Whose Security Matters?

116 AJIL UNBOUND 236 (2022)

6 Pages Posted: 23 Aug 2022 Last revised: 26 Aug 2022

See all articles by Maryam Jamshidi

Maryam Jamshidi

University of Colorado Law School

Date Written: August 15, 2022


Claims to security are everywhere. They are used by states to justify invading other nations and to derogate from international law obligations. They are invoked by governments as reasons to exclude foreign nationals from their territory; surveil their citizens; and kill citizens and foreigners alike by remote control. Some experts use security claims to underscore the seriousness of global threats, like COVID-19. Security claims are also used by communities to defend their rights and well-being from those threatening them, including the state itself. Still others criticize the use of security discourse—in at least some circumstances—describing it as undermining the rule of law. Embedded within these claims is a view about whose security matters most—something that is also implicitly reflected in J. Benton Heath’s four-part typology of security claims described in his recent article, “Making Sense of Security.” This essay explores the importance of whose security matters to Heath’s framework. It does so by examining one political movement currently challenging the U.S. national security state. This movement is led by members of groups targeted and disadvantaged by U.S. national security policies—namely, Muslim, African, Middle Eastern, and South Asian communities. In that movement’s recently released policy agenda, Abolishing the War on Terror & Building Communities of Care: A Grassroots Policy Agenda for the Biden-Harris Administration and 117th Congress (Abolishing the War on Terror), its leaders call for abolishing the national security state and the War on Terror that it birthed.

The rest of this essay explores how the Abolishing the War on Terror agenda underscores the central importance of whose security matters to Heath’s security typology. Relatedly, it examines the agenda’s implicit strategy for shifting from a state-centric toward a community-centric security paradigm—namely through building political bonds of solidarity between groups targeted by the state’s security practices. This essay also explores Abolishing the War on Terror’s approach to protecting and supporting marginalized communities. In addition to demanding the abolition of harmful state policies, the agenda calls for fostering political and socioeconomic benefits and opportunities for marginalized groups, particularly through investments related to climate justice, racial justice, gender and reproductive justice, disability justice, and justice for Indigenous peoples. These proposals are solely aimed at promoting the security of marginalized groups rather than of the state itself. This essay ends with some preliminary thoughts about how focusing on whose security matters underscores the role of political and socioeconomic power within Heath’s security framework.

Keywords: national security, security, abolition

Suggested Citation

Jamshidi, Maryam, Whose Security Matters? (August 15, 2022). 116 AJIL UNBOUND 236 (2022), Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4190554

Maryam Jamshidi (Contact Author)

University of Colorado Law School ( email )

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics