Manufacturing the Drug Threat

Danny at Transform Drug Policy Foundation blog has a fascinating and illuminating post on “securitisation.” Note: he does give the post a “policy nerd warning,” but despite the academic language, the thrust is easy to follow and so completely explains the world-wide expansion of the drug war and its exemption from the need to prove its value or efficacy (the same principles can be used to explain at a more local level the way the drug war has progressed in the U.S.)

Securitisation is described as “the move that takes politics beyond the established rules of the game and frames the issue either as a special kind of politics or as above politics” (Buzan et al. 1998: 23). By declaring something a security issue, the speaker entitles himself to enforce and legitimise unusual and extreme measures to fight this threat. Referenced from here.

Rita Taureck of the University of Birmingham describes securitisation:

“The main argument of securitisation theory is that security is a speech act, that alone by uttering ‘security’ something is being done. “It is by labelling something a security issue that it becomes one.”(Wæver 2004a,) A securitising actor, by stating that a particular referent object is threatened in its existence, claims a right to extraordinary measures to ensure the referent objects survival. The issue is then moved out of the sphere of normal politics into the realm of emergency politics, where it can be dealt with swiftly and without the normal (democratic) rules and regulations of policy making. For the content of security this means that it has no longer any given meaning but that it can be anything a securitising actor says it is. Security – understood in this way – is a social construction, with the meaning of security dependent on what is done with it.” [...]

The inherent nature of a securitisation is anti-democratic, in so far as it is “the move that takes politics beyond the established rules of the game and frames the issue either as a special kind of politics or as above politics”. That is why evidence is anathema and why the political rhetoric around drug policy is so irrational and populist in tone. Once an issue has been securitised, a system of propaganda must be maintained to hold it within that framework.

Which leads me to one last point. When a securitisation has been in place for as long as the one relating to the non-medical use of drugs, progressive reform in itself becomes a ‘threat’ – a ‘threat’ to a long standing mission and some very well resourced agencies, charged with fighting the drug war. Now we see that what is actually under threat is an inflexible world order. A world order, whose long standing international relations, and indeed, national domestic social policies are predicated on fighting a futile war on drugs, are fundamentally threatened by a reform process that undoes its foundations.

I think you’ll find the whole piece quite interesting.

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