Posted by: Tony Carson | 21 October, 2007

War on terror: best understood not as a war but as a sprawling new economy

God Naomi Klein is good:

Put simply, if any given job can’t be outsourced, it can’t be done.

This philosophy, so central to the Bush years, explains statistics like this one: In 2003, the U.S. government handed out 3,512 contracts to companies to perform domestic security functions, from bomb detection to data mining. In the 22-month period ending in August 2006, the Homeland Security Department had issued more than 115,000 security-related contracts.

If government is now an ATM, perhaps the war on terror is best understood not as a war but as a sprawling new economy, one based on continued disaster and instability. In this economy, the Bush team doesn’t run the venture exactly; rather, it plays the role of deep-pocketed venture capitalist, always on the lookout for new security start-ups (overwhelmingly headed by former employees of the Pentagon and Homeland Security). Roger Novak, whose firm invests in homeland security companies, explains it like this: “Every fund is seeing how big the [government] trough is and asking, how do I get a piece of that action?”

It still looks like a government — with impressive buildings, presidential news briefings, policy battles. But pull back the curtain and there is nobody home.

The Blackwater scandal could have provided an opportunity to question the wisdom of turning state security into a for-profit activity — but not in today’s Washington. Instead, rather than replacing its cowboy contractors with troops, the State Department says it will put video cameras on the vehicles they guard.

Video surveillance is one of the most lucrative sectors of the war-on-terror economy. This could even turn out to be great news for the top executives at Blackwater, who have launched a new private intelligence company billed as a “one-stop service able to meet all the intelligence, operational and security needs.” If the past is any indication, there is no reason why the men from Blackwater cannot be contracted to spy on Blackwater. Indeed, it would be the perfect expression of the hollow state that Bush built.

Naomi Klein’s full argument is here: Outsourcing Government


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