The ‘Sovereign’ according to Ola Tunander

HPIM0873On Friday 27 May 2016, PRIO celebrated Ola Tunander’s 30-year academic career with a seminar on ‘Sovereignty, Subs and PSYOPS’, and a reception. The celebration was, of course, focused on Ola and his work, spanning topics from the geopolitics and organic state theory of Rudolf Kjellén to the 27 October 1981 ‘Whiskey on the Rocks’ submarine crash in the Swedish Archipelago. Obviously, sovereignty was a key topic of the seminar, and is arguably also the critical theme of Ola’s work.

As a digital footnote to the seminar, and a distillation of the ‘sovereign’ according to Ola Tunander, here are some excerpts of Ola’s writings on the subject (all from ‘Democratic State vs. Deep State – Approaching the Dual State of the West’ in Eric Wilson’s Government of the Shadows: Parapolitics and Criminal Sovereignty, published by Pluto Press, 2009):

[…] the ‘sovereign’, as it developed after the Second World War, turned […] secret armies into a sophisticated military arm for PSYOPs to limit the range of democratic discourse and to ‘fine tune’, calibrate and manipulate that discourse.

[…] letting fascist forces carry out the preliminary stages of military coups, the ‘sovereign’ was able to force governments to resign or accept a change of policy on a number of occasions.

[…] the ‘democratic state’, was forced either to yield to the ‘sovereign’, the ‘security state’, or to confront it by mobilising popular support and legitimacy — something the ‘security state’ is only able to do through the introduction of its ‘game’ of fear and protection.

[…] For the ‘sovereign’, fascist or military rule was never a goal in itself. The ‘coup’ was rather an instrument to re-establish order in accordance with the Machiavellian formula of fear and protection: first, let a ‘cruel and efficient governor’ eliminate all opposition; then, publicly eliminate the same governor to regain legitimacy.

[…] The ‘sovereign’ may raise the ‘security temperature’ through the use of ‘indiscriminate terrorism’ — dramatising politics.

[…] Fear of bomb attacks has enormous psychological impact, compelling people to turn to the state for protection and to blame the perceived enemy. In the event of such attacks, mass media will often respond hysterically, blaming whomever the authorities say is responsible. Such an instrument is thus ideal for calibrating government policy, in other words as a means to ‘fine tune’ democratic politics and to ‘securitise’ what used to be open to public debate, bringing the democratic political sphere more into line with the political vision of the ‘security state’. Through the use of a brutal bombing campaign, it is possible to create events that the mass media will interpret as an ‘enemy attack’, that will enable the ‘sovereign’ to externalise conflicts to provide internal stability.

[…] If necessary, the ‘sovereign’ may turn to ‘selective terrorism’ to take out a political leader, either as a way of vetoing the policies of that leader or to blame anti-US forces for such ‘terrorist’ actions.

[…] The ‘sovereign’ may use specifically tasked units (army or navy special forces) to attack its own forces or allied or friendly forces throughout the Western world in order to increase readiness and raise public awareness of a common threat. Such dramatic operations are conducted as realistic exercises (‘train as you fight’), but in the mass media they are presented as enemy attacks or intrusions, which thus shape and influence the mindset of the general public and local military forces and even the policies of the host country government. Such attacks create fear and demands for protection; they externalise conflicts to provide internal stability; and they may force governments to back away from particular policies. The ‘enemy attacks’, as they are reported in the mass media, are turned into PSYOPs that alter world opinion and influence decisions in international forums such as the UN. Such a strategy gives the ‘sovereign’ an ideal instrument for calibrating the ruling mass media discourse as well as government policy in various countries.

[…] The ‘sovereign’ spans the entire Western world. By this is meant that the dual state divide between the ‘democratic state’ and the ‘security state’ seemingly corresponds to a divide between democratic nation-states and a protective central power — or, to use Carl Schmitt’s terminology, between the states of the Western Grossraum and the US Reich. In every state, US intelligence has recruited loyal officers and civil servants that have acted as direct liaisons to US authorities

[…] The central actors of the Western informal security network appear as the real ‘sovereign’, in a Schmittian sense, that decides on the exception in the NATO area or Grossraum.

[…] In the world of democracies, the ‘sovereign’ — the ‘deep state’ — has always to implement its game of fear and protection covertly and its very existence is always denied in public. Thus, the problem with liberalism in political science and legal theory is not its ambition to defend the public sphere, political freedoms and human rights, but rather its claim that these freedoms and rights define the Western political system. Liberal political science has been turned into an ideology of the ‘sovereign’, because undisputable evidence for the ‘sovereign’ — what Vinciguerra simply calls the ‘state’ — is brushed away as pure fantasy or ‘conspiracy’.

[…] Some might argue that this dual state is defensible, others not, but we should be aware that the liberal denial of its very existence is based on an illusion.


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