A Well Regulated Racism Being Necessary to the Security of a Free State?

The historical period which began at the end of the second world war and continues through today has been characterized by many as a key portion of the “American Century.” This period has seen the collapse of the Soviet Union and, as some scholars argue, a transition to a unipolar system of global governance with the United States maintaining the role of the dominant hegemony.1 However, in the era since the attacks on September 11th, 2001, the sense of security that had accompanied the United States’ global supremacy was rattled and the period which followed saw significant changes to global securitization. The foreign policy of the United States of America, complemented by those of other allied western powers, in the post-9/11 world, has been a reaction to the gradual emergence of non-European states in global politics and undergirded by the idea of American exceptionalism throughout the twentieth century. The ensuing global behaviour informed by ethnocentric racism, nativism, and Islamophobia—seemingly at odds with America's central Lockean value of liberty—is cast as a necessary evil to achieve state security. However, through the postcolonial and orientalist perspectives, this analysis suggests that the concept of national, regional, and global securitization achieved through American exceptionalism in international relations is dominated by a pursuit for American global supremacy at all costs, thereby questioning the durability of the neoliberal world order in which America is not the chief collaborator.


This analysis examines the changes in the securitization policies of the United States and its dominant western allies in the post-9/11 era, focalizing on how these changes have been informed by the racialized national identity that stimulated the foreign policy of the dominant western states. The analysis of state securitization in the post-9/11 era is done through the theoretical lens of Postcolonialism with specific attention given to Edward Said’s theory of Orientalism.2 In doing so, the analysis will also approach the long term durability of the Neoliberal Institutionalism approach to international relations in light of the shifting actions of dominant western powers—led by the United States—in the aftermath of 9/11 and the dwindling of the American century.3 In addition to the primary theoretical focus, the analysis will also look at how state securitization intersects with Michael Omi and Howard Winant’s Racial Formation Theory. From the postcolonial perspective, post-9/11 state securitization emerged with significant nation-state and institutional support. This was largely the result of the Eurocentric construction of international relations built into the global system through the domination of western European colonial and imperial powers throughout the four preceding centuries.4 This perspective is also largely influenced by Said’s orientalism which argues that European powers cast “‘Oriental’ subjects as an essentially inferior ‘Other’ against … positive images of the European/Western.”5 Finally, the racialization that informed the changes to state securitization in the wake of terror attacks can also be understood through Omi and Winant’s Racial Formation Theory which proposes a contemporary utilization of the concept of race as a “social construct … [and] sociohistorical process by which racial identities are created [and] lived out.”6 The theoretical perspectives of postcolonialism, orientalism, and racial formation theory will be applied throughout this analysis to better understand the motivations underpinning the actions of the United States and its western allies as well as to provide insight into how those motivations may dictate future post-9/11 policy decisions related to state securitization.


The twentieth century has often been characterized as the “American Century” because of the rise of the United States as the dominant western hegemony beginning with the war with Spain in 1898.7 This American century—especially after World War II—resulted in the spread of transnational democratization through an American led wave of “forcible regime promotion.”8 This exportation of democracy originates with the domestic political culture of “American Exceptionalism,” a distortion of nationalism defined by the belief that a “nation is better than others … and not limited by the rules and constraints faced by other nations.”9 Consequently, American exceptionalism was informed by a domestic nationalist racial construction that had developed alongside the United States’ national identity throughout its history. Gerald Horne argues that this concept can be traced back to the colonial era whereby white Europeans created “a cohesive identity … [of] ‘whiteness’ and ‘white supremacy’” which they then equated with power.10 This led to a power imbalance where ‘whiteness’ was associated with ‘power’ and ‘blackness’ with ‘powerlessness’ that was used—according to the racial formation perspective—as a method obtaining and retaining power. Horne believes that this conception of the social structure in America is reflected in the creation and use of white supremacy to justify slavery evidenced in that as the American century progressed, American nationalism was characterized by a racialized power structure. 11 The ensuing “racial identity … shaped the power dynamics within America … [because] Euro-Americans ha[d] held the mantle of leadership within politics, economics, and the social arena.”12 In addition to racism, American exceptionalism also led to xenophobia, a “fear of foreigners or other ‘out-groups,’” and nativism, “an intense nationalism … resisting the presence of claims of newer immigrants.”13 Taken together, xenophobia and nativism “justified Euro-American hegemony and established an ethno-racial power paradigm that informed the views of … US foreign policy.”14 The negative aspects of nationalism significantly shaped US domestic policy and in turn informed its foreign policy leading to Lothrop Stobbard’s conceptualization of “white world supremacy”—the idea that the western European powers ought to be globally supreme.15 The postcolonial perspective critically approaches this concept and the policies that it created throughout the twentieth century as the products of a Eurocentric world order whereby international relations is filtered through a lens favouring western European world dominance. Additionally, Said’s orientalism also views American exceptionalism as the force behind the creation of an “other” class of society distinguished by race, ethnicity, or nationality as a way of promulgating a conception of inferiority for that “other” group. Horne argues that the creation of an “other” was present from the onset of the American century with the Japanese victory in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904 which reflected the first perceived challenge to the idea of global white supremacy and western hegemony.16 Despite its positive achievements, the American century saw an increase in the global presence of the United States motivated by its racialized national identity—one that would rarely be swayed by calls for ethnic plurality from other world actors and institutions.


