lunes, 30 de noviembre de 2015

The Politics of Fear: An European Intelligence Agency? Why?

In light of the recent Paris attacks, it is only understandable that the European population is feeling particularly vulnerable and exposed, seeing as such events are definitely not common in European territory. But the reaction that European cities, social conglomerates, individuals, politicians and other civic leaders are displaying as a response is primarily based, and basking, on fear, which might not be the best course of action. 

Today, France 24 reported that Belgium is proposing the formation of an European intelligence agency; for all purposes an European CIA. One is left to wonder what use would yet another layer of data collecting and military intelligence have in a world already plagued with such structures. Their legality or whether they are at all necessary will not be addressed here, as it becomes irrelevant inasmuch as its resolution changes nothing.

Data collection has been a fact of life for much longer that many are willing to admit, including human rights advocates and NGOs. Illegal data collection and sharing have also been around for years, if well the world has chosen to scandalize over it until fairly recently. The intelligence alliance known as the Five Eyes has collected, shared and used personal and private data both on public personalities and on the common joe for the entire lifetime of nearly the whole population of planet Earth alive today.

That being said, two points are set clear:
  • Government surveillance is an established world state policy that will simply not be revised.
  • Though many will openly defy the existence of surveillance agencies, the fact is that when an attack hits close to home, every society will seek shelter behind its military and its intelligence constructs. 
On the first point, there is simply no debate in my view. The leftist parties of the world will forever ride the battle horse of data privacy, but the underlying fact that governments are surveilling their citizens, each and every one of them (us) is not going to change. Entire power structures, both political and financial, are built on what stock traders call insider knowledge, or in other words, knowing things before everyone else. Naturally, posessing this information and controlling it grants the wielders of the headset the power to foresee, or actually set up, what is going to happen anywhere at any given time. This ability rivals that of the Turing machine that cracked Nazi communications, and in fact grants the same level of power, if well on a much different scale. 

But one must stop and think why, beyond the foiling of terrorist attacks (yawn), would a governmentwant to spy so much? Is there that much fear of a coup, or perhaps of a secessionist movement? Alas, in a time when protesters ask the police for permission to take to the streets, who wants to spy on individuals who plan anything?

I don't believe the proposal to form yet another intelligence agency, on top of all the ones already in existence in the EU makes any sense, security-wise. The German government replied to the Belgian proposal that pooling resources to form a pan-European intelligence agency was a waste of said resources, and that the right course of action was to improve interagency cooperation. But that is a nearly impossible task, if history is to be any indication. Why, then, would Belgium propose such a travesty?

The answer must lie on one of the purest principles of mass politics: fear. When the people, or primary constituent, is scared enough it will turn to the strongest-looking leader available. Europe is definitely teaching this generation what it is like to live in fear and anxiety, akin to what so much of the planet experiences and deals with daily, and in this state of constant impending doom and militarized urban centers, the time is right for a dose of politically instilled and fueled fear to keep secessionists in line and citizens content.

Ah, and the plot reveals itself. Could all this be part of a political strategy, of which I am a fan, to bring back a measure of joy and peace to Europeans, while at the same time flexing muscles for the international community to see? There is that little political scientist in my heart screaming to the top of his lungs that this is correct.

Now, such an attitude from the political class and the civilians has great impact on the military. Armies, and the full array of their capabilities, will now be regarded as indispensable for domestic peace keeping duties, and their budget will surely be increased. The citizens will feel safer, although smothered in their countries, and Europe and its shaky union shall prevail, yet again.

In sum, do not get sucked into the politics of fear. Unfortunately, armies are due to the fact that they are the strong arm of the state. But as individuals, we cannot become subject to political maneuvering seeking only to strengthen political institutions, instead of ramping up citizen fear. As we have seen, life goes on despite all that goes on that is illegal, unethical or unnecessarily covert. 

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