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Beyond enemy images: politics and the Other

“Who is the enemy other?” asked Jeffrey Murer in an openSecurity agenda-setting article. Identifying the ‘enemy’ lies at the heart of security policies and practices - but who is the enemy and how do we know them?

Over the past year openSecurity has explored these issues in the collection below. Now, Jeffrey Murer reflects on this series and entreats us to find the other in ourselves.



Challenging the populist right - European precedents

The European left should be the most committed and consistent advocate of democracy, human rights and the rule of law in order to prevent discrimination. But further than that, it should espouse a cosmopolitan politics to manage diversity in a progressive manner. And that politics is inconceivable unless the individual citizen is understood to represent its basic unit.

The long war gets longer: the campaign of violent dissident republicans

Northern Ireland is held up as an exemplary case study of building sustainable peace. Recent violent activity from dissident republicans poses real threats, but isn't likely to establish a 32 county republic. So why continue?

The plight of Afghan refugees in Iran

Decades of war have led to generations of Afghan refugees in Iran. Their treatment under the current regime is worsening, but why now?

Remembering July 1983: 'The holocaust started for me with the death of my father'

Amongst memories of the cataclysmic violence that spread across Sri Lanka and which still marks this time of year as Black July, instances of incredible individual bravery and compassion stand out. But can the government match the honour of its people?

Security threats and the Ukrainian far right

The rise to political power of the Ukrainian far right party, Svoboda, was recently halted by a new electoral law. But there are further security issues connected to the far right's increasing support that have not been stopped in their tracks.

Abandoned to the far right

Specific patterns of ‘hate’ are emerging and the far right is mobilising and making inroads in smaller towns and cities: often rural places, once-industrial, where the experience of marked inequalities and relatively recent demographic change go hand in hand.

Failing to take far right violence seriously

The threat of far right terrorism and political violence ought to be taken at least as seriously as the radical Islamic one. Obstacles include the false belief that far right violence is local and not globally connected.

Norway - one year after: an open wound

Populist right-wing politicians expressing extreme views on immigration, Islam and Muslims, have in general been confronted in the mediated public spheres to a much greater extent than before 22/7, as have extreme-right wingers. But how much else has moved on?

Drone warfare and the heady cocktail of might and right

Although inefficient and unethical, drone warfare is a key element of US military power. Its negative impact also affects the psychology of American citizens and leaders.

Extending European borders? Paradoxes in Balkan politics between EU accession and statebuilding

The western Balkans are caught between internal dynamics acting to couple borders with national myth-making, and post-modern Europeanizing forces hoping to nurture cosmopolitan polities.

Britain's radical right: electoral failure but success on the streets ?

The BNP's latest electoral defeats are no indication that the attraction of its ideology has faded away. New social movements in Britain are seeking to impart change through extra-parliamentary means.

Hate speech and violent right wing extremism in Scandinavia

Incitement to hatred against 'non-Scandinavians' is widely circulated on the internet, contributing to the legitimizing of right-wing extremist violence and the political exclusion of immigrants. If this does not endanger the political system as such, we should worry that it jeopardizes the right to security for many.

From Pan-Germanism to new populism in Austria

When it comes to European exclusionary politics, the Austrian case is a puzzling story of a historically rooted right-wing extremism which managed to overcome the outdating of its main ideological component – thanks to anti-immigration xenophobia.

The security turn of French politics and the rejuvenation of the Front National

Has the increasing focus on security issues in French politics given an advantage to the radical right or the conservative right? The defeat of Nicolas Sarkozy indicates that the FN remains a length ahead in this domain.

Political opposition in Tunisia : obligatory but impossible

Turmoil surrounding the destruction of artworks in Tunisia has suddenly illumined contemporary art as a site for resistance. Yet the international art world is far from understanding the true nature of such rebellion.

Agni-5: the national firework of India

India's successful launch of a long range inter-continental ballistic missile has led to hyper-nationalist posturing and antagonism with China, of a kind disappointingly reminiscent of Cold War hubris. The bombastic rhetoric must not undo the bilateral ties between the two states.

Crime and punishment in the Netherlands

Under the pressure of right wing populism, the Netherlands have been transformed from a country that was a model of humane crime policy to one hung up on security and punishment. The offensive of the populist right has been so effective that even social democrats now repudiate their multiculturalist past and lament over their policy mistakes.  

Security and the radical right in Flanders

Security has been a major theme in the rhetoric of the Vlaams Block/Belang since the late 1980s. Their combination of strong anti-immigrant statements and simplistic proposals has been appropriated by mainstream parties in Belgium.

Exploring the fascist roots of Islamophobia

Contemporary Islamophobic discourses thrive in a fascist imaginary which Slavoj Zizek analyses.

My friend has a story

This isn’t my story. But it could have been, and it can be the story of any young Palestinian living in this small besieged part of the world.

Reconciliation and the destruction of the past in divided societies

Ongoing controversies in two of the quintessential cases of divided societies - Northern Ireland and the Former Yugoslavia - are best understood by examining the political dynamics created through procedures of remembrance, and those of reconciliation.

Grammars of enmity: a Golden Dawn of contemporary Greek democracy?

Far right groups like Golden Dawn are not a new phenomenon in Greek society, nor do they derive from the consequences of today’s financial crisis. The roots of fascist groups are to be found in an old tendency to rely on the vilification of a political enemy to rule.

Greek populist parties and the disoriented mainstream

The results of May's legislative elections in Greece may derive from the degree of public anger at the EU-IMF rescue package. Nevertheless, immigration was featured very prominently in party programs and public discourses as the main security concern – a trend not limited to the radical right.

Security Discourses and the Radical Right

Ruth Wodak launches a series of updates on the rise of the far right and exclusionary discourses in Europe. What should the democratic response be to these ideologies?

From the inside out: reconciliation is more than possible

Amidst the deep hurt of civil war, many think it impossible to speak with, let alone work with, people from across divisions of conflict. A diverse group of young British Sri Lankans have directly experienced this. Here they examine reconciliation as not only a possibility, but a present undertaking.

See the debate: Is reconciliation possible in Sri Lanka?

Reaping the political rewards of the Iranian nuclear crisis

Both Iranian and Israeli governments mutually benefit from the threat of war, as they both use the excuse to polish their propaganda and to silence internal opposition.

Marine Le Pen, the radical right and French Islamophobia - Part II

Nicolas Lebourg continues (see part one) to explore how the Toulouse events contributed to shaping Marine Le Pen’s electoral strategy. While it is dubious that Islamophobia played the most decisive part in her latest presidential score, she placed it on the top of the political agenda for the second round.

The politics of interpreting Toulouse

The use of anti-Semitism as the main narrative for “Toulouse” led to an internationalising step in the depiction of these events, as commentators increasingly linked the attacks to the Israel/Palestine conflict. Comments then focused on the alleged responsibility of “Israel” or “Muslims” in Merah’s killings.

The game gets serious

Iran and the 5 +1 group (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, plus Germany) began talks on 15 April in Istanbul with a plenary session of all parties. The White House has welcomed Iran-5+1 group talks as a ‘positive first step’.

Bicycle bombs to Bollywood - immigration and identity

One breach of the law cancels out another.

Time to reframe the debate on the Iranian nuclear programme

Debates on the Iranian nuclear programme tend to adopt a Manichean view depicting it as a major security threat. If we want to properly address the issue of nuclear proliferation, it is time to switch to a different framework for negotiations.

Purposeful inquiry: detoxing the poisoned chalice

Derry/Londonderry is the UK City of Culture in 2013. In a place where names can be rigid markers of enmity, what tools can we use to dismantle the unseeing ways ‘the enemy’ is passed between generations?

Will diplomacy solve the Iran-US imbroglio?

Ayatollah Khamenei's recent declarations concerning the future of the Iranian nuclear dispute may sound belligerent, but they indeed reveal levers to be used for diplomacy. Acknowledging Iran’s role as a regional leader is a first step.

The enemy always gets a vote

Current tensions between Iran and the US /Israel alliance may lead to military intervention from either side. The outcome of such initiative is very uncertain as both sides are caught up in security dilemmas.

A plague on both your populisms

Populist movements can bear a strong, but misleading, resemblance to more respectable cousins: movements for democratic accountability. It has now become fashionable even to argue that ‘some populism is good’ - because populism is seen as ‘speaking truth to power’. It’s important therefore for democrats to be able to tell the good guys from the bad guys. If populists can play this game, don’t the rest of us need our own enemy images?

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