How can the divergence of counter-terrorism policy of USA and Spain be explained?

Seminar Paper, 2012

17 Pages, Grade: 1,7



1 Introduction

2 Theoretical frameworks
2.1 Core assumptions of social constructivism
2.2 Copenhagen School with the theory of securitization

3 Empirical Examples
3.1 Political culture and counter-terrorism of USA after 9/
3.2 Political culture and counter-terrorism of Spain after 11-M

4 Explaining divergence of counter-terrorism policy of USA and Spain

5 Conclusion

6 References

1 Introduction

To deal with terrorism, a state needs to arm and secure itself for its defense against it, because they are existing threats. Extraordinary measures, which are nothing else than counter- terrorism policies, are important and necessary for fighting against terrorism in order to be secure. The fact that terrorism occurs worldwide and is becoming more important for states it is necessary to have effective counter-terrorism policies. But states response differently towards threats and especially to terrorism acts. The interesting question that will be discussed is: how can the divergence of counter- terrorism policy be explained?

Terrorism as a threat primarily to states can occur internationally or domestically, and by defining terrorism, a state can respond to and combat terrorism in its own way, and this can be a potential factor for explaining a divergence of counter.-terrorism policy, but this will be not the emphasis of this term paper. The theoretical framework for explaining a divergence of counter- terrorism policy is the theory of securitization by Barry Buzan, Ole Waever and Jaap de Wilde, which contains assumptions of the theory of social constructivism. Inasmuch social constructivism by Alexander Wendt tells something about political culture. It neither tells much about security nor how to deal with threats especially to terrorism acts; that is why a widening analysis for the term security is needed in order to explain a divergence of counter-terrorism policy and the theory of securitization. Theory of securitization exactly explains everything about how a security term becomes a relevant issue. The frame for securitization, as written before, are core assumptions of social constructivism and those are necessary to discuss, in order to understand further explanations. This is why this term paper begins with the theoretical framework of constructivism. After the theoretical framework has been discussed, two states as empirical examples, which are the USA and Spain, shall give a better view of how states differs from their counter-terrorism policies, regarding to their different facing on terrorism acts, that are taken place. At the end, a conclusion shall repeat the core assumptions of the theoretical framework and explanations and in addition gives further impulses on other fields of analysis.

2 Theoretical frameworks

2.1 Core assumptions of social constructivism

In order to explain the theory of securitization, core assumptions of social constructivism, which are (not all of them) constituent parts of securitization, need to be explained first. In social constructivism states are the main actors, which are self-organized units constructed from within by discursive practices of individuals and social groups (cf. Copeland in Guzzini/Leander 2006: 4). That means, that not only the state as itself is an actor, but actors inside of a state like the individuals or social groups, are playing an important role and representing the state as an actor of a whole. Another assumption of social constructivism is that the ideational structure is playing a central role in this theory and that identity matters. Through identity, interests are de facto articulated and those interests are explaining which goals states are aiming for and therefore how a state acts or behaves when interacting with another one. (cf. Agius in Collins 2010: 50). Wendt (1992: 398), for example, says that identities are the basis of interests. Furthermore, Wendt cites Peter Berger: „Identity, with its appropriate attachments of psychological reality, is always identity within a specific, socially constructed world” (Wendt 1992: 397f). Due to the assumption that the world is socially constructed, actors can shape the world through their different identities- that is the reason why Wendt (Wendt1992: 397) claims: “Anarchy is what states make of it”. Given that, the self-help system and power politics are also socially constructed under anarchy (cf. Wendt 1992: 395). This fact leads, if self-help system is socially constructed, security will be as well, because in a self- help system states have to look out for themselves due to anarchic structure in order to be secure. This is really important to know, because the theory of securitization adapts to that assumption. In addition Wendt (1992: 399) mentions that self-help is an institution, which is one of the various structures of identity and interest. As explained before, self-help system is a matter of security. Wendt stresses out three different kinds of security system, because every state has diverse cognitive views of security. One of the systems, he elucidates, is called “the competitive security”: States identify negatively with each other´s security. They worry about relative gains and losses. Another security system is that of the individualistic: A state still looks out for its own security, but in contrast to competitive system, they are more concerned about absolute gains rather than relative gains. Last one is known as cooperative security system, in which states perceive security as the responsibility of all. So in cooperative system the national interest of security becomes an international interest which was articulated through identity (cf. Wendt 1992: 400).

