Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The Shield of Achilles

I am posting this here because the PDF needed to be edited for clarity.

Michael Barone - The Shield of Achilles

Here's a fascinating interview by Matthew D'Ancona, former deputy editor of the Sunday Telegraph and now editor of the Spectator, with Philip Bobbitt, author of the provocative and ambitious The Shield of Achilles. The interview was conducted at the top-notch British think tank Policy Exchange. Bobbitt believes that we are evolving from the nation-state to what he calls the market state, and he argues that the terrorism we are going to face may be more sophisticated and dangerous than anything al Qaeda and its sympathizers have done. Both Bobbitt and D'Ancona have first-rate minds, and this is a thought-provoking interchange. I can't do it justice here: Read the whole thing.

Policy Exchange
Philip Bobbitt with Matthew d’Ancona

Matthew d’Ancona
I wanted to look first of all at an idea that clearly bridges The Shield of Achilles and this book, which is at it were the analytical tool that I think leaps of the pages of The Shield of Achilles amongst many others, which is the whole concept of the “market state”. And I wondered if you could begin by defining the “market state” and perhaps saying a little bit about how it applies to your new exploration of the wars on terror?

If any of you have the misfortune to have been a political science student then you will have come across the idea at one point in your lifetime that in 1648 two cities, Munster and Osnabruck, a new constitutional order was created by the treaties of Westphalia. This idea is the nation state. If you somehow escaped this, you’re a lucky man or woman, but it pervades American and even British notions of the state. If that’s true then the change in the constitutional order that I believe we’re undergoing would be, the first of its kind in almost four-hundred years or the decay of the nation state would presage the death of the State itself. I very much doubt that.

The kind of constitutional order I refer to when I say ‘the nation state’ is really only a little more then 100 years old. In my country it comes together with Lincoln and the reform of our constitution brought about by the civil war. In Europe it comes in with Bismarck and the change from the imperialist states like Britain and France that dominated the 19th century to the nation states that dominated the 20th. The constitutional order is defined by the promise, the covenant it makes, in exchange for power. It might say ‘give me power because my father had it.’ Right? ‘Give use power and we will forge the identity of the nation.’ Fine. The constitutional order for the 20th century said ‘give us power and we will improve your material well-being.’ FDR said that, Joseph Stalin said it, Lloyd George said it, Adolph Hitler said it – they differed in how they got there. That was the fundamental policy.

We do not live in market states; we live in nation states now. But I think you can see a transition beginning from the kind of constitutional order we had in the 20th century into a new form in the 21st century, and these are the reasons why, or a few of the reasons why:

• A global system of communications that prevents any nation state from governing its culture, because it penetrates every society
• An international system and trade and finance that prevents any state from determining the value of its national currency
• A system of international human rights that pre-empts any state’s national laws. The reason why Milosevic was tried was not because he violated Yugoslav or Serbian law.
• Transnational threats like AIDS and SARS or climate change and terrorism itself, that no state can hide from, and it leapfrogs national borders no matter what you do.
• And finally the commodification of weapons of mass destruction, where crucial components can either be sold or bartered on the clandestine market or simply downloaded from the internet, such as a DNA starter-kit.

And the sort of signature, the trace, where you might see a trace in a cloud chamber to see what an electron does, the traces of this new order I believe you can see even today. You can see it here in Britain. When states go from reliance on law and regulation so characteristic of the nation state to deregulating not only industries but also women’s reproduction. When states move from conscription to an all-volunteer force to raise armies; in the UK you saw this development in the policy of top-up fees for college tuitions, you see it in America with welfare reform, when we go from direct transfers and workmen’s compensation to providing skills to enter the labour market, in all of these instances you are seeing the beginnings of a change in which the state says ‘give us power and we will maximise your opportunity. What you do with it that’s up to you. We will not assure you equality and we will not assure you steadily improving security, but the total wealth of the society will be maximised by these steps and that will improve opportunity.’ Now different cultures will do this differently. Some will have thicker safety nets then others, some will act in regions as Europe well may, others will be more entrepreneurial and act individually. And over time states may try more then one way of being a market state. But that’s the basic concept, and it’s a concept that Robert Cooper calls a post-modern state, people call it other things, but it rests upon the fundamental idea that while the nation state is decaying, the state is doing very well thank you, and has no intention of going away.

