Introduction: Terrorism and the State

On 11 September 2001, the United States of America awoke to horrifying images of airplanes ?ying into the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers. Within a span of forty-five minutes, the Twin Towers were reduced to rubble, killing 2752 people (www.cnn.com, 29 October 2003), and the United States was set on a path by George W. Bush’s Administration to defend itself from the threat of terror. On 20 September 2001, President Bush addressed a joint session of Congress and delivered a speech that began with these words:

Tonight we are a country awakened to danger and called to defend freedom. Our grief has turned to anger, and anger to resolution. Whether we bring our enemies to justice, or bring justice to our enemies, justice will be done…On September the 11th, enemies of freedom committed an act of war against our country. Americans have known wars-but for the past 136 years, they have been wars on foreign soil, except for one Sunday in 1941. Americans have known the casualties of war-but not at the center of a great city on a peaceful morning…(Bush, 2001: 1140)

As the speech progressed, President Bush made a comparison which spoke to the “true” nature of the way the state1 views terrorism. In the following segment of the speech, Bush associated Al Qaeda with the mafia, intensifying the criminalization of terrorism in political responses:

Al Qaeda is to terror what the mafia is to crime. But its goal is not making money; its goal is remaking the world-Americans are asking, why do they hate us? They hate what we see right here in this chamber-a democratically elected government… (Bush, 2001: 1141)

By invoking a reference to the mafia, and by suggesting that there exists an analogy between crime and terror, Bush created a distinction between the internal horrors of extreme capitalism-as represented by mafia crime-and the external horror of terrorism-as represented by outside forces attacking the state and its citizenry. Once this dichotomy was articulated, Bush was able to present and represent (re-present) the state’s perception of terrorism as something outside the norms of state practices and a “true” threat to the welfare of the state, its citizens, and the entire “civilized” world. Bush continued the speech and classi?ed the state’s perception of terrorism while laying a framework for the “civilized” world to act.

We are not deceived by their pretenses to piety. We have seen their kind before. They are the heirs of all the murderous ideologies of the 20th century…Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists…But the only way to defeat terrorism as a threat to our way of life is to stop it, eliminate it, and destroy it where it grows…This is not, however, just America’s fight. And what is at stake is not just America’s freedom. This is the world’s fight. This is civilization’s fight…Terror, unanswered, can not only bring down buildings, it can threaten the stability of legitimate governments. And you know what-we’re not going to allow it…I ask you to uphold the values of America, and remember why so many have come here. We are in a fight for our principles, and our first responsibility is to live by them…Tonight, we face new and sudden national challenges…this country will define our times, not be defined by them. As long as the United States of America is determined and strong, this will not be an age of terror; this will be an age of liberty, here and across the world…Freedom and fear are at war. The advance of human freedom-the great achievement of our time, and the great hope of every time-now depends on us. (Bush, 2001: 1142-4, emphasis added)

Within the course of the forty-one minute address, George W. Bush laid claim to legitimizing historical narratives and imaginations of the United States and structured the discourse regarding the attacks within the realm of national security.2 In framing the attacks in the realm of national security, President Bush also situated the September 11th attacks within a discourse that focused on the moral authority of the “civilized” world in general, and America specifically.

President Bush continued to set the terms and parameters for future discussions and debates on issues regarding terrorism, national security, and international diplomacy as exemplified in his statement, “either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists…From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime.” The use of the “with us, against us” set in motion a precise language to control the mechanisms for addressing terrorism and the attacks.

