Academic journal article Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

Securitizing Instability: The US Military and Full Spectrum Operations

Academic journal article Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

Securitizing Instability: The US Military and Full Spectrum Operations

Article excerpt

Abstract. This paper examines the recent broadening of the US military's overseas mission into what it calls 'full spectrum operations' and critiques how it is being enabled by what I term 'full spectrum law'. The paper explores the important doctrinal shifts that took place in the US military from 2005, when it declared for the first time a commitment to 'stability operations' as a military responsibility equal in status to offense and deterrence. This, I argue, has reinforced an already dominant US national security discourse in which military and economic security interests are firmly bound. In particular, it has given the US military a broader role in the 'correction' of underdevelopment and the securitization of the legal and economic modalities necessary for a functioning neoliberal global economy. The paper reflects on the US military's blending of security and development concerns and reveals how its legal framing of stability operations draws upon a 'notional legal spectrum' that allows for the securitization of the most broadly understood 'instability' and sanctions the interminable use of the US military in global interventions in an era ubiquitously cited as one of 'persistent conflict'.

Keywords: stability operations, US military, law, military-economic securitization

1 Introduction

Over fifty years ago, US President John F Kennedy outlined the wide military toolkit necessary for the 1961 graduating class of the US Naval Academy at Annapolis;

"You must know something about strategy and tactics and logic-logistics, but also economics and politics and diplomacy and history.... You must understand that few of the important problems of our time have, in the final analysis, been finally solved by military power alone" (Kennedy, 1961).

Kennedy will have had post-WW2 Germany and Japan in mind, and more broadly the US lead in the Allied political and economic reconstruction of its wartime theaters of operations in Europe and the Pacific. He may well have been thinking too of earlier instances of the US military taking a key role in postconflict reconstruction efforts; it has a history of reconstruction and stabilization missions dating back to at least its colonial interventions in the Philippines, when it first declared its 'exceptional' and 'benevolent' form of imperialism (Go and Foster, 2003).

Through the course of the 20th century, the US military has variously committed to elements of 'stability operations' and 'counterinsurgency operations' (COIN), which Jennifer Morrison Taw (2012a) has recently illuminated so well. Morrison Taw cites a number of important developments of COIN and stability operations strategy since the 1930s, including the publication of the US Marine Corps's Small Wars Operations in 1935; the Civil Operations and Revolutionary (later Rural) Development Support programme during the Vietnam War; the publication of various US Army and Marine Corps manuals on COIN, low intensity conflict, stability operations, and military policing during the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s; and the establishment of the Commission on the Roles and Missions of the Armed Forces in 1994 (2012a, pages 14, 41-47). Other important initiatives more recently include the founding of the Joint Warfighting Center, the initiation of the Quadrennial Defense Review, the establishment of the Global Defense Posture Review, and the publication of the joint US Army and Marine Corps COIN field manual. All of these developments have variously addressed the broadening deployment of US military force in late-modern war.

In recent years we have witnessed a yet firmer commitment on the part of the US military specifically to 'stability operations', which builds upon earlier doctrinal and operational iterations. Announcing for the first time in 2005 in a key Department of Defense (DoD) Directive (3000.05) that 'stability operations' were henceforth a "core U.S. military mission", to be "given priority comparable to combat operations", was significant for a number of reasons (US Department of Defense, 2005). …

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