In 1984, George Orwell carefully describes the way that a state of “permanent war” is employed to solidify a people by getting them committed not just to national defense, but the more elusive “national security.” The former requires a response in the face of hostility; the latter requires a pervasive and exhaustive attempt to eliminate any possibility of threat. This, of course, is a regulative ideal, which is to simply say that it is impossible. But permanent threat coupled with the goal of absolute security is an equation that can yield an (of course) “resolute” commitment to an end which will excuse all kinds of disturbing means.
While living in Los Angeles, we saw this played out in the Rampart Division of the city: given the mission of eradicating gang violence, all kinds of corrupt, yea fascist, practices were permitted as necessary means for attaining the given end. It seems that the UK has been watching “Training Day.” With the news of the brutal execution/assassination of a tube passenger (5 shots, to the back of the head, while they had the “suspect” on the ground), London bobbies have put away their batons and opted for LAPD kind of tactics (quite apart from the Rampart “Crash Unit” in the late 90s, the LAPD also recent shot and killed an 18 month old baby in the arms of an admittedly armed criminal).
What is “security” worth? Is this an end we should even hope for?