The emergence of national security discourse in regards to terrorism as a textual field, fortified by Bush’s address, uses loaded vocabulary, metaphors, synecdoche, categories, and methods that delimit options and possibilities for discussion. The textual field of U.S. national security discourse frames terrorism as the main threat to the nation’s security. Framing terrorism as a threat to national security produces and legitimizes power relations that act as a field of statecraft in which security becomes a commodity3 within the control of the state. Here, U.S. national security discourse is made a field where its objectives, once articulated, are consistently and purposefully maintained through time and space. Such discursive activity provides a site for power brokers to enhance and fortify the security state4 and appropriate and control specific events, topics, ideological positions, and the human body as objects of national security.5 Parallel to how Foucault described “madness,” terrorism

is constituted by all that was said in all statements that named it, divided it up, described it, explained it, traced its development, indicated its various correlations, judged it, and possibly gave it speech by articulating in its name, discourses that were to be taken as its own. (Foucault, 1972: 32)

The concept of terrorism did not enter the lexicon of the United States until President Richard M. Nixon’s administration. The first formal recognition of terrorism as a category of national security occurred on 25 September 1972, with the establishment of a cabinet committee to combat terrorism. It was not until the Iran hostage crisis, however, that the United States was “reawakened” to the potentiality6 of terrorism in the seizure and detention of fifty-three U.S. citizens during the administration of President James (Jimmy) E. Carter.

National security discourse, as a practice of statecraft, objectifies terrorism. As an object, terrorism is treated within a specific discourse that ensures that the state is made all encompassing, visible, and respected (Said, 1997). National security discourse constitutes, and is representative of, the construction of a privileged space where the state makes terrorism meaningful and terrifying at the same time. Terrorism is made meaningful in a process that legitimizes relations of power and sets up statist objectives-maintenance of secured borders, economies, and peoples. These statist objectives are solidified in stressing the terrifying aspect of terrorism as a direct assault against the authority of the state. In solidifying statist objectives, power is used as a practice that constitutes, legitimizes, produces and re-produces a host of knowledges and practices to ensure that certain modes of responses to terrorism are pre-conditioned and employed (Der Derian and Shapiro, 1989).

It is not the intent of this text to be a normative discussion on terrorism. Rather, the purpose of the text is to examine how terrorism is instrumentalized and appropriated as part of the national security apparatus, and how discourse is used to conceptualize, constitute, and produce understandings of terrorism. More specifically, I am interested in how the concept of security, once articulated, influences and constitutes a discursive site that conditions responses to terrorism and is representative of the mobilization of power. The discursive site creates a mechanism for the state to go beyond the actual violence of terrorism and use that violence to strengthen and enhance the state. This is not to say that acts of terrorism are not real and horrible acts that cause immense suffering and trauma to individuals. This is not the aspect or discussion of terror upon which this text focuses. The goal of this text is to interrogate the state’s conception of terrorism and reveal what interests and powers converge in the maintenance of the state. In doing so, this text also hopes to call attention to the fact that the concept of terrorism is transformed into a tool used, appropriated, and manipulated by the security state. Terrorism as a tool is used to articulate a story of the state that emphasizes state legitimacy in the deployment of violence.7 National security discourse is the instrument through which the state articulates this story.

Within the security state, terrorists can no longer justify violence because the state now utilizes violence to achieve its own goals. In examining state’s conception of terrorism, the following questions arise: how is the concept of terrorism mediated by actions and language? And, how is that mediation interpreted through discourse and put to pragmatic political uses of statecraft? As Klien, in George (1994), has noted, discourse

is not a way of learning ‘about’ something out there in the ‘real world’; it is rather a way of producing that something as real, as identifiable, classifiable, knowable, and therefore, meaningful. Discourse creates the conditions of knowing. (George, 1994: 30)

In the case of terrorism, state-mediated discourse creates the conditions in which terrorism comes to be “knowable.” Stated-mediated discourse on terrorism is visible in foreign policies produced by the last four presidential administrations (Carter, Reagan, Bush, and Clinton) as well as the current George W. Bush administration. A review of these policies suggests that terrorism was seen as a challenge to the state, but also used as a source for statecraft. U.S. responses to terrorism privilege statist violence while vilifying other forms of violence. This vilification of terrorist violence is evidenced in Bush’s 20 September 2001, address:

Our nation-this generation-will lift a dark threat of violence from our people and our future. We will rally the world to this cause by our efforts, by our courage. We will not tire, we will not falter, and we will not fail…I will not forget this wound to our country or those who inflicted it. I will not yield; I will not rest; I will not relent in waging this struggle for freedom and security for the American people. Freedom and fear, justice and cruelty, have
always been at war… (Bush, 2001: 1143)

In this privileged space, the state, world order, security issues, and military engagements are managed in, and through, a specific discourse-identified by tone, language, vocabulary, and symbolic images-produced by a specific historical,
socio-political, cultural, racial, religious, and geographical context:

we know that God is not neutral between them. Fellow citizens, we’ll meet violence with patient justice-assured of the rightness of our cause and con?dent of the victories to come. In all that lies before us, may God grant us wisdom, and may He watch over the United States of America. (Bush, 2001: 1144)

Within this discursive space, terrorism-both the act and the concept-is consistently managed by the state. It is politicized and made instrumental even while eliding and obscuring important determining contexts. This discursive space is also an ideological space that refigures and represents terrorism in ways that affirm a righteous sense of national security. Security becomes a prime directive and focal imperative for the state. This text examines how national security discourse is constructed in a manner that conditions counter-terrorism policies by framing terrorism in a specific light under which terrorism is transformed into an instrument that reaffirms the state.

National security discourse frames an idealized, highly rhetorical, and ideological visualization of how Americans should view terrorism. Framing the view of terrorism is accomplished through the instrumentalization of five components: the act, the actor, definitional variations, application of meaning, and the use of moral authority.8 These five variable components are materialized through language, text, images, sound bytes, physical force, surveillance mechanisms, control of communication channels, and diplomatic pressure. Mechanisms of social and political control work in conjunction with the employment and engagement of a specific knowledge structure that is then used by the power structure, functionaries, and invested agents to maintain and secure state legitimacy.

As terrorism is made to conform to discourse’s “reality,” it moves towards notions of objectivity in the state’s attempt to make objective that which is not. Here, Michael Shapiro’s concept of imaginative enactments shows how the meanings produced are “not simply acts of pure, disembodied consciousness; they are historically developed practices that reside in the very style in which statements are made, of the grammatical, rhetorical, and narrative structures” (1988: 7).

Given this notion of discourse as a cultivated practice, it is useful to explore how those who control the tools of knowledge production regiment discourse’s context, and how these tools are utilized to create the constitutive force of discourse. National security discourse manages the ways in which ideas are constituted, articulated, and operationalized in the production and re-production of security.

In light of the production of security, at the site of politics, terrorism is engaged as a fully imagined hazard constructed by the state. Given the fully imagined hazards of threats to security, the question to ask is how securityism9 can institutionalize its control and management of collective memory and imagination. Terrorism’s threat is elevated in the mind of the collective community and managed as a decisive threat to the nation’s security. National security discourse is used to manage terrorism both as an act and as a concept as it explores and frames the ways in which terrorism is constituted, actualized, and operationalized as an object of security.

This text demonstrates how the state utilizes discourse to administer the reality of the specific subject of terrorism. It explores how the state controls the understanding and context of the subject of terrorism and its meaning by de?ning the terms of engagement. By identifying and analyzing the terms of engagement, the text reveals how terrorism is made intelligible to the general citizenry, and how in this process discursive practices objectify terrorism as a management site for the state.