Matthew d’Ancona
Now let’s look at one of the many intellectual provocations in your introduction, principal amongst which was your pointed decision to talk about the wars on terror in the plural. Now what’s interesting about that is that in America with the neo-conservative movement and in this country with the Prime Minister’s advocacy of the war (singular) on terror, there’s an attempt to do precisely the opposite, which is to argue that there is in fact a historic and lethal convergence going on, which must be impeded, between three things: the proliferations of weapons of mass destruction, the continued existence and ambitions of rogue states, and fundamentalist Islam. And the strategy, such as it is in the West, hugely controversial as it is, is to try and do something about those three factors. Now I take it from your use of the plural “wars” on terrors that you do not accept that analysis, and also that further you are trying to disaggregate the war on terror as it is perceived in popular parlance.

Philip Bobbitt
I think that’s right. What would you do for example with the anthrax attacks? Do we think that a rogue state mailed them, do we think they are an example of proliferation to some other entity, such that something like the NPT might have prevented it, do we think it’s anything to do with Islam? Well it may be linked to the Al Qaeda attacks. It’s always troubled me that the anthrax letters were mailed from Trenton, New Jersey and Boca Raton in Florida, both place where there were dormitories for the 9/11 terrorists. But the general thinking in the law enforcement agencies in the States is that it had nothing to do with Al Qaeda. I don’t know. I want a concept of warfare that
doesn’t depend upon my knowing. I don’t mean that you have to give up on what I call the demand side of terrorism and the threats that you’ve mentioned are very real threats, and I am not complacent about them. But I think you have to have also a supply-side strategy, you have to be able to defend yourself when you don’t know who is hitting you or you can get hit again. Matthew has very kindly asked me about the title of this book, which has undergone several changes now and have not decided on the right one yet. At one point I was going to call it A Plague Treatise for the 21st Century; as you know, plague treatises were written 13th/14th centuries by physicians and clerics and they talked about a phenomenon that they by and large didn’t understand. They didn’t have germ theory. I don’t think we really understand the operation of terror in the 21st century. But this much I think we do understand, that we have to build up our immune systems. We cannot simply win this fight by going after our adversaries and attacking them and killing them.

Matthew d’Ancona
I’ve been fortunate enough to read some of the book, which is absolutely fascinating, and you refer in that draft to what you call “the unique vulnerabilities of the globalised networked market states”. Can you expand a little on what you mean by that?

Philip Bobbitt
I still live in the same street I grew up on, I can see the skyline from my house (it’s not a very grand skyline) and I remember when I was a boy, going with my father to open up a bank account. He took me down and I met the president of the Austin National Bank, who seemed to me a very august and remote figure. He went down with me, and my father deposited $5 in my account, and I got a chequebook. Now I don’t know who owns the Austin National Bank now, it’s not anybody in Austin, it’s not anybody in Texas. I drove by that the other day and I thought suppose I was in there now and suppose the power went out, what would happen? Well a lot of things would happen. All transfers would stop, I couldn’t use an ATM machine, there’d be no way for me to access my account. I couldn’t even get money out from a teller because she couldn’t or he couldn’t check the funds available. Whereas when I was a boy and I went down there if the power went out they would actually have just brought out candles. It’s that kind of connectivity that allows a cascading series of vulnerabilities to be exploited.

It’s true for pressured gas pipelines, it’s true the public switched network, over which 90% of our defence communications go, it has made us (and by us I mean everyone in this room), it has made us very rich, it has brought us a considerable amount of wealth and improvement in our living standards, and it is making people in some of the poorest parts of the world much better off then they were before, but it also makes us very vulnerable.

Matthew d’Ancona
And on that note, one of the things that struck me, thinking about your attempt to marry the concept of the market state with the new context is that - I mean, I’m probably one of the last five people in Britain who thinks the Iraq war is a good idea,

but to use your analysis, it was not a good outing for this germinating idea of the market state for several reasons. For instance, it encouraged the idea that the market state pedals false information, in the manner of a company to clients. That the Halliburton connection encouraged the notion that there were market elements is rather bigger then the accountable democratic state dimension. The horrors of Abu Ghraib, in which there were these mysterious private contractors engaged in acts of torture, again encouraged the idea that the state is simply contracting out acts that it would normally not have been willing to do in order to avoid accountability. So I wondered if you might say something about how you see the aftermath of Iraq, with reference to your analysis?

Philip Bobbitt
You also might have mentioned extraordinary renditions as another example of outsourcing by the states. You’ve put it perfectly. The crucial part of a diplomatic and military campaign for a market state is to unify strategy and law. The nation state separated them. It professionalised both. The military people are often heard to say you wouldn’t want a politician to do brain surgery, Mr President; you don’t want a civilian to do warfare either. Leave it to the pros, we’ll do it, you give us the goal, we’ll achieve it if we can. This kind of separation was characteristic in many, many areas of professionalisation in the 20th century. In the 21st century just the opposite is going to happen, because you’re trying to protect civilians, rather then kill enemy soldiers, as your first objective. You must bring the law into the closest possible coordination with strategy, and what this administration has done, and I support the war in Iraq, what they have done is heartbreaking, because they have steadily removed the greatest source of their power, which was the rule of the law. You may think of Abu Ghraib as a battle and we lost. Guantanamo is a battle that we have lost. It will cost us lives, it will cost us political influence, and above all it may cost us, our strategic objectives. Not simply by ignoring it but by having a studied contempt of the law, and not just international law, which needs desperately to be reformed, but for even our domestic laws. The administration has kicked away what should have been its strongest prop. It baffles me. And it angers me.

Matthew d’Ancona
Are you then saying that one of the problems with the market state is that it doesn’t know it exists?

Philip Bobbitt
Sort of like the man who didn’t know he had been speaking prose all his life.
I don’t know that the market state does exist. I think that the nation state will take on elements, because it will be forced to do so.
I was giving a talk about market state to a group in Oxford last week and I told a story there, I don’t know if any of you can possibly relate to this. In the first place every one of you, even Simon Jenkins, is too young for this story. In the second place it involves an American cartoonist, and that sort of thing doesn’t really usually travel
well. It was a cartoon strip that I grew up with and it had two principal characters as these things often do, a sort of straight man, a kind of Charlie Brown, straight arrow, earnest type and then a very louche friend of his who was always getting into trouble and always causing problems. The straight arrow, the Charlie Brown character, was called Pogo, and that was the name of the strip, and his friend was called Albert; he was an alligator who often wore a velvet smoking jacket, always had a cigar. The two friends are playing checkers (I think some of you will call it draughts) and the alligator has a smoking cap on, velvet jacket, and the little possum, Pogo, goes into a frenzy jumping all the checkers of the alligator, just clearing them off the board. The alligator is aghast at this, drops his cigar … but he recovers, reaches into his smoking jacket, pulls out some cards, and he says ‘I’ve got a straight flush. What have you got?’

That, I think, is what the state will do. The state will not vanish when it is unable to fulfil the compact of steadily improving material well-being and equality. It will not go out of business, it will change the nature of governing, what it means to govern. I think you’ll see it in Westminster every day. But that doesn’t mean that we have now a market state. Such dramatic, thorough changes of constitutional order, I believe, only come about through warfare, tremendous pressure.

Matthew d’Ancona
Another interesting aspect of your analysis is that there have been fundamentally two responses from the senior level with regards to the war on terror: one is to characterise a threat that’s very much ‘the Other’ and something to which we need to respond on the basis of our perception of and analysis of ‘the Other’; and the alternative analysis is essentially one of self-flagellation, which is to say these are all the consequence of errors made in the West, and we can deal with them or see to them, or not do anything about them, but that is the consequence, it’s the legacy of the century of colonialism, errors in the Middle East and so forth. One of the things that’s so fascinating about your analysis is that you seem to me to be saying that yes, these are actually symptoms of the way in which the market state and the globalised system have emerged, and its vulnerabilities, but there is also an answer in that new order, to how we might cope with this. Can you explain what the right steps forward are now?

Philip Bobbitt
Well, I don’t know that I know. When I first came to live in England I was a graduate student and I was writing things about the long-range theatre nuclear force, and the extension of deterrence. I began writing at Oxford on the intellectual history of the theory of nuclear deterrence, which was a fundamental revision of the earlier understanding of strategic bombing. Now, I think that intellectuals, diplomats, journalists, writers, of course politicians and people in think-tanks like this one, will have to do that kind of fundamental rethinking about the war on terror that we don’t have. We don’t have the intellectual tools. Just like we didn’t have the germ theory of infection when John of Paris wrote his plague treatise. And I might make lots of suggestions in this new book about it, I want us to have a national ID for example, but if I’m wrong about all of those things, about this I am right: that we do not now have a
consensus of ideas, not across the US and the UK, not even within these countries, about what the threat is and what the appropriate strategies are to tackle that threat. I know that’s an evasion of your question….

Matthew d’Ancona
Well let me press you on it with an obvious and pressing example, Iran, which it seems to me is an example that adds lustre to your theory, because what Iran is doing is to exploit our inability to come up with a coherent response to the threats that we actually face in the world, and they’re doing it in a very sophisticated and effective way, and I can understand it’s very hard to really see a way in which they will not, in the end, end up with an equal nuclear capacity, and a weapons capability, and there is certainly a reasonably respectable body of opinion that that is perhaps the least worst option. And what do you think the right strategy for starting now is?

Philip Bobbitt
What if first I’ll come in on the background of your question, which in a very few words really sketched it masterfully. I was talking to a friend of mine the other day about …I was trying to remember the name, if there was a name, for what the American crime families called this board of directors they set up in the ‘50s.

Matthew d’Ancona
The Commission.

Philip Bobbitt

The Commission, thank you. And they would say ‘you take Chicago, and you take LA, you take Vegas, and we’ll split up the organisation’. It didn’t work. They didn’t keep their agreements, they lied, they cheated. It didn’t work because they were criminal, for heaven’s sake!

Why would you expect it to work?

Well, we’re having trouble organising nation states. We’re having a great deal of difficulty, whether it’s Darfur or Iran, climate change; why? They’re nation states, what is so surprising about that? They will look at their national interests, often in a very shortsighted way, and they’ll find themselves almost incapable of coordinating a response. Now many times that doesn’t matter, but for some kinds of things they can only be solved collectively, it’s a real problem. You know, I think there are market state things that can be done with Iran and they maybe involve bribery, if that’s not too provocative a way of putting it. I don’t think they involve marching into Tehran and I certainly don’t think they involve throwing bombs at six sites, and I could never be persuaded, never, that they involved bombing these sites with nuclear weapons, to be able to penetrate some of the protected laboratories. And I’m afraid I agree with your rather gloomy prediction that right now you have to say it looks as though in a few years, maybe four or five, maybe ten or twelve, that the Iranians will have some kind of nuclear capability. It didn’t have to be that way. At least one of the principal positive things to come out of the defenestration of Saddam Hussein was to assure ourselves that Iran did not need to go nuclear. As long as Iraq was poised to go nuclear whenever it got us out of its hair, you could never say to the Iranians that they shouldn’t push forward with this programme. This isn’t a new programme, as all of you know. They’ve been at this for quite some time, really going back to the Shah, and they had this project for very sensible reasons; they face a highly armed, very rich psychopath who has already attacked them once. But when you remove Iraq from the nuclear future you ought to have been able to say alright, this is what we can do. We can give Israel a security guarantee; we can give them the kinds of weapons that would be of much more utility to them then any nuclear weapon can possibly be. We’ll give Iran a security guarantee against Israel. They may not credit American intentions, but they may believe the guarantees of the Europeans, and we can denuclearise this region. That is so obviously a solution that it hardly takes somebody as clever as the people in this room to come up with it. But now I fear it is most unlikely that it will happen in time. That doesn’t mean it will never happen, and it doesn’t mean that Iran will acquire a nuclear capability that is a threat to this country or anyone in the United States, it doesn’t mean they can’t denuclearise some day in the future as South Africa, Ukraine and Libya, and other states have done. It doesn’t even mean that they will be incapable of protecting what weapons they have from terrorists. But it probably does mean that once Iran has deployed nuclear weapons, the Saudis will want weapons, the Egyptians will follow suit and then the Iraqis will resume their pursuit of such weapons.

Matthew d’Ancona
On that somewhat pessimistic note let me just throw the floor open. Yes sir?

