Friday, March 27, 2020

It's Only An Emergency When The Elites Say It's An Emergency...,


securityreform |  On March 13, the White House declared the COVID-19 pandemic a national emergency. The profound impact of the outbreak will persist for months, and steps to contain and mitigate its effects have been hampered by congressional, presidential, and federal agency malfeasance. In every sense, the crisis is both national and an emergency

In that respect, the situation differs markedly from the nearly three dozen ‘national emergencies’ that the U.S. government currently recognizes. As a result of congressional indifference and the expansion of the national security state, Donald Trump today claims extraordinary emergency powers to address ‘emergencies’ that were declared as far back as 1979, or in response to issues ranging from “the anchorage and movement of vessels” to the U.S.-Mexico border. In terms of urgency, these are outliers. Most of the national emergencies that remain active are simply procedural vehicles to slap sanctions on foreign government officials. All of this begs the question: are any of these ‘emergencies’ at all relevant to the health, well-being, or livelihoods — to say nothing of the actual physical security — of the majority of Americans? When weighed against a genuine public health crisis like COVID-19, do these events even constitute emergencies, in any meaningful sense of the word? 
... the bipartisan security framework that allows the president to declare emergencies with virtually unchecked impunity is itself a perpetuation of working-class insecurity.
Taking a hard look at what the U.S. government considers a national emergency — and who has the power to define them[1] — says a great deal about the conditions that our government and the leaders of both parties deem to be ordinary and sustainable. The record is not encouraging. 

None of the 34 currently active national emergencies relates to the persistent crises of healthcare access, social mobility, and student debt. No emergency proclamation addresses the immanent risk of climate change. Instead, each emergency was declared by the president (Republican or Democrat) over the narrow policy preferences or political interests of the national security establishment. As it turns out, the bipartisan security framework that allows the president to declare emergencies with virtually unchecked impunity is itself a perpetuation of working-class insecurity.  

Emergencies all the way down

The U.S. has been in a state of persistent national emergency since November 1979, when President Jimmy Carter declared the first national emergency of the modern era, in response to the U.S. embassy takeover in Tehran. Following the declaration, Carter seized Iranian government assets and set off on an unsuccessful covert mission to free the U.S. diplomatic staff and intelligence operatives held captive in Tehran. Without doubt, the hostage-taking constituted an acute crisis for those involved, but compared to the steady erosion of personal dignity and economic stability caused by the austerity policies of the post-war period, such an event is hardly an emergency, and it is by no means national

Fast forward to the present (and several dozen ‘emergencies’ later), in February 2019, President Trump declared that “the current situation at the southern border presents a border security and humanitarian crisis that threatens core national security interests and constitutes a national emergency.” Thus, a caravan predominantly consisting of tired, hungry, and poor asylum seekers and migrants was deemed to constitute a ‘national emergency’. Meanwhile, the moral emergency presented by the ineptly mismanaged and criminal system of child detention centers that was a byproduct of this border policy was entirely ignored.

Not only do these emergency declarations signal the moral indifference of the national security establishment, they also reveal the overlap between parochial military, diplomatic, and corporate interests.