The post-war era leading up to the 9/11 attacks was marked by policy shifts towards state securitization influenced by neo-racial perceptions of the growing threat of non-western state powers. The increasing racialization of these non-European “others” was reinforced through American exceptionalism concerned with “the export of American values [and] expansionist policies” intent on protecting the existing Eurocentric world order.17 By the end of the Cold War, American domestic politics had been caught up in a culture war whereby racial oppression was continually being criticized by ethno-racial intellectuals in the United States leading to a shift from a uniquely western European national identity towards a multicultural transnational identity marked by the reaffirmation of the ancestral origins of certain racial groups.18 The negative reaction to these identity shifts originated predominantly with neo-conservatives who extended the racist, nativist, and xenophobic characteristics of American exceptionalism to non-traditional religions cast as the antitheses to American values, the most notable of which was Islam.19


In light of the perception that the international system was beginning to shift away from Eurocentric dominance, postcolonial theorists view the western hegemonies’ intensification of state securitization as an offset intent on “reproduce[ing] protodemocratic institutions through the ‘Lockean heartland’ of liberal internationalism.”20 Notwithstanding, the efforts of these hegemonies to disseminate their values globally were underpinned by the nationalist ideas of racism, nativism, xenophobia, and Islamophobia. Racial formation theorists suggest that the intent behind the United States’ global conduct is an increasing awareness of a “general crisis of white supremacy” and efforts to maintain the sociocultural structure that associates ‘whiteness’ with power.21 This analysis suggests that despite the general acceptance of the neoliberal world order in international relations, the continued cooperation of western hegemonic powers with international institutions is dependent upon their perceived dominance within that framework. Consequently, threats to their superiority can result in a deviation from the theoretical neoliberal interpretation of international relations—such a departure occurred when 9/11 “catapulted issues of race [and] religion … to centre stage.”22


In the post-9/11 era, the conduct of western hegemonic powers drew out the ethnocentric motivations that had been influencing their domestic and foreign policies since the Cold War. In this manner, 9/11 acted as a catalyst to provide the United States, the United Kingdom, and the European Union with the public support necessary to expand their domestic and foreign racialized domination throughout the globe through broadened state securitization policies. For this analysis, state securitization is limited to racially constructed forms of security such as profiling and surveillance; however, in a general sense, Boyer describes securitization as “efforts taken by a community of states to protect against threats” that is best understood as a “social construct rooted in collective political discourse.”23 Peter Mandaville argues that in the post-9/11 era, the United States’ historical use of Islamophobia evolved into a transnational view of Muslims as a single entity and “preeminent threat to national security,” similarly to how “Communists” were perceived as a threat to the American way of life during the Cold War.24 Mandaville notes that this phenomenon, which he calls “Dual Securitization” differed slightly because Americans believed that Muslims—both those present in the US and abroad—represented a threat to American physical security and its Republican values.25 This contributed to the religious identification of Muslims with a “transnational religious identity” and an amplification of the existing racist, nativist, and xenophobic aspects of western nationalism.26 Moreover, the conception of the “other” embodied in Muslims may signal emerging cultural transnationalism encompassing Americans and other western Europeans as a western civilization engaging in long-term violent conflict with another civilization along the lines of Samuel Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations thesis.27 As the “postcolonial states … display[ed] substantial continuities … of empire … [with] forms of domination and subordination,” the oriental and postcolonial perspectives view Islamophobic nationalist behaviour as a continuity of the Eurocentric colonial and imperial activities which normalized practices of racial exclusion to reinforce the pursuit of global supremacy.28