Specifically, the first chapter examines the notion of security within the state and its relation to national interests. National security is made an instrument to secure the state against threats. More importantly, in the construction of terrorism as a hazard/danger/threat, the state makes terrorism relevant to the security of the state and its citizenry. In this way, security, as threatened by terrorism, is made an imagined state of relevance.10 The first chapter explores this idea to show how terrorism is constructed in a specific way that is relevant to the security, maintenance, and survival of the state. As terrorism is maintained as being relevant, the idea of security for the state establishes an environment that controls ideas and demarcates the boundaries of discourse. In this sense the identification of the threat and survival of the state are mutually dependent trajectories. The state interest becomes national interest-state before nation, rather than the perceived construct of “nation-state”-which in turn is translated into a war against terror. The second and third chapters review presidential rhetoric regarding U.S. responses to terrorism. The second chapter starts with a review of President Richard M. Nixon as he set the foundation for U.S. policy responses to terrorism. President Nixon framed terrorists as criminals who employed indiscriminate violence and created an environment in which punishment, not understanding, became the response to terrorism. Framing terrorists as criminals created an environment that suspended any possible justifications for terrorism and provided U.S. presidents with the ability to utilize immediate retaliation as one of the primary responses to terrorism. In addition, President Nixon laid the framework for the use of future presidential administrations by establishing the foreign policy responses of no-concessions for hostage takers, no negotiations with terrorists, and no escape from justice by bringing perpetrators to face punishment. Finally, in the language employed by President Nixon, the “civilized” and “moral” world was set in stark opposition to terrorism-a rhetoric employed by all subsequent presidents, most notably in the current speeches of President George W. Bush. This chapter also reviews how Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald W. Reagan solidified the rhetoric and discourse surrounding terrorism.

The third chapter continues the analysis of presidential rhetoric in the presidencies of the post-cold war era. The responses of Presidents George H. W. Bush, William J. Clinton, and George W. Bush are analyzed. Although the administration of President George W. Bush is ongoing, the rhetoric is shrouded in the post-September 11, 2001 “war on terrorism” and reveals that the state manipulates, appropriates, and manages terrorism through a national security discourse. This chapter will examine the Bush Doctrine as it reveals how national security discourse maintained thirty years of presidential rhetoric on terrorism. To examine fully six years of absolute, all-encompassing rhetoric and discourse would do a isservice to the severity and importance of President George W. Bush’s “war on terrorism” rhetoric. In addition, an analysis of President George W. Bush’s administration is best left for another full-length project.

The fourth chapter starts with a discussion of the authority and legitimacy of the state and how the state sets a framework to manage the threat of terrorism. The state exercises its power through the regulation and management of facts and reality as integral elements of its legitimacy. National security discourse frames the political and social life of the state in terms of exclusion and inclusion, “us” versus “them”-a classification of good and evil. In this dynamic, terrorism is based on a theocratic understanding that reifies the practices of inclusion and exclusion. According to Connolly, in Der Derian and Shapiro (1989):

the invention of terrorism to characterize non-state violence by those closed out of the system of states runs roughly parallel to the Christian definitions of polytheism, idolatry and sacrifice in the sixteenth century, for both justify ruthlessness against the other by concealing points of similarity between the other and itself, and both deploy this ruthlessness (or its rhetoric) to ward off signs that the system has begun to compromise its own preconditions of stability. Polytheism becomes a monstrous evil because Christianity insists upon the true universality of monotheism in a world in which it is not universal in actuality. Terrorism becomes a monstrous evil-an evil more monstrous than state-centered violence-because it threatens to expose self-subverting characteristics in the global system unless it itself is defined to be the monstrous source of this subversion. (Der Derian and Shapiro, 1989: 334-35)

An exploration of this “us” versus “them” dichotomy leads to a discussion of the five components of terrorism by unpacking how the act (terrorism) and actor (terrorist) help frame the practice of national security discourse. The state views terrorism as a criminal, “evil” act that threatens the nation’s security. Terrorism is made real while the meaning behind it is “attenuated perforce by our power to represent it for our purposes” (Said, 1997: 69). The actor (terrorist) becomes the key element as they utilize the violence in the act of terrorism to define “the possible measure of justified existence and necessary malice” (Rabinow, 1998: 48).