Audience member
You said that it didn’t have to be that way but perhaps there’s an obvious reason why it did have to be that way and that’s the rule of economics. That it is to say [IA] means that [IA] and the effect of that seems to me to be quite inevitable to the progression of nuclear technology [IA]. I think [IA] your hypothesis in a way, because it points towards [IA] in the broadest possible sense in order to achieve that.

Now there are two things that I could … two small implications I could point to and one is that we have this very fascicle assumption that in [IA] of terrorism [IA] are fundamentalists but of course when you [IA] you don’t actually require [IA] in order to destroy an ??? you can be a columbine murderer type and if the technology is available enough, you know, motivated [IA] and have a devastating effect. I suppose the other point is, that gets in the way of the thesis you’re proposing is that the intention is to have a non-nation in the traditional sense, [IA] given the degree of centralisation of Washington and New York are more [IA] then we are but already there are [IA] here and in terms of [IA] UK.

Matthew d’Ancona
Shall I just take one more and then ask you to comment.
Dominick Donald (Aegis)
I very much like your idea that you basically ignore the terrorist unless the terrorist threat actually affects the state in anything other then economic terms perhaps. Market terms it’s limited. Taking that as a given it seems to me that it’s interesting that we’ve got multiple acts of insurgency that both operate above and if you like below the radar of the state. And yet at the same time we’ve got, as you pointed out, nation states that are congenitally incapable, up to the last resort, of cooperating to face that threat. That would therefore seem to me that the logical extension of that threat is that each state addresses the terrorist threat within its own territory, isn’t really addressing the globalised issue. And if that is so then what … how would you see states, if you like, reaching out beyond that to address, in a sense, both the very particular but the much more global.

Philip Bobbitt
Right. Let’s just take this one and then I’ll come back.
You could also say that about climate change too. I suppose I think that market states would be better at this for two or three reasons. First of all, and I don’t mean they’ll be less nationalistic. Nationalism has been with us for a very long time, and it was with us well before there were nation states. But there are other institutions that are not national; I have in mind NGOs, I have in mind the international media, and I have in mind multinational corporations. There are very important entities that actually have global interests, and they’re not by and large governments, although the US and the UK do have global interests most national governments don’t.
I think that the … you put it well when you said above and below the radar for that. I think the watermark of 21st century terrorism will be its uncanny mimicry of the market state. And I think this is not unique to Europe. When I hear friends of mine say ‘Philip, we know terrorism; relax, keep your shirt on. We’ve had the IRA, ETA, the PLO, we had the PKK, we know terrorism.’ Well, you know nation state terrorism, you know 20th century terrorism, and nation state terrorism mimics the nation state. They had a political wing and a military wing, they fought for existence as an independent state. Nation states have nation state (which it to say national liberation) terrorism. The kingly states of the 16th century had pirates. The … princely states of the 16th century had mercenaries. They were intensely sectarian, as were their states. And the terrorists of the 21st century will be like market states, decentralised, global, networked, devolved, outsourcing their activities, just as the states that they attack.

Now on the economic point, I don’t know that I altogether agree with you. It seems to me that by making something cheaper you do not necessarily proliferate it, and a good example I guess would be last year’s Chanel dress or, I don’t know, harnesses when the sales of automobiles really began to take off. You could make something such that you can’t even give it away, in spite of making it cheaper and cheaper. It’s just not valued inventory. The price that comes down as demand comes down. If you can’t give societies security weapons will not proliferate even when they become more accessible. And I’ll give you two examples, Germany and Japan. Both these states had greater and greater wealth which means the costs came down to them of
developing these weapons, both of them faced very substantial security threats, they had the technology, they had the technocracy. The real story of proliferation in the post-war period is not that India and Pakistan and Israel got weapons, it’s that Germany and Japan did not get weapons, and they didn’t get weapons because we had a very successful programme of extended deterrence. But I like to think that in the 21st century we will develop other methods of if not extending deterrents, some kind of protection for civilians to those states that otherwise might be tempted to get weapons of mass destruction.

Matthew d’Ancona
Any more questions?

