Thursday, March 01, 2018

Counterinsurgency Governance vs Heavily Armed Citizens

thenation |  Governing through the counterinsurgency warfare paradigm has, since 9/11, been distilled into three core strategies. 

First, bulk collect everything about everyone in the population. This is the model of NSA’s TREASURE MAP program: “every single end device that is connected to the Internet somewhere in the world—every smartphone, tablet and computer” must be known. The data of everyone, especially the neutral or passive majority, is crucial because that is the only way to identify accurately the active minority. This has been turned on the American population since 9/11. 

Second, identify and eradicate the revolutionary minority. Total information about the entire population is what makes it possible to discriminate between friend and foe. Once suspicion attaches, individuals must be treated severely to extract all possible intelligence, with enhanced interrogation techniques if necessary; and if they are revealed to belong to the active minority, they must be disposed of through detention, rendition, deportation, or targeted assassination. Unlike conventional soldiers, these minorities are dangerous not because of their physical presence on a battlefield, but because of their ideology and allegiances. 

Third, the passive majority must be assuaged. Remember, in this new way of seeing, the population is the battlefield. Its hearts and minds must be assured. In the digital age, this can be achieved, first, by offering distractions and entertainment: a rich new environment of YouTubes and NetFlix, Facebook posts and Tweets, Amazon Prime, Second, by targeting enhanced content (such as sermons by moderate imams) to deradicalize susceptible persons—in other words, by deploying new digital techniques of psychological warfare and propaganda. Third, now, with a reality-TV presidential style that turns every new day into, in Donald Trump’s words, “a new episode of a television show.” 

These three maxims have been deployed aggressively in the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. But in a historical development that can only be described, tragically, as poetic justice, this counterinsurgency paradigm has been domesticated. Gradually—and increasingly—these strategies have come to shape the way that we, in the United States, govern ourselves domestically. It is Americans who have become the target of their own counterinsurgency strategies: total-information awareness, targeted extraction of minority suspects, and the continuous effort to prevent majority citizens from sympathizing in any way with any minorities.