From Cold War Political Policing to Post-Millennial Internal Security Privatization: Is Each a Different Version of "Political”?

Friday, January 6, 2012: 3:10 PM
Chicago Ballroom A (Chicago Marriott Downtown)
Martha K. Huggins, Tulane University
In Political Policing:  The United States and Latin America (Duke, 1997), I focused primarily on Cold War policing in Latin America, with emphasis on Brazil.  I argued  that much U.S. police “training”  was political in that it enhanced U.S. power and reduced that of recipient nations.  A  legitimizing ideology framed U.S. “police assistance” as a preventive against the spread of communist guerrilla activity;  this justified U.S. “assistance” to  Latin American police systems , which included  greater consolidation of internal security inside the U.S. and abroad;  this in turn facilitated U.S. intelligence gathering inside targeted countries as a component of U.S. foreign policy; one unanticipated consequence (“blow-back”)  was  to expose the United States to political criticism for its involvement with  ‘modernized’ internal security systems engaging in torture, abductions,  and murder.  One Cold War U.S.-nurtured Brazilian internal security organization, DOI-CODI, had forcibly held and tortured Dilma Rousseff, now President of Brazil.   

What has been learned from this history of U.S. Cold War political policing?  Are its failures being avoided today?  Is there more than one way for international policing to be “political”? This presentation considers these questions using six variables to explore post-millennial U.S. assistance to foreign police:  legitimizing ideology; police assistance;  internal security consolidation; intelligence gathering;  police-in-foreign policy; political ‘blow-back. The discussion concludes with questions:  Can  the post-millennial ‘privatization’ foreign police assistance be seen as political?  Was Cold War U.S. assistance to international police, embraced as it was within U.S. foreign policy and practice,  an atypical moment in the history of U.S. foreign policy?  Can the processes and outcomes of such policing guide the study of post- millennial police assistance, for example, in the Caribbean and Colombia—“Drug War Policing”-- and in Afghanistan and Iraq-- “Anti-Terror Policing”? What does post- millennial privatization of foreign police assistance say about American Empire?   

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