Peter [IA]
There are two questions prompted by the changing use of the term terrorism. If you look back before the second world war every organisation one thinks of as being terrorists, whether it would be the French Revolution of the 19th century or Russia in the 1930s, were actioned by the state against their own citizens, whereas what we now call terrorism is more action by citizens or groups of citizens against states, which may not be their own states. The first question is given the range of examples in your answer just now, how useful is it, do you think, to use the term terror or terrorism in terms of formulating a policy response, or are there two many different kinds of terrorism to make it a useful term? The second question is, again if you consider these two different historical types of terrorism, it is [IA] taking as a crude measure of ??? the number of people whose lives have been terminated, that it’s hard to say that terrorism in its modern sense has actually killed more people or terminated more lives early then the actions of states against people, and therefore are we not perhaps in danger of exaggerating the terrorist problem and not placing enough emphasis on the need to control the international community, legal state action against people?

Philip Bobbitt
Let me just answer the two parts to that. I don’t really see terrorism I think quite the way you do, and I find the use of the term terrorist rather useful because I see it in the context of the state as I just mentioned before. So when I think about 19th century terrorism I do think about the French revolution of course, but mainly about the anarchist movement, a movement that was not defeated, it simply passed away when the kind of states passed away; the Imperial states passed away, they took their terrorism with them. So I do find it a useful term.

But I take your point that if you want to talk about terror then you only move into the big leagues when you get states, whether it’s China, Soviet Union, Nazi Germany.
I also may depart from you about the kind of threat that this poses. Despite a campaign against Americans including 9/11 but really going back some time before that, of terror against American civilians, travellers, diplomats, more people have died since oh say mid-seventies, by falls in bath-tubs in America then have been killed by terrorists. I think it would be neurotic to define public policy, much less strategy in general by forgetting about states and focussing on Al Qaeda. But Al Qaeda is not I think the mature threat that I worry about. It may sound absurd to say this but I think these are our salad days. I think we will think of Al Qaeda as a sort of market innovator, if you will, but not as a terrible threat … or I sincerely hope that’s the case. It’s only when you see the intersection of weapons of mass destruction and a network, global outsourcing group that can exploit those that you really get into some very deep water. And then you are talking about real casualties of the kind that only states could produce in the past. In the book The Shield of Achilles, which Matthew d’Ancona was so generous about, I begin with a passage that says something like, for five centuries it has taken a state to destroy another state. Only states could keep armies in the field for decades, master complex logistics, levy the tremendous taxation necessary to wage war. In fact the State was created as a way of defending societies from warfare. And I believe soon this will change. I can’t say this will happen next week or next year and I hope for everyone here that it’s not even in this decade or the next couple of decades, I hope and I pray that’s true. But I’m not prepared to say that the revolution in information has brought us so many things, that also brings us plasma for DNA starter kits, growth media, the blue-prints for polio and smallpox that are now on the web, that these things will require states to exploit them. I’m afraid I don’t believe that.

Matthew d’Ancona
Can I just interrupt you there? I mean, the bathtub contention, because if you look at July 7th I mean only about I think 52 people actually died but the event sprayed psychological shrapnel across this country and it generated a debate, a very angry, neurotic debate about civil liberties, about detention and about the correct and appropriate proportional response by the state to this single event. So is it right to say that in fact the real problem is high technology WMD converging with terrorism if in fact we’re talking about organisation that for all their primitivism have a profound understanding of how to destabilise political systems they attack.

Philip Bobbitt
That may be giving them a bit too much credit. I would say instead that our systems are very unstable themselves. I analogise this to a guy playing roulette, and he puts his chips on number 18 and he wins. He lets his winning ride. Number 18 hits again, he lets his bet ride again. Eventually he builds these towers of chips that are very, very fragile but he’s wealthier then ever. You can’t tell him to move off number 18; it’s paying out like a machine. The ripple effect you saw throughout the society was a consequence, I think, of media coverage, of the vulnerability of our transportation system. It’s not an act of genius on the part of the terrorist that’s responsible for this.

