- Anti-Terrorism: Security and Insecurity after 9/11
Much ink has been spilled on the topics of security and terrorism since 9/11 and many an academic career has been perversely bolstered by the attacks (mine included). Nonetheless, few volumes tackle the range of issues addressed by Sandra Rollings-Magnusson’s edited volume Anti-Terrorism: Security and Insecurity after 9/11. And even fewer deeply and critically question the achievements of Canada’s “new security regime” or suggest a dramatic governance rollback involving the repeal of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA), the redirection of budget allocations, and the reinstatement of terrorism as requiring largely a criminal law response rather than an act of war. This collection houses an unabashed series of critiques from the Left, yet is diverse rather than dogmatic, on the whole well-researched and grounded in contemporary literature on the subject.
The opening chapter by Alexandra Dobrowolsky, Sandra Rollings-Magnusson, and Marc G. Doucet very nicely situates the Canadian context, as well as the orientation of many of the contributors, who have been influenced by the human security debates of the 1990s that sought to reframe security as threats to individuals rather than to states, by critical security studies, and most particularly by the concept of securitization.
A number of common themes emerge. Rather than producing greater security for Canadians, many of the policy initiatives and legal responses have produced greater insecurity—especially for targeted populations subject to levels of ethnic or religious profiling—the actual empirical substance of which might have been better documented (anecdotal information, however alarming, does not suffice). Contributors both assume and unevenly illustrate the “collateral damage” done to human rights and the rule of law in the name of counterterrorism and enhanced security. Much liberty has been sacrificed on the altar of security, but only for some. Contrary to the withering of the domestic sovereignty predicted by globalization gurus, 9/11 has ushered in an era of state strengthening and governance technologies that rely on extraordinary coercive power.
As with most edited collections, some chapters are stronger than others and, for readers of this journal, have more direct policy relevance. Greg McElligott’s examination of the “coercive tendencies within state service work” is more concerned about the front-line impact of neoconservatism and, aside from his discussion of border security, fits uneasily in this work. Kevin Walby and Sean P. Hier’s analysis of how proof-of-status surveillance technologies lead inevitably to the securitization of citizenship and Lori Wilkinson’s critique of immigration policy address the post-9/11 arc of security governance more directly and with greater precision. Gary Teeple’s chapter purports to theorize terrorism and quite properly addresses the deficiencies in defining what is essentially a tactic, either in terms of law or policy, that has been subject to much historical and contemporary manipulation. Yet his solution, to suggest that real terror inheres in market capitalism and the liberal democratic state that overseas and regulates it, seems both crude and overbroad, involving the same conceptual stretching he himself decries. Clearly the global spread [End Page 287] of capital and the rise of the modern bureaucratic state were not non-violent affairs, as both Marx and Foucault remind us, but creating analytically broad categories that seek to explain everything have little analytical value. For all the difficulties the contributors have with the term terrorism, much like the label communism in the Cold War, it continues to get used and abused by policy-makers, politicians, the judiciary, the media, and scholars alike. There is no internationally agreed upon convention, but one can perhaps aim for a de minimus consensus that terrorism involves the indiscriminate use of violence by substate actors designed to instill fear for a public or political purpose rather than for private gain. Yes, states do engage in violence designed to instill fear, but to call it terrorism makes the concept subject to more rancorous debate and enlarges it past any utility.
Christine Yalda and Jonathan White take a less monolithic...