By The Piper
The announcement by President David Granger that Guyana has adopted a new national security strategy has gone almost unnoticed in the usually attentive Guyanese public and press corp. All eyes and ears have been on the pay-raise scandal, and while that is certainly understandable, we need pay closer attention to the ‘Total National Defence’ (TND) strategy.
In theory, TND is based on some sound concepts of national security. The changes are both at the level of defence doctrine and operational principles. In terms of doctrine, the TND framework integrates military and civilian components of society in a comprehensive way.
Operationally, TND also means inter-agency integration, force structure and deployment innovations, as well as defence and diplomacy reconciliation. President Granger himself stated that the intended outcomes of the reforms are to be reflected in enhanced personnel, readiness, infrastructure, morale, and equipment.
President Granger will also re-establish the People’s Militia and the National Cadet Corp. The idea is to get high school children involved in the national defence of the country. This is where the problems begin because the new model is actually an old model going back to the depressing years of the 1970s. In that old model, civil society was not only penetrated by state power, but it was also heavily militarized.
To understand the militarization of society we need to understand the process of securitization. Securitization is a concept that allows us to make sense of the ways in which the state uses power to construct social, cultural, economic, and political problems in the language and idioms of national security.
By framing our problems in terms of national defence, President Granger and the APNU+AFC are devising the institutional capture of large segments of civil society.
The real intent behind drawing in students into so-called national defence is to get them to be obedient to the state and the current government. Do not be surprised if you start to see fifteen and sixteen year old boys and girls marching military style all over the country.
Anyone who knows anything about military security will know that these little boys and girls will be absolutely useless in any kind of military confrontation. Can anyone in APNU+AFC say with any specificity what exactly the students will defend and how?
What is more likely is that the students and ‘youths’ will form a cadre against those who legitimately oppose government policy. I am not suggesting that we will see indoctrination of the Chinese Cultural Revolution type.
What I am saying is that national defence will be used as an excuse to get young people to support the current government, something quite reminiscent of National Service.
During the 1970-1980s Guyana had among the highest militarization rates in the whole world, and this despite real challenges in the economy. The current economic situation is bleak.
Instead of pumping money into a political project for the next elections, it would be better to use the funds to support small businesses. Moreover, instead of transforming students into pretend soldiers, we should give them scholarships which are real investments in their future.