Secondly I think when you go to weapons of mass destruction you’re talking about just a completely different level of horror and disruption. And I think that these debates now, although I’m perplexed sometimes by the course they take, are really very, very important. We must come, as societies, to some understanding of what we’re facing, and in these times of tranquillity organise ourselves and debate about what we will do if a catastrophe should come to pass. We should stockpile laws for such an eventuality, just as we stockpile vaccines. Then I think we have an excellent chance of getting through these attacks with systems of consent in place. But if we don’t do that, if we say oh, get real, this isn’t another second world war, surely you’re exaggerating the threat, this couldn’t possibly threaten our society now! It hasn’t yet! And if you don’t use the democratic process to put laws in place now, then in a way you become the ally of the terrorists because when a truly terrible series of mass atrocities really does occur and you don’t have anything to fall back on, that’s when you get martial law, that’s when you get the system that’s in democratic collapse, and you become the source of terror yourself. No, Bin Ladin isn’t going to invade and occupy Westminster and put Mullah Omar in the House of Lords, he’s not going to take over. If Britain becomes a state of terror it will be because we did it to ourselves and we did it because we did not prepare when we had the time and the peace to do so by law and by consensual systems.

The United States can do the same thing. If we are busy throwing away laws, the one steady craft we have to get through this, Washington will turn us into a state of terror, we’ll do it. We’ll embrace it enthusiastically.

Matthew d’Ancona
Can I take some more questions?

Audience member, [IA] News Service
Philip, I’d like to take issue with you about the use of, the historical use of Germany and Japan. Those are two countries which were defeated, forced into unconditional surrenders, forced to accept restrictions on the size of the military, and then occupied for decades to prevent them from developing weapons of mass destruction. And finally you mentioned the possibility of denuclearising the Middle East. I don’t think anyone has managed to put the nuclear genii back into the bottle. You would have to persuade the Israelis to do so and I think it’s unrealistic to even think that.

Philip Bobbitt
Let me take both of these points. First about Germany and Japan, it’s certainly true that in 1950 you weren’t going to get nuclear weapons there, although there were the ideas of the EDC in the 50s of which you are well aware. But what about 1970, what about 1980, what about the entire INF controversy? If Germany or Japan during that period had said ‘we can’t trust these American cowboys with our security’, there’s no occupation would have stopped them for deploying nuclear weapons. It was extended deterrence more than anything else that stopped them. And I think it was a very successful policy.
Now … what was the second question? Sorry.

Matthew d’Ancona
Putting the nuclear genie back in the bottle in the Middle East.

Philip Bobbitt
Oh yes. You know, I think that the fact it has not been done may not be a definitive lesson for the future. For one thing there may be other weapons that are more useful to states but there are less useful deterrents. And I have in mind precision guided of the sort that a state with a sophisticated air force, advanced guidance systems and very expensive space machinery may want to use and find much more effective then something that just blows the hell out of a city.

Second the politics of states may change. South Africa’s a good example. South Africa had gone as far as getting the genie out of the bottle, it was an open bottle and they were certainly pursuing it in earnest. So I’m not prepared to say that because it has never happened that it can’t happen. I think it can happen if you have a different security situation and perhaps you have a different technology.

Edward ???, Policy Exchange
I was interested you mentioned early on in your list of heresies or whatever that you obviously wished something to detach the terrorist threat in general from the threat that we currently have on purely Middle Eastern terrorism, and I’d be interested to hear a bit more of your thoughts as to what drives that thinking. If I were to guess I would say on the one side we have societies which, as you’ve explained in your book and in your talk, are so vulnerable and therefore if you like the opportunity is there, and secondly that you could see all sorts of ways in which the hostilities of those societies are aroused to produce terrorism. We’re going to think back to for example the ideological rages of the 60s, 70s, the Red Brigade, Baader-Meinhoff, people like that. Is that the sort of lines along which you were thinking when you said that you wanted to separate out thinking about terror from thinking purely about the Middle East?

Philip Bobbitt
Well partly. I mean I think right now we have a case of the avian bird flu, so we’re paying a lot of attention to it, fair enough. We’re getting antibiotics and whatever. But over the long-term we want to build up our immune system, we want to be prepared against all sorts of influences that don’t necessarily come from particular regions. I also had in mind, and I discuss this in this manuscript, that the epicentre of Islamic terror I believe is in Europe, not in Pakistan or Afghanistan or Saudi Arabia, and everyone here already knows that the most important cell for 9/11 wasn’t in Jeddah it was in Hamburg. And I think this will only increase. I also think, which I guess is sort of part of the same idea, that Al Qaeda is not a consequence of the interface between a globalised secular modernist culture and a more simple, more backward, less literate culture. I don’t think that’s it at all. I think Al Qaeda is a slick, very modern, very post-modernist, very with it, group and you see this in the sophistication of their media strategies.


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