The post-9/11 era’s need for dual securitization provided states with major public support to enact sweeping policy reforms that were racist, xenophobic and Islamophobic under the broad scope of maintaining state securitization. The policies that followed, known as “new popular racism” led to the intense racialization of brown bodies and the racialized construction of the “dangerous ‘other’ [embodied] in the Islamic terrorist.”29 The racialization of brown bodies, labelled “browning,” legally justified through counter-terrorism surveillance and profiling was put into place through legislation such as the British government’s Prevent Policy, the EU’s Common Positions and Framework Decision and the United States’ Patriot Act which targeted communities of colour through “systematic practices of racism under the guise of national security.”30 These policies created a racialized “terror-panic climate … result[ing] in the normalization of a more routine and intrusive surveillance system" that engulfed people of Middle Eastern, South Asian and Arabic skin colour.31 While the creation of a “deviant other” helped to promulgate the ideas of racism that accompanied the security state, the major media networks exacerbated this racism by airing “virtually no positive issues for Muslims … [with only] international conflicts, terrorism, and domestic security” being presented as the top issues associated with them.32 Public awareness of state securitization policies including racially profiled surveillance of Muslims was reflected in public opinion polls showing Americans’ favourability of Islam declining from 47% to 37% in the decade following 9/11.33 This contemporary institutionalized form of racism towards Muslims has been defined by some scholars as “xeno-racism” representing an intersection between racism directed at non-white immigrant communities who have been “displaced and dispossessed by globalisation … [and] xeno … [being] directed against foreigners irrespective of colour.”34 As Fekete argues, “under the guise of patriotism, a wholesale anti-Islamic racism has been unleashed” by western hegemonic states that have a historical pattern of using conceptions of race to exert their political power.35 This pattern of state racism only “strengthens Orientalist representations around ‘otherness,’ … [and] reinforces racial hierarchies.”36 Although the post-9/11 era enhanced state securitization was publicly justified as a necessary compromise to ensure public safety, it followed a historical pattern of policy decisions informed by nationalist sentiments of racism, nativism, xenophobia, and more recently Islamophobia under the banner of exceptionalism and eurocentrism.


Orientalists and racial formation theorists view the adoption of policies towards state securitization using historical forms of racism, nativism, xenophobia and more recently Islamophobia as a response to the growing global power struggle between Eurocentric and non-Eurocentric hegemonies in the post-9/11 era. Throughout the twentieth century, the gradual rise of non-western global powers in international relations delegitimized the conception of white world supremacy that had informed the actions of dominant western powers such as the United States and the United Kingdom. The postcolonial perspective views these reactions as symptoms of a global system moving away from the Eurocentric polarity that characterized colonialism and imperialism. Similarly, the formation of security structures informed by race for subjugation, profiling and the formation of an ethnic, physically distinct and inferior “other” allowed the United States to justify its vast state securitization policies that emerged after 9/11. Regardless of the proportion of state securitization that was realistically necessary versus that which stemmed from a racialized national ideology, the extent of these policies questions the validity of the neoliberal approach to international relations. As a result, the Lockean values upon which the United States and its governmental system elevates itself as exceptional are delegitimized. This trend in global politics begs the question, as the balance of power in the global system gradually includes more non-western countries, will formerly exclusive dominant western hegemonies continue to collaborate with the international system or devolve into a militant adversarial western civilization?


Notes


1. Mark A. Boyer et al., Global Politics: Applying Theory to a Complex World (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2019), 84.

