When Police Treat Protesters Like Insurgents, Sending In Troops Seems LogicalRoundup
tags: policing, militarization
Stuart Schrader is the author of Badges Without Borders: How Global Counterinsurgency Transformed American Policing.
On Monday, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) urged the deployment of the Army to support “overwhelmed” local law enforcement in countering “anarchy, rioting, and looting” supposedly committed by “Antifa terrorists.” Defense Secretary Mark Esper called the country’s streets “the battlespace,” two days after the Minnesota Department of Public Safety issued plans to confront a “sophisticated network of urban warfare.”
Then, in the wee hours of Tuesday morning, huge military cargo planes ferried military police and their materiel from bases like Fort Bragg in North Carolina to Andrews Air Force Base, just outside Washington. President Trump has seemed unsure about whether to use his authority to call up military units across the United States, preferring to bluster. But within the District, Trump has the ability to mobilize troops — and Wednesday night, federalized National Guard troops from Utah and New Jersey were on the front lines of some protests. Meanwhile, the governors of at least 28 states activated their own Guard forces.
As protests of police violence against black Americans roll across the country, we are witnessing the convergence of three trends in response: new urban-warfare theories developed by military strategists; the recent practice of outfitting police with the most intimidating and sophisticated warfighting gear possible; and an even longer trend among police of treating demonstrations and protests as tantamount to revolution. This militarization of the police has contributed to the very conditions that have led to the protests — which then create a feedback loop, as they feed a desire among figures like Cotton and Trump for the actual military to step in.
In other words, counterinsurgency breeds insurgency.
Social scientists have long considered cities engines of economic growth, cultural pluralism, political liberalism and technological innovation. Marxists view cities as arenas of class contention, whose future is up for grabs. But contemporary military theorists have grimly condemned ever-expanding cities as malfunctioning machines. A counterinsurgency expert who has advised the U.S. Army, the federal government and NATO, David Kilcullen, has suggested that cities are becoming “simply unable to absorb and metabolize” both licit and illicit flows of people, commodities, money and information, resulting in “urban dislocation, violence, crime, and social breakdown.”
For counterinsurgents, these social ills are addressed by military force.
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