are constructed as politically important to the possibility of counterterrorism. The idea of partnerships is especially interesting in the American context as it chal lenges a fundamental aspect of the American political identity: the liberal idea of an independent market.

There are two primary ways of explaining the seemingly urgent need to involve private companies in today's "war on terror." One explanation focuses on the changing nature of threats, the other on the symbolic relation between the company and the Western liberal state. In both academia and policy documents, the most widespread argument addresses the changing nature of the terrorist threat and the difficulty of separating internal from external threats. Accordingly, national security threats cannot be reduced to external threats, nor can they be handled by diplomatic or military means alone. Generally, this has been the reasoning behind the establishment of the Department for Homeland Security, for emphasizing the need for "neighborhood watch," and for asking private companies to actively take a role in the effort to combat terrorism. Besides its direct involvement, the private company also has a strong symbolic value that makes it particularly important in the so-called war on terror. The director of the FBI, Robert S. Mueller, said in a speech to the US Chamber of Commerce in 2006:

  Economic opportunity is provided by the businesses represented here
  today and many throughout the country. But the same opportunity that
  brings us great prosperity makes our country--and your businesses-a
  target for terrorists and criminals alike. When terrorists struck the
  World Trade Center, they destroyed a symbol of America's
  strength. (2)

By being a threat to private companies, terrorism attacks Western images of market and capital. This metaphorical relation between the company and the vulnerability of the liberal state is very important politically because it describes some very fundamental values of our society. These are, allegedly, the same values that groups such as Al-Qaida try to fight. Therefore, decisions of private companies are no longer simply private. Instead, private decisions to act on a terrorist threat have become a matter of national security. …

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