28 Race & Class 51(3)
crowds across a 20-yard arc; a promotional video promises the possibility to ‘drop everyone in a given area to the ground with a simple push of a button’. The company is also promoting an electrified shotgun round known as the Taser XREP that sticks to the body without the need for connecting wires, inducing twenty seconds of ‘neuro-muscular incapacitation’.63 Though its designers have presented the XREP as a utopian alternative to the bullet as the ‘primary means of resolving inter-personal conflict’ in the twenty-first century, some critics have voiced concerns about how humane and ‘non-lethal’ such weapons really are and expressed concerns that such technology may be leading the world closer to the police-driven society depicted in the sci-fi epic Minority Report, in which police use ‘sonic guns’ and ‘sickguns’ to immobilise criminals and lawbreakers.64
Such criticisms have had little impact on the military’s preparations for the worst of all worlds. The Pentagon is currently seeking contractors to provide a ‘Multi-Robot Pursuit System’ that would enable packs of robots to ‘search for and detect a non-cooperative human’ – a proposal that Steve Wright, a robotics expert at Leeds University, described as ‘the beginnings of something designed to enable robots to hunt down humans like a pack of dogs’.65
All these preparations may be paving the way for a future every bit as inhospitable for human beings as the one they are supposedly intended to prevent. Elements of the coming future can already be glimpsed in the ‘ungoverned spaces’ of Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan’s north-west territories and they may be coming closer to the US ‘homeland’. In December 2008, the Joint Operating Environment 2008 study warned that ‘any descent by Mexico into chaos would demand an American response based on the serious implications for homeland security alone’.66 In March 2009, US Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen visited Mexico to discuss US military aid to the Mexican army in its spiralling operations against drug traffickers. According to Mullen, such assistance would focus on ‘intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance’ drawing on ‘lessons’ and ‘capabilities’ acquired ‘over the last three or four years in our counterinsurgency efforts as we have fought terrorist networks’.67
In January 2009, US Homeland Security Director Michael Chertoff announced contingency plans for an Iraq-style military ‘surge’ to deal with the cartels, involving ‘aircraft, armored vehicles and special teams to converge on border trouble spots, with the size of the force depending on the scale of the problem’.68 Barack Obama has so far resisted calls to militarise the Mexican border but there is no reason to think that he will do so indefinitely, as the military continues to present itself as the antidote to every social and political problem and morphs terrorism, insurgency and crime in its visions of the coming disorder. The depictions of Mexico as a security threat and source of chaos tend to ignore the role of US society in spreading violence south of the Rio Grande, whether it is the insatiable American appetite for narcotics, the disastrous impact of the NAFTA on the Mexican poor, the massive traffic of automatic weapons from the US into Mexico or the participation in the drug cartels of former soldiers trained by the US military itself.