The new issue of Development Dialogue has a great line up of authors and speaks to a lot of issues I’m thinking about. Its main title is “The End of the Development-Security Nexus.” I’ve been reading some of the lit on the development-security nexus for a paper I’m working on about how Colombia’s drug-trafficking paramilitaries mobilized discourses of grassroots development in stealing and laundering land. The historical renditions of how development and security became conflated all share what seems to me a significant oversight: the drug war. Authors always acknowledge the far-reaching history of the development-security nexus, but when they make the move from Cold War to the War on Terror—with stopovers in humanitarian relief and intervention—the drug war is never mentioned. I think it’s a significant omission, rather than the sort of critique that says, “everyone needs to write about what I’m interested in.”
Of course, the drug war is more geographically circumscribed than broader global “threat paradigms,” but this does not mean it’s hermetically compartmentalized within the larger security apparatus. Since the 1980s, the U.S. government has funneled billions in military and development aid to drug-producing countries, while European countries have usually stepped in with primarily social-economic aid. The drug war’s supply-side bias means that one of its primary targets has always been the farmers growing the crops that can end up on the streets as illegal drugs. Insurgencies dependent on the drug trade’s illicit funds have typically been part of this volatile mix (e.g. Burma, Colombia, Peru), but even in the absence of rebel groups the response has been highly securitized (e.g. Bolivia). Development and security, though usually weighted toward the latter, has always formed the unified response to the “drug problem” in producer countries. Security becomes a development imperative; development becomes a security imperative.
Plan Colombia, the U.S. government’s anti-drug and counterinsurgency program, is a perfect example of how the imperatives of development and security become enmeshed in the drug war. And given that opium-rich Afghanistan is considered a primary theatre of the development-security nexus, it’s worth noting that many of the strategies being employed there are being copied directly from the Colombian experience. (Not surprisingly, since 2001, at least two U.S. ambassadors to Colombia were immediately transferred to Central Asia after serving their terms.)
My point is that the drug war served as key stepping stone in many of the shifts identified by authors writing about the emergence of a security-development nexus. The drug war has all the key trappings of the nexus: focus on state/institution building and good governance, aggressive interventionism, conflict or post-conflict reconstruction, reinvigorated role for international aid, and an ever-thickening role for “civil society.”
The authors from Development Dialogue, however, identify new trends that might spell the end of the Development-Security Nexus as previously conceived. My next post on the nexus will look at the role of “resilience” in these new configurations of development and security.