The question now is: what exactly is identity and how does it evolve from a state? As mentioned before, identities tell something about preferences and interests of a state, such as the interest for security. And therefore there can be different types of identities. “Each person has many identities linked to institutional roles, such as brother, son, teacher, and citizen. Similarly, a state may have multiple identities...”(Wendt 1992: 398). Different types of identity are distinguished between corporate and social identity. An actor can only have one corporate identity, which is the basis for developing others and refer to a self-realized identity. In social identity, an actor attributes to itself while taking the perspective of others and has multiple social identities which are differentiated in type-, role- and collective identity. The process for achieving identity is interaction between other states and is made up of beliefs, and those beliefs are shared understandings of the world. Beliefs come from collective meanings within a state (cf. Agius in Collins 2010: 55). Shared beliefs are important when states interact, because they know what they can expect from each other. Thus shared beliefs are telling us how states understand the world and explain why they act like they do and those beliefs always depend on collectives within a state.

With beliefs there are always norms, which are expectations of a collective (within a state) about proper behavior for a given identity and provide a social guide to behavior. There are two different kinds of norms: constitutive and regulatory norms. Regulatory norms are standards of how an actor has to act, and constitutive norms are those which define the identity of an actor (cf. Agius in Collins 2006: 56). The whole system about beliefs, norms, values, are creating identities, which forms the cultures of states, and define them as actors with their different behaviors and acting. Those cultures are constituted by collectivities. Duffield argues that culture is viewed as a property of collectivities and is principle distinctive, which is important to understand differences in behavior by states in the international system. These cultures therefore help to define the basic goals of the groups and determine the general policy objectives (cf. Duffield 1999: 770f). As there are different identities, which can vary from each state, so do cultures. There are three different types of culture under the anarchic structure in the international system, which are Hobbesian, where states cast each other in the role of enemy, Lockean, where states see themselves as rivals and the Kantian culture, where states play the role of friends. The behavior between states and how they respond to each other in an interaction depends therefore on the three types of culture (cf. Copeland in Guzzini/Leander 2006: 6). As we speak of cultures, in this case it is the political culture, because we want to explain political behaviors in the political world that characterize the members of particular society. And there are three basic components of political culture, which are the cognitive (empirical and casual beliefs), the evaluative (that consists values, norms and moral judgments) and expressive (emotional attachments, patterns of identity, loyalty and feelings of affinity) (cf. Duffield 1999: 774).

2.2 Copenhagen School and the theory of securitization

To explain divergence(s) in counter-terrorism policies, debating the Copenhagen School with its theory of securitization is necessary, as it specify the term security more in detail than it does in social constructivism. “…the Copenhagen School regards security as a socially constructed concept. In that sense, the School is primarily constructivist in its approach” (Emmers in Collins 2006: 140).

Definitions of security should clarify what security actually means. “…security is about survival. It is when an issue is presented as posing an existential threat to a designated referent object…” Another definition 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.” (Buzan/Waever/de Wilde 1998: 21ff).But more important is that if there are existential threats, extraordinary measurements are acquired to handle them (cf. Buzan/Waever/de Wilde 1998: 21). Security can also be distinguished in five general categories or sectors, which are military, environmental, economic, societal and political security (cf. Emmers in Collins 2006: 137).Those sectors are identifying specific types of interaction and relationship.

In this view, the military sector is about relationships of forceful coercion; the political sector is about relationships of authority, governing status, and recognition; the economic sector is about relationships of trade, and finance; the societal sector is about relationships of collective identity; and the environmental sector is about relationships between human activity and the planetary biosphere (Buzan/ Waever/de Wilde 1998: 7)

Existential threats can vary from sector to sector, meaning that the view of security will be different, depending which sector is confronted with a threat (cf. Buzan/Waever/de Wilde 1998:27). In the political sector existential threats are those which threat the sovereignty or ideology of a state, in military sector national threats are occurring, while in the economic sector national economies in the market fear national bankruptcy or an inability to for the basic needs of the population as threats. Threats in the societal sector are, for example, changing identities and in the environmental sector concerns about the survival of species or human civilization can be seen as existential threats (cf. Buzan/Waever/de Wilde 1998: 22f).