The fifth chapter investigates the other three components of terrorism: definitional variations, application of meaning, and the employment of moral authority. The fifth chapter examines how these three concepts work to create an understanding of the “us” in “us” versus “them” and focuses ultimately on how discourse functions to fix meanings of terrorism.

The existence of multiple definitions to describe terrorism by the state indicates the complexity of the issues in identifying the act and the actor of terrorism and highlights the state’s deliberate efforts to control definitions of terrorism by excluding certain interactions and characteristics in favor of others. definitional variations emphasize the fact that terrorism is a highly contested phenomenon. The adage “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” speaks to the complexity of terrorism when interpreted within socio-political and historical contexts. The state has difficulty in the application of definitions because, as Wieviorka (1988) suggests, terrorism is:

possessed of a dual specificity: on the one hand, it necessarily associates ideology with practice, and its self-image with the bearing of arms; on the other, it is perpetrated by groups which are always relatively external to the movement of which it is an inverted image. (Wieviorka, 1988: 10)

This dual specificity of terrorism-the association with ideology and its enactment by external groups-encourages the state to keep definitions of terrorism flexible and malleable. The ideology and externality of terrorism makes it unpredictable and volatile for the state which allows multiple definitions to create a space that moves according to terrorism’s fluidity. This fluidity of action and meaning fosters the state’s ability to respond and control a variety of events as it makes them part of the terrorism motif. In the Foucauldian sense (1978 and 1979), it is through the existence of definitional variations that terrorism never poses a final legible face for the citizenry to decipher.11</sup Definitional variations overwhelm the multifaceted bodies that resort to violence for political reasons. The multiple faces as symbolic markers become illegible to the citizenry, replaced by the rhetoric of terror.

National security discourse utilizes a system of interpretation, techniques, and methods to create a definition and apply a meaning to terrorism that places it into a security context. It is in this integration that terrorism provides meaning for national security. As stated by Krause and Williams, security is meaningless in itself; for there to be meaning, "security presupposes something to be secured" (1997: x). Thus, security is produced as a justi?cation for the existence of the state.

The state constantly appropriates and re-appropriates, interprets and re-interprets the forms and artifacts of terrorism in order to generate meaning and create a need for the continued use of a new discourse to confront and combat terrorism. The state is always in the process of managing issues to ensure its survival. Terrorism is thus made an object for the state’s production. The attachment of meanings sustains relationships of domination by controlling the referential domain. Discourse serves its "ideological role by explicitly referring to one thing and implicitly referring to another, by entangling these multiple referents in a way which serves to sustain domination" (Thompson, 1984: 200).

The dominant discourse on terrorism is a discourse that holds the state as the supreme power, as it delimits the field through which one can address terrorism. Terrorism is constructed as a threat to the state, a threat to its citizens, a threat to the economic foundations of global capital, and a threat to the state’s identity as a "moral" and legitimate entity.

The articulation of a moral threat allows security to embed itself into the mindset of the citizenry where terrorism is shown as an imminent, all encompassing threat. This threat, articulated as a terror against "us," is based on what "we" stand for and who "we" are as a political entity. Moral authority allows for the dominant discourses of security to be readily accepted by citizens of the state.

Examination of the act, the actor, definitional variations, application of meaning, and the use of moral authority, in the fourth and fifth chapters allows for an exploration of the main epistemological framework for the text in the sixth chapter. The sixth chapter presents discourse as something more than just text and speech. Discourse is a tool through which language, knowledge, and power intersect as part of the discursive practices that legitimize the state. Ideas set forth by Saussure, Foucault, Derrida, and Shapiro are examined to provide a framework for this text’s claim of the state’s appropriation of the act and function of terrorism. The main thrust of this chapter is to explore how language-enhanced by images-becomes the device that contextualizes terrorism’s five components while articulating a field for the state to

Discourse works in and through language to shape and mold the context in which words and meanings are applied, constructed, and constituted. Language provides a foundation, a constituted "truth," through which power and knowledge can interact and exercise their authority. Discourses are formations with distinctive characteristics consisting of practices and institutions that produce knowledge claims that the system of power finds useful (Foucault, 1979). A specific discourse serves a function: it brings objects into being by identifying them, delimiting their field, and specifying them (Foucault, 1972: 41).

