After 20 years of military engagement and billions of dollars spent, the United States announced that it will withdraw troops from Afghanistan. Syracuse University’s Mark Jacobson is the assistant dean of Washington programs in the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public…
Concern Over Armed Protest Grows Ahead of Jan. 20
It is becoming ever more obvious that last week’s horrific scenes on Capitol Hill were not a one-off. Interviewed yesterday, former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe was shocked by the magnitude of the bureau’s intelligence on possible new violence. “I don’t think in the entire scope of my career working counterterrorism issues for many, many years, I don’t think I ever saw a bulletin go out that concerned armed protest activity in 50 states in a three- or four-day period.”
White supremacy is an enduring threat, as is violent extremism more broadly, which is the belief that an in-group’s success or survival requires violent action—ranging from verbal discrimination to genocide—against an out-group.
Verena Erlenbusch-Anderson, associate professor of philosophy in the College of Arts and Sciences, works in political philosophy and contemporary European philosophy, with a special interest in critical theory and genealogy. She is the author of “Genealogies of Terrorism: Revolution, State Violence, Empire” (Columbia University Press, 2018). She regularly teaches courses in philosophy of law.
Prof. Erlenbusch-Anderson provided historical perspective on this issue:
“In the late 19th century, Black abolitionists and anti-lynching activists used the term ‘terrorism’ to describe the political rationality of a polity built on white supremacist principles of white domination and the oppression and exclusion of Black people. For the African American anti-lynching activist Ida B. Wells-Barnett, for example, terrorism was a means of expressing and enforcing what she called the ‘unwritten law’ of white supremacy. Wells argued that to defy the Reconstruction amendments that had abolished slavery, guaranteed equal protection under the law and prohibited disenfranchisement on account of race, the South relied on an unwritten law that directly contravened the new legal order and reversed the legal achievements of Reconstruction. Mob violence played a crucial role in enforcing this unwritten law, as ‘the mob did what the law could not be made to do.’
While last week’s mob attempted to do what the president and his enablers were unable to do, their actions are in continuity with more mundane practices designed to prevent multiracial democracy. Wells shows us that these practices have always been a central strategy of U.S. nation-building, and U.S. citizens have routinely resorted to terrorism in pursuit of their political goals. Until we confront that this is indeed who we are, we will not only continue to face mob violence and the corrosion of law, government and our moral character, but also threats to national security, civil rights, democratic institutions and global peace posed by a political system built on the idea of white superiority and the often violent exclusion of groups perceived as threats to this system.”