2. Stephanie Lawson, International Relations: Short Introductions (Malden, MA: Polity Press, 2003), 60-61.

3. Boyer et al., Global Politics: Applying Theory to a Complex World, 34.

4. Lawson, International Relations: Short Introductions, 61.

5. Lawson, International Relations: Short Introductions, 61.

6. Michael Omi and Howard Winant, Racial Formation in the United States, ed. Howard Winant, 3rd ed. (New York, NY: Routledge, 2014), 109.

7. Gerald Horne, "Race from Power: U.S. Foreign Policy and the General Crisis of White Supremacy," Diplomatic History 23, no. 3 (1999): 441.

8. Kevin Narizny, "Anglo-American Primacy and the Global Spread of Democracy: An International Genealogy," World Politics 64, no. 2 (2012): 343.

9. Boyer et al., Global Politics: Applying Theory to a Complex World, 106.

10. Horne, "Race from Power: U.S. Foreign Policy and the General Crisis of White Supremacy," 437.

11. Horne, "Race from Power: U.S. Foreign Policy and the General Crisis of White Supremacy," 439.

12. Mark Ledwidge, "American power and the racial dimensions of U.S. foreign policy," International Politics 48, no. 2-3 (2011): 310-11.

13. Boyer et al., Global Politics: Applying Theory to a Complex World, 107.

14. Ledwidge, "American power and the racial dimensions of U.S. foreign policy," 310.

15. Horne, "Race from Power: U.S. Foreign Policy and the General Crisis of White Supremacy," 442.

16. Horne, "Race from Power: U.S. Foreign Policy and the General Crisis of White Supremacy," 442.

17. Ledwidge, "American power and the racial dimensions of U.S. foreign policy," 313.

18. Ledwidge, "American power and the racial dimensions of U.S. foreign policy," 312-13.

19. Ledwidge, "American power and the racial dimensions of U.S. foreign policy," 313.

20. Narizny, "Anglo-American Primacy and the Global Spread of Democracy: An International Genealogy," 365.

21. Horne, "Race from Power: U.S. Foreign Policy and the General Crisis of White Supremacy," 461.

22. Ledwidge, "American power and the racial dimensions of U.S. foreign policy," 313.

23. Boyer et al., Global Politics: Applying Theory to a Complex World, 230-31.

24. Peter Mandaville, "Islam and Exceptionalism in American Political Discourse," PS, Political Science & Politics 46, no. 2 (2013): 235-36.

25. Mandaville, "Islam and Exceptionalism in American Political Discourse," 235-36.

26. Mandaville, "Islam and Exceptionalism in American Political Discourse," 237.

27. Boyer et al., Global Politics: Applying Theory to a Complex World, 146-47.

28. Howard Winant, "Race and Racism: Towards a Global Future," Ethnic and Racial Studies 29, no. 5 (2006): 987.

29. Tina Patel, "Surveillance, Suspicion and Stigma: Brown Bodies in a Terror-Panic Climate," Surveillance & Society 10, no. 3/4 (2012): 218.

30. Liz Fekete, "Anti-Muslim Racism and the European Security State," Race & Class 46, no. 1 (2004): 5; Patel, "Surveillance, Suspicion and Stigma: Brown Bodies in a Terror-Panic Climate," 218; Katy Sian, "Countering Racism in Counter-Terrorism and Surveillance Discourse Comment," Palgrave Communications 3, no. 1 (2017): 2.

31. Patel, "Surveillance, Suspicion and Stigma: Brown Bodies in a Terror-Panic Climate," 216.

32. Christine Ogan et al., "The Rise of Anti-Muslim Prejudice: Media and Islamophobia in Europe and the United States," International Communication Gazette 76, no. 1 (2014): 32.

33. Ogan et al., "The Rise of Anti-Muslim Prejudice: Media and Islamophobia in Europe and the United States," 28.

34. Fekete, "Anti-Muslim Racism and the European Security State," 4.

35. Fekete, "Anti-Muslim Racism and the European Security State."

36. Sian, "Countering Racism in Counter-Terrorism and Surveillance Discourse Comment," 2.


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