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Critical Theory approach to the 'War on Terrorism' in Colombia

Critical Theory approach to the 'War on Terrorism' in Colombia

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Published by lancemotown
A fourth-year international relations essay employing a first- and second-order immanent critique of the 'war on terrorism' in Colombia.
Got an A grade.

A fourth-year international relations essay employing a first- and second-order immanent critique of the 'war on terrorism' in Colombia.
Got an A grade.


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categoriesTypes, Research, Law
Published by: lancemotown on Aug 24, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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How do Dominant Definitions of ‘Terrorism’ Reflect Elite Interests andLegitimise Violence in Defence Thereof? A Critical Study of the ‘War onTerrorism’ in ColombiaABSTRACT
This paper explores the ways in which dominant constructions of what constitutes ‘terrorism’ serve to legitimise violence in thedefence of elite interests whilst delegitimising counter-hegemonic and non-violent approaches in the context of the ‘war on terrorism’ in Colombia. Employing an ‘immanent critique’methodology, inconsistencies within the United States’ andColombian governmental definitions of terrorism, which preclude designation of acts of the Colombian armed forces as‘terrorist’ are explored. The governmentsrepresentations of what constitutes ‘terrorism’ and whom constitutes a ‘terrorist’ areseen to legitimise the continuation of conflict in the defence of elite interests and the demonisation of progressive elements of civil society.
I. Introduction
This paper will explore the ways in which constructions of ‘legitimate’ and‘illegitimate’ political violence through the designation of certain acts and groups as‘terrorist’ serves very particular functions useful to dominant societal groups, throughan exploration of the case of Colombia.Particularly since 2001, the forty-year-long conflict in Colombia has come to beframed by both the Colombian and United States governments as a part of the larger ‘war against terrorism’. This paper will employ a methodology of ‘immanentcritique’, as used by scholars of the ‘Welsh School’ of Critical Security Studies andCritical Terrorism Studies (Jackson, 2008; McDonald, 2009; Booth, 2007) whichseeks to expose inconsistencies in dominant and mainstream accounts of (of ‘terrorism’, in this case) with a view to revealing the political functions which theseinconsistent representations serve and locating solidarist, non-violent and inclusiveapproaches which are silenced or marginalised. I hope to show that throughmonopolising the mainstream position of who defines ‘terrorism’, ‘terrorists’, and the
appropriate response to the ‘terrorist threatin a manner which precludes the possibility of state terrorism, the US and Colombian governments legitimise thecontinuance of a brutal armed campaign not only against guerrilla insurgencies, butalso against progressive elements of civil society whom oppose human rights abusesand neoliberal economic reform. The subjugation of alternative approaches to theconflict, which aim to expose state terrorism and espouse non-violent solutions, isvital for the continuation of the conflict in defence of elite interests.After introducing the present-day situation in Colombia and the literary context anddetails of the theoretical approach of the paper, I will analyse the definitions of terrorism upon which the U.S and Colombian governments base their framing of theconflict, before subjecting these definitions to a first-order and second-ordeimmanent critique.
II. Conflict and Human Rights in Colombia
Colombia has been torn apart by conflict since the late 1940s. What began as a war  between rival liberal and conservative elites evolved, in the 1950s, into class conflict between those same elites on the one hand and peasant colonisers who would go on toform the
 Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia
(FARC – RevolutionaryArmed Forces of Colombia). Joined by fellow Marxists of the
 Ejercito de Liberación Nacional 
(ELN National Liberation Army), the FARC would engage in what became an archetypal Cold-War conflict against the Colombian armed forces, aided by right-wing paramilitary groups, and with the training, equipment and tuition of theUnited States
. During the 1980s all sides, particularly the paramilitaries
, deepenedtheir involvement in Colombia’s booming narcotrafficking trade, a fact which hasmade more difficult the resolution of the conflict.
Stokes, 2005:71-79
The support of the United States to the Colombian military effort against the FARCand ELN has been nothing short of integral; it was US counter-insurgency doctrinewhich guided the army and paramilitaries in their fight against ‘communists’ duringthe cold war, and which has continued since under the auspices of a ‘war on drugs’and, in recent years’ a ‘war on terrorism’; Colombia remains one of the biggestrecipients of US military and police aid in the world.After decades of armed conflict, the situation in Colombia today is particularly grave.The FARC and ELN continue to be responsible for grievous human rights abuses;right-wing paramilitaries, despite supposedly being opposed by the government, carryout regular and brutal attacks against progressive elements of civil society such asindigenous organisations, journalists, and human rights groups, and have madeColombia the most dangerous country in the world for trade unionists. These sameorganisations are also subject to a constant barrage of attacks from governmentofficials, whom reject their criticisms of the conduct of the conflict or the continuedimposition of neoliberal reform and accuse them of working in the service of the‘terrorists’.The real price for the decades of conflict is paid by the civilian population, whom aresubject to constant violence and the threat thereof by all sides. Colombia now enjoysthe second-highest rate of internal displacement in the world
III. Literary Context and Theoretical Approach
Analyses of the conflict in Colombia in the aftermath of the Cold War have, by andlarge, remained innocent of post-positivist analysis, much less so the literature whichcould be seen as belonging to the field of ‘terrorism studies’ or ‘security studies’.Since 2001, the issue of ‘terrorism’ in Colombia has received comparatively littleattention by contrast to that which has been lavished upon ‘terrorist’ groups which are
Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, 2008

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