There is a distinction between having normal issues that are part of public policies (issues that are politicized) and issues which require extraordinary measurements, because existential threats are faced, need to be securitized first (cf. Buzan/ Waever/de Wilde 1998: 23f). Every state politicizes or securitizes issues differently depending on circumstances, and they also can have dissimilar societies with different rules (cf. Buzan/Waever/de Wilde 1998: 24). And these rules, as social constructivism assumes, evolve from identities and hence from culture. One consideration remains: who politicizes and especially- who securitizes issues. Actors who securitize issues and declare that they are existential threats, are for example, political leaders, bureaucracies, governments, lobbyists and pressure groups (cf. Emmers in Collins 2006: 137). A securitization on issues is only successful, if there is an audience who will accept them, the declaration of threats by the securitizing actor. If it is not the case (the audience does not accept), then the attempt of the securitizing actor is called as a securitizing move, where the attempt for a securitization issue failed and will be not followed further (cf. Buzan/Waever/de Wilde 1998: 25). With this consideration, the audience is the essential actor. Without it, there is no one who can legitimize securitized issues through acceptance and thus a “security act” will fail. Legitimation is based on certain rules within a society, which come from identity (cf. Buzan/Waever/de Wilde 1998: 41). That leads to culture and that can vary from state to state. “What may seem a legitimate securitization within a given community may appear paranoid to those outside” (Buzan/Waever/de Wilde 1998: 30). An audience can be public opinion, politicians, military officers, or other elites (cf. Emmers in Collins 2006: 139). Those types of audiences are always collectivities within a state and this leads, that they are actually the main actors, as social constructivism assumptions. Buzan, Waever and de Wilde describing securitization as a process:

“…it is to understand the processes of constructing a shared understanding of what is to be considered and collectively responded to as a threat. The process of securitization is what in language theory is called a speech act.” (Buzan/Waever/de Wilde 1998: 26)

A speech act is the starting point of whole process, performed by the securitizing actor. He then uses language to articulate a problem in security terms to an audience (cf. Emmers in Collins 2006: 139) and also speaks in the name of referent objects (cf. Buzan/Waever/de Wilde 1998: 43). Referent objects are “things that are seen to be existentially threatened and that have a legitimate claim to survival” (Buzan/Waever/de Wilde 1998: 36). Usually referent objects are states respectively the nation (cf. Buzan/Waever/de Wilde 1998: 36). But referent objects also depend on different factors across sectors. In the military sector it is the state, because if the state is militarily threatened, the civic constituents and the government will be as well (cf. Buzan/Waever/de Wilde 1998:52). Environmental sector has another view of referent objects; it is simply the environment itself (cf. Buzan/Waever/de Wilde 1998: 75), and in economic sector referent objects are complex system of the global market of individuals, classes or states (cf. Buzan/Waever/de Wilde 1998: 100). In the societal sector corresponding referent objects are larger groups with their identity that is threatened (cf. Buzan/Waever/de Wilde 1998: 123). The political sector is referring the territorial state, state-like or state-paralleling political organizations as referent objects (cf. Buzan/Waever/de Wilde 1998:145). This process needs one more actor; it is that of the functional actor: Functional actors are those who affect the dynamics of a sector and are trying to influence decisions in the field of security (cf. Buzan/Waever/de Wilde 1998: 36). After that, extraordinary measures can be implemented as a policy.

Referring to terrorism acts, they are nothing else than existential threats. Whether terrorism occurs internationally the regarding sector would be either the political one, or domestically, then it would be most likely societal sector, but this all depends on which referring objects are threatened. Empirical examples shall give a clear distinction how the divergence of counter-terrorism policy can be explained with the theoretical framework(s).


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How can the divergence of counter-terrorism policy of USA and Spain be explained?
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Christian Graf (Author), 2012, How can the divergence of counter-terrorism policy of USA and Spain be explained?, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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