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«Securitizing Terrorism in Southeast Asia Accounting for the Varying Responses of Singapore and Indonesia A B S T R AC T This article explains the ...»

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F E B R I CA / S E C u R I T I Z I N G T E R R O R I S M • 5 8 9 the monitoring program, National Police Chief General Bambang Hendarso Danuri said that the police “would not control preachers, and affirm[ed] that religious propagation was not under the police`s authority.”84 Indonesian government officials do not openly mention the U.S. as a country heavily involved in promoting “moderate” Islam in Indonesia.85 Nor do they associate the deradicalization program with U.S.-led outreach efforts to Muslims, even though there is a remarkable array of such outreach programs administered by the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in Indonesia.86 Seen in this light, it is apparent that the Jakarta government made attempts to prudently placate domestic coalition concerns while at the same time curbing the terrorist networks.


This article has brought to our attention one key point: the role of audience in influencing the success of securitization. In the securitization of terrorism, government can play the role of audience in bargaining with other states, as well as being a communicator to domestic constituents. The state response to U.S.

securitization moves, therefore, is generated from the interface between interstate negotiation on the one hand and interaction within the domestic realm on the other: among individuals, social and interest groups, and the state.87 84. “News Focus: Fighting Terrorism through Deradicalization Program Goes On,” September 22, 2009, Antara National News Agency, http://www.antara.co.id/en/news/1253615413/news-focusfighting-terrorism-through-deradicalization-program-goes-on, accessed February 23, 2010.

85. Ibid.; see Andrew Higgins, “As Indonesia Debates Islam’s Role, U.S. Stays Out: Post-9/11 Push to Boost Moderates Gives Way,” Washington Post, October 25, 2009, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/10/24/AR2009102402279.html, accessed May 20, 2010.

86. “News Focus: Fighting Terrorism through Deradicalization Program Goes On”; “U.S. Public Diplomacy: State Department Efforts to Engage Muslim Audiences Lack Certain Communication Elements and Face Significant Challenges,” Government Accountability Office, May 2006, http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d06535.pdf; “USAID Indonesia Press Release: Indonesian Islamic Leaders to Gather in Washington to Discuss and Strengthen U.S.-Indonesian Relations,” March 31, 2006, http://indonesia.usaid.gov/en/Article.116.aspx, accessed April 10, 2009; Todd Bullock, “USAID Indonesia Programs Key to Achieving U.S. Policy Goals,” September 20, 2005, http:// www.america.gov/st/washfileenglish/2005/September/20050920172231TJkcolluB0.728039.html, accessed April 10, 2009; “New Program to Introduce Islamic School Leaders to U.S. System,” State Department Fact Sheet, June 27,2002, http://www.america.gov/st/washfileenglish/2002/June/ 20020627170947phupd.state.gov0.7347223.html, accessed April 10, 2009.

87. Bill McSweeney, Security, Identity, and Interest: A Sociology of International Relations (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1999), p. 127; Peter Gourevitch, “Domestic Politics and International Relations,” in Handbook of International Relations, eds. Walter Carlsnaes, Thomas Risse, Beth A. Simmons (London: Sage, 2002), pp. 310, 316, 318.

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From an account of the different features of audiences provided in this study, we may obtain an explanation regarding the varying degrees of securitization success. Contrasting Indonesia’s and Singapore’s domestic politics, this article asserts that the different approaches to fighting terrorism stem from the dissimilarity of the two states’ domestic audiences.

Indonesia demonstrates a hard case for the securitization of terrorism.

With respect to its domestic politics, we have seen that as Indonesia has adopted a pluralistic system, the government has faced immediate constraint from public opinion because the domestic public can support or displace leaders from their political positions. In Indonesia, the allegations of politicians who link the fight against terrorism with an attack on Islam have helped to shape negative public perceptions of the “war on terror.” Facing this domestic constraint, the government may invite other countries to cooperate in curbing terrorist activities by Islamic extremists; however, it must carefully explain its policy, in order not to build a facile association between Islam and terrorism. Additionally, Indonesia’s weak as well as heterogeneous domestic coalition contributed to the seemingly slow and unaggressive government responses to terrorist attacks. The government’s political support is drawn from various factions such as the military, Islamic parties, and business interests. Consequently, this diverse coalition hinders the government from taking a strong stance in the “war on terror.” By contrast, the Singaporean government is not subject to the same pressures. Here, Singapore is an easy case of securitization, where government plays a greater role as audience and a lesser one as a communicator to the domestic public. The state has the ability to exercise decisive intervention in interpreting the “reality” of the “war on terror” and to strongly counteract competing narratives. This capacity makes society see this “reality” of the “war on terror” the way the government does: as an immediate threat to the economy and to political and social life. For Singapore, the cohesiveness of domestic coalitions created favorable conditions for the city-state’s firm stance in the war against terrorism. Under the banner of a total defense strategy, the populist and growth alliances emerged with the same voice as the government.

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