From War Fighting to Crime Fighting: Transforming the American National Security State



With the decline of violent geopolitical conflict as an overriding organizing principle in relations among advanced industrialized states, there is a growing gap between traditional conceptions and paradigms of security and the contemporary practice of security policy. Most advanced states increasingly define their security interests less in terms of war fighting and more in terms of crime fighting; less in terms of deterring military invasions and more in terms of deterring law evasions. This has involved a twofold transformation: an outward expansion of the portfolio of national security issues from domains previously associated with internal policing, and the deployment of the external military apparatus for a variety of international policing missions. Focusing on the United States, the essay examines how the coercive apparatus of the state has been reconfigured and redeployed, especially during the past decade. Specifically, it traces the growing fusion between law enforcement and national security. Among the numerous manifestations of these changes, the essay concentrates on four central developments: the heightened prominence of law enforcement issues in official security discourse and the exercise of U.S. power, the conversion of military hardware and technology for police missions, the increased overlap between law enforcement and intelligence communities, and the deployment of the military for internal and external police operations categorized as “Military Operations other than War.” Moreover, the essay explores the consequences of these changes for the traditional agenda of security studies and argues that these changes reflect both a militarization of policing and a domestication of soldiering.