Security, Empire and Life in the USA

by James Patrick Jordan

Originally published in  Catalán by the magazine Revistat, and in English, by CovertAction Quarterly

The word “security” conjures a couple of distinctly different and conflicting images. One is of human beings living in safe, viable, and sustainable communities, where individuals can freely develop their full potential, not hindered by threat and assault and exclusion from the daily necessities of life.

This notion of security prioritizes such socially beneficial institutions as housing, health care and education. It encourages the arts, maintains infrastructure and sustains ecosystems.

This kind of security also provides for the people’s defense. That defense is not, however, prioritized over social needs, and it is not formed for committing acts of aggression against others.  Such a society may take a variety of forms but, in the broadest sense, all of them could be called socialist in that they put people before profits.

More often than not, however, when we talk about security, we are talking about something completely different. This notion of security is rooted in the kind of fear bred in the heart of the thief and the murderer, ever on guard that those to whom they have caused pain might rise against them and take back what has been stolen.

This type of security also results from a desire to manage broken communities and societies through coercion and punishment, rather than addressing root causes. It is the security of those who prefer to fight “wars on crime” instead of “wars on poverty.”

This security is prioritized over every social need. Its primary directive is protection of the powerful few, and the preservation and expansion of their markets and profits. This is the “security” of capitalism and Empire, that is, the U.S./NATO Empire.

According to the World Inequality Report, one percent of the world’s population owns 38% of its wealth, while the poorest 50% own just 2%. My former colleague at the Alliance for Global Justice (AFGJ), Jon Hunt, used to say, “The Pentagon is the insurance company of transnational corporations and global capitalism.”


Meanwhile, as resources dwindle every day—especially water resources—and the twin crises of economic collapse and climate change proliferate, the export of the U.S. security model becomes a priority for the control, displacement and dispossession of peoples, and, of course, for the repression of the inevitable resistance.

The United States is unique in this way. The export of our security model across the world is unparalleled. That model represents the very infrastructure of the Empire. It is Empire’s skeleton. This is why the United States maintains more than 800 foreign military bases, the spine of the imperial beast.

But not only that. We are exporting our police model; our legal model; our border militarization model; our prison model. In fact, as if to underscore the reality that, in the U.S., the nation and Empire are one, our Department of Homeland Security is itself an international agency, with more than 2,000 agents stationed outside our borders….

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