National security discourse employs language that influences and implicates meanings and values. The state, through national security discourse, constructs and constitutes the body of knowledge surrounding national security and terrorism. Language is at the heart of any discourse and provides the tools through which meanings and values are applied to words in the construction of ideas and practices. This illustrates how language, knowledge, and power, along with the management of the five components-the act, the actor, definitional variations, application of meaning, and use of moral authority-take terrorism into security’s fold through a specific, highly controlled "regime of truth." This "regime of truth" in the Foucauldian theory, is one of a fabricated reality based partly on the workings and interests of those who constitute and articulate the "truth".

The concluding chapter poses the question, "so what now?" This section addresses the question of whether, given the state’s appropriation and manipulation of terrorism, there can be a tool through which terrorism is discussed and presented in a different light.

In addressing national security as a constituted discourse one is able to reveal how meanings are applied to terrorism as a subject, and how terrorism is developed as an object that can be manipulated. More importantly, the discourse of national security exposes how the subject/object is produced through a regulative process that constructs the object along specific modes of thought. In this construction, discursive modes develop environments where resources are deployed, commodities exchanged, and specific entities are privileged while other are marginalized.

In a discursive approach it is important to note the role the researcher plays in the development of ideas and criticism. Jürgen Habermas (1974) points to the fact that all researchers are subject to their own interests and knowledge, which shape their research, and that discursive approaches make researchers aware of how they are analyzing and interpreting the objects. In critical work, the acknowledgement of the self-reflective process provides the researcher an effective tool to investigate, define, and evaluate the object. In addition, acknowledgement of the self-reflective process in the discursive approach allows the researcher to rupture the constraints of self-interest and pre-established notions.

It is on this assumption that language needs to be studied with an understanding that issues are the result of an integration of a variety of forces and players. National security discourse shows "historically how effects of truth are produced in discourses which in themselves are neither true nor false" (Foucault, 1984: 88), and allows a thorough investigation into the object and overturns commonly accepted understandings.

The process of applying meaning is loaded with sets of preconceived notions. As a result, an object is an entity that has a variety of layers and presupposes an inherent multiplicity. Thus, the Nietzschean perspective that "the question ‘what is that?’ is an imposition of meaning from other viewpoint" (Nietzsche in Taylor, 1986: 204) has immense usefulness in the understanding of a field of multiplicity. Discursive approaches are able to build on this basic notion by examining the ways in which meaning and language are used to constitute an object that is not fixed but comprised of multiple layers.

Language is highly social, meaningful, and consistently entrenched in a social context that incorporates experiences and histories. In the existence of power relations, all interaction is subject to values and norms. Discourse is synchronic and diachronic in that it is connected to other events that occur concurrently or have historical relevance. This synchronic and diachronic nature is enacted in the intertextuality of discourse (Der Derian and Shapiro, 1989). Finally, given power relations and the intertextuality of national security discourse, multiple interpretations are possible as they are connected to the location and understanding of individual participants-speaker, listener, and viewer. Interpretations are loaded with the values brought to bear by the individual as they are a reflection of the individual’s beliefs and knowledge structures.

Based on this, there are always multiple interpretations, and thus, it is in the production of language and knowledge that a specific discourse is created to form the basis of a discussion of a particular issue. Discourse in the simplest term is
language in use as a form of social practice, a social process that is conditioned by other parts of society and constituted by what Foucault terms orders of discourse-interdependent social networks. Inherent within this view of discourse is the dialectic relation of structure/event, whereby discourse is shaped by structures, but also contributes to the shaping and re-shaping, the producing and re-producing of those structures.

Borrowing from Foucault (1995), it is important to note that security is not an objective fact which remains the same in all historical periods and means the same in all cultures. It is only within a definite discursive formation that the object-security-can appear at all as a meaningful or intelligible construct. It is only after a certain definition of "security" is put into practice that the appropriate subject-terrorists as current state knowledge defines them-can appear.

The framework of language, knowledge, and power is able to construct the reality of terrorism by producing meaning and legitimizing relations of power (Der Derian and Shapiro, 1989). Within these practices a host of knowledges are constituted, legitimized, produced and re-produced within the exercise of power to ensure that certain modes of responses are pre-conditioned and employed.

Discursive use of language to control and manipulate aspects of terrorism is based on "the prevailing construction of political discourse, the ways of putting controversy over power and authority into language, which is monopolized by a
narrow notion of what is considered the political" (Shapiro, 1998: 17). It is through discourse that the world is made knowable.

Terrorism is constructed and re-constructed within specific uses of language. The language of security and threat is used to ensure that the meanings assigned to terrorism fall within the domain of national security discourse-meanings that allow the continued domination of discourse in how terrorism is understood, dealt with, and responded to. In this sense, language is "the mobilization of meaning in order to sustain relations of domination [and] commonly involves […] a splitting of the referential domain" (Thompson, 1984: 200).

As presented here, the ability of national security discourse to suggest how reality and truth are constituted permits an in-depth review of how the object-security and terrorism-has been consistently manipulated and controlled as a subject of the state. In order to enhance this review, this text also employs the Foucauldian concept of problematization. Foucault’s problematization informs the researcher to ask questions about a given idea and how that idea is formed by, and relates to, its surroundings. According to Foucault, problematization

does not mean representation of a pre-existing object, nor the creation by discourse of an object that does not exist. It is the totality of discursive and non-discursive practices that introduces something into the play of true and false and constitutes it as an object for thought (whether in the form of moral reflection, scientific knowledge, political analysis, etc.).

Problematization transforms the difficulties and obstacles of a practice into a general problem for which one proposes diverse political solutions. It is problematization that responds to these difficulties, but by doing something quite other than expressing them or manifesting them: in connection with them it develops the conditions in which responsible responses can be given; it defines the elements that will constitute what the different solutions attempt to respond to. (Foucault, in Soguk, 1999: 16-17)

Terrorists are made objects of problematization in the ways they are constructed within the “us” and “them” dichotomy. In national security discourse, terrorism problematizations are constructed and constituted as something knowable, which in turn facilitates the use of terrorism to secure the state. Terrorism in the realm of national security becomes a normalized site of engagement for the security state. The state is privileged with extraordinary access to discursive fields and forums. It is in part the mechanisms of these relations and types of access and control over discursive fields that empower the state vis-à-vis the discursive battles over meaning and identity of terrorism.

The site of engagement utilizes terrorism problematizations in practices of statecraft as it “incites a popular and institutional discourse” on terrorists; “inscribe[s] and represent[s]” terrorism as an issue for the security state’s legitimacy; and “formulates and channels imaginable statist solutions” to the problem of terrorism (Soguk, 1999: 17). Within this site of engagement, this text poses significant questions for each of the five components in the context of uncovering the processes of problematizations. The goal of this text is to create a window into the ways in which terrorism is instrumentalized by the state, through a specialized national security discourse, as the state discusses, conceptualizes, constitutes, and produces meanings of terrorism. In doing this, this text hopes to call forth a new way of understanding the state’s role in terrorism’s constitutive nature.


