Battlefield Borders, Threat Rhetoric, and the Militarization of State and Local Law Enforcement
3 Nat'l Security L. Br. 37 (2012)
37 Pages Posted: 8 Aug 2012 Last revised: 3 Mar 2019
Date Written: August 1, 2012
This article analyzes the rhetoric of the war on terror and the particular role that rhetoric plays in defining the geographic scope of the “battlefield” on which the war is waged. The article posits that in the war on terrorism, where traditional markers of conflict are absent, the executive branch has substantial latitude to define and shape the contours of the conflict, employing carefully designed threat rhetoric to garner support for the use of force in regions and areas that are far removed from any site of actual armed conflict or hostilities. The rhetoric surrounding the homegrown terrorism threat is an apt example: the executive’s carefully crafted threat rhetoric concerning the danger of al Qaeda “reaching in” to the United States to recruit and radicalize American Muslims necessarily implies that the battlefield extends into U.S. borders. And where the battlefield extends, characteristics of the war paradigm follow — notably, the militarization of state and local law enforcement. From acquiring military weapons and equipment to adopting military tactics and a soldier’s ethos, the militarization of state and local police threatens to disrupt a vital separation between the police and military in domestic affairs and, consequently, detrimentally transform the role of law enforcement and the relationship of the police with the public they are tasked to protect.
Keywords: war on terror, national security, law enforcement, militarization of police, rhetoric, homegrown terrorism, discourse, Iraq, judicial deference, September 11, Posse Comitatus, war paradigm, criminal law paradigm, counterterrorism
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