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Risk and the Fabrication of Apolitical, Unaccountable Military Markets - The Case of the CIA “Killing Program”

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“Risk” has become a major theme in the social sciences over the past two decades. It has been argued to reshape social and political life not only by placing new issues on the agenda but also by generating new “governmental rationalities”. These debates have in various forms also began to influence international studies. It has already been shown that the introduction of risk has altered strategic rationality. An uncertain imagined future of Rumsfeldian “unknown unknowns” has become integral to military strategic thinking. In the process technologies used to wage war and the actors involved have also evolved. Continuing the discussion, this article moves on to look at the implications of these changes for legal and political boundaries in one specific area of international politics; it traces the link between the spread of risk rationality (or governance through risk) and the development of apolitical and unaccountable military markets. Risk rationality creates what I will tentatively term a preventive imperative that tends to spread across areas and is assisted in the process by the rapidly expanding ranks of risk professionals. The preventive imperative is key to the rapid growth of private military markets as well as to the difficulty of politicizing—in the sense of creating a critical public debate—about the market as opposed to about the a given scandal (e.g. Nisour Square incident) or firm (e.g. Blackwater). The difficulty of politicizing the market has strong implications for the (non-)working of accountability. It creates what I will dub an accountability paradox where the way accountability is pursued reinforces the impunity of markets and of specific market actors. The reason is that it pre-empts serious consideration of the public/private enmeshment which is the “blind spot” of present legal instruments and it positively reaffirms existing “regulation” in all its defectiveness. Neither security professionals nor lawyers are susceptible to resolve this paradox. Reference to the CIA “Killing Program” anchors and illustrates the argument.

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Anna Leander

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