  1. This text uses the term “state” to discuss the effects of statecraft. These effects are often perceived by the citizenry as a symbol of an actual entity. Thus, the term is used loosely to describe a perceived entity that continually struggles to find its own identity and relevance in an increasingly global and transversal world.
  2. This text uses the term “national security” to describe values held by a government that focuses on securing the citizenry from threat, either real or imagined. These values result in actions that strengthen the state in the face of a threat and involves the creation of internal and external polices. It is imperative to note that the securing of the state and its citizenry becomes the highest priority and that sometimes policies instituted may conflict with individual rights purported to be protected by the state.
  3. Commodity is used here in the Marxian (1976) sense that holds an object as the product of human, creative labor. I substitute the state for human labor and show that state control and power to create and produce ideas are manifested in terrorism as a commodity. In addition, I follow Marxian logic and believe that statist production over the meanings and effects of terrorism are put in relation to other objects of state control-objects that are circulated in the
    imagination of the state and its citizenry.
  4. This text uses the term “security state” to describe a specific entity that developed after the Second World War that holds the security of its citizenry, borders, and economies as the main goal of governance. This priority is articulated in the concept of “national security” (see footnote 2) that sets forth an idea of the “other” which poses threats to the state survival. The construction of security helps invigorate a national identity that is formed in reference to the “other.” In this way, the state is the manager and enforcer of security.
  5. The language of appropriation, management, and control is used in this text specifically for the reason that the state’s appropriation of terrorism is done in the image of the state itself being privileged in its identity.
  6. Here I use the term “potentiality” to refer to the threat that terrorism has to the safety and security of the state. The potential is not only in the threat of violence but also in the actualization of violence.
  7. Once a story of the state is created, ideas, actions, and events are consistently incorporated into the corpus of the state and its story. The story is maintained through the constant investment by those in power to maintain the authority and legitimacy of the state-the security of the state. In this constant investment, ideas, actions, and events are cast within a specific contextualized frame where power and interests converge.
  8. These variables will be explicated in Chapters 4 and 5. However, a brief explanation is useful at this moment: the act is terrorism as the actual event; the actor is the terrorist; definitional variations will be addressed to reveal that there is no one overriding definition and that the variations are used to describe disparate events under the rubric of terrorism; application of meaning refers to the way in which statist meanings are applied to terrorism; and moral authority refers to the way in which the application of meaning a specific moral imperative is attached to terrorism which allows the state to manipulate, appropriate, and control the violence of terrorism.
  9. The notion of securityism is explored here as an idea that national security discourse works in a precise practice that creates an environment through which whatever idea is constituted goes unquestioned, or at least creates an environment in which individuals are unable (or afraid) to challenge the constituted idea. Put in another way, securityism is the concept created by the practice of discourse through which an unquestioned reliance on security in statecraft exists. Beyond this reliance, securityism includes people being unable to challenge security-for-security’s-sake for fear of being labeled anti-security focused or at worst, anti-patriotic.
  10. This idea will be fully explicated in the first chapter and will show how terrorism is made relevant to state survival, not a challenge to its survival. In this sense, terrorism is one of many issues that is made relevant to the state and used as a mechanism to strengthen the idea of the state. In short, imagined states of relevance reveal the practice of the state (power regime) to constitute, condition, and implement specific issues as relevant to its survival. Once constructed, an issue’s relevance is consistently articulated and re-articulated for the consumption of the citizenry. The imagining of a specific issue interprets and casts that issue into framework that is useful to the state and constructs the issue’s importance. In this way, the state focuses on the process of giving credibility, viability, and power to the issue. As it does this, the state entity enacts its power to produces and re-produces an issue as relevant/important to its authority and legitimacy. Once an issue’s relevance is imagined and created, the state produces and re-produces, constructs and constitutes a gaze that supports and enhances the state by encouraging the articulation of precise practices.
  11. What is interesting here is that even though definitional variations of terrorism never poses a final legible face for the citizenry to decipher, they also at the same time make a part of terrorism strategically visible for the consumption of the citizenry. In this partial/strategic expression of terrorism, the state ensures that its practices take on the aura of legitimacy and authority. Thus, the practices of statecraft continue the project of the state.

Republished by Kajian Internasional Strategis


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