TAKING STOCK OF THE DAY THAT
DISTURBED INTERNATIONAL ORDER
Ronald C. Molmisa
Ken Booth and Tim Dunne, WORLDS IN COLLISION: Terror and the Future of Global Order. Palgrave Macmillan:
Much has been said about the character of 9/11 attacks from being the fulfillment of Nostradamus’s bleak prophecies to the alleged re-surgence of worldwide Islamic jihad. September 11 events have undeniably altered people’s perception---from the business executives of
World governments demonstrated three main responses to the trauma of 9/11. First, state power was rapidly reinstated through the intensification of sovereign control which the realists heralded as the strengthening of statecraft. The self-help system of world politics compels states to prioritize their security concerns above the interests of other states through the use of military force as a key instrument in gaining states’s objectives. The transnational nature of terrorism likewise reinvigorated inter-state cooperation aimed at preserving regional security. For rationalist institutionalists, globalization opens a Pandora’s Box which creates new channels for protest including the terrorist path. International institutions promise to assist governments in addressing these challenges. In 1970s, Keohane and Nye proposed the complex interdependence framework to explain the nature of international interdependence and the benefits of multilateral cooperation. They argue that multilateral initiatives are more politically-effective and resource-efficient than bilateral actions in addressing transnational concerns including terrorism (Keohane and Nye 1989). This is accomplished through the institution of a ‘regime’ or a set of rules that countries subscribe to, in leveling the playing field and minimize cheating and relative gains as proposed by the realists. The term ‘collective security’, first employed during the construction of the
Second, bin Laden’s involvement in the attacks signaled the criminalization of terrorism and its attendant actions, nostalgic of what Keohane explains about the delegitimation of piracy in the 18th century. Terrorists of diverse ideological motivations were widely condemned including the nations which harbor them. The ‘axis of evil’ was identified comprising of
Third, majority of states “embroidered” the concepts of ‘nation’, ‘heroism’ and ‘freedom’ to elicit sympathies and galvanize public support for the anti-terror campaign. Global media networks accentuated the rhetoric of war while stories of civilian casualties were romanticized mainly through dramatic media video footages and metaphors. Not only had these imageries stirred the collective pathos of the peoples around the globe, it also provided enough raison d’etre for governments to apply military solutions in the name of national security and order.
The horrors of 9/11 have become ‘fashionable’ in recent years with numerous cozy presumptions and grand interpretations about world politics demolished and questioned. Bringing together an outstanding group of intellectuals, Worlds in Collision primes itself as an indispensable book in understanding the debates about the future of global order in the wake of international terrorism and the war in
The book clearly sets out that we are confronted by a ‘confusion of misunderstandings, crude stereotypes and parallel absences of self-knowledge’ (pp. 5). Different international actors have divergent perceptions on the motivation and real character of the WTC bombers. The terms terrorism and terrorists require serious attention and examination since they have not been defined in a coherent manner (Chomsky). One country’s terrorist can be another state’s nationalist freedom fighter. 9/11 has bifurcated the notions of terrorism between the US-inspired and other countries’ brand of terror with the term terrorists being applied only to
Terrorism can be dissected according to its nature and purposes. It can be minimally defined as the ‘use of terror by organized groups to achieve given objectives’. But there is more than meets the eye. The multiplicity of terrorists’s strategies can get easily entangled with their somehow nebulous, non-political motivations. We can discern religious overtones from the pronouncements of al-Qaeda members stating their fundamental mission to stage a protracted armed struggle against the enemies of Islam, especially the Great Satan-US. Still, terrorist activities are not only a monopoly of shadowy groups but can also be utilized by states as a means to gain legitimacy. Authoritarian governments of Mao, Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, and the Talibans exhibited how leaders wage war against nonconforming constituents through state oppression.
Neorealists maintain that contemporary states have already abandoned the maximization of state power but rather focus on striking a balance between international relations and power politics. On one hand, the anarchic nature of the international system permits powerful states (the so-called poles) to determine the trajectory of the international order. The stability of the international system, as neorealists suggest, can be attributed to a single dominant state or a lead hegemon which can articulate and enforce the rules of interaction among the international system (Hegemonic Stability Theory). Admittedly, since coalitional politics are unstable in this conjuncture, Halliday and Gray highly consider
While some take the view that 9/11 destroyed or, at least decreased, the
The Bush administration’s foreign policy hitherto suffers from a neglect of diplomacy. It has emphasised a strategy that combines unilateral and re-militarising elements. Security is conceived of in terms of a gated community writ large. Diplomacy is downgraded to alliance-building (conveniently misnamed multilateralism) for a policy already decided. Other countries are sheer objects, not subjects, within
Combating terrorism and maintaining peaceful international relations necessitate the preservation of the integrity of the international law. Yet the imperial tinge in the application of these laws is apparent and continues to injure international players. Byers and An Naim strike it hard when they tag the
Coalitional politics is the major instrument of US to exert its power and compete with other states on distinguishing the terrorists and ascertaining acts of terrorism.
No group in the
The book does not fail to juxtapose contemporary wars with the issues of national sovereignty and human rights to reconcile debates concerning the use of force vis-à-vis the universal rights to human protection and dignity. Political observers confirm that a counter-terrorist strategy that separates the enemy from those who harbor them is not part of Bush’s mindset. Al-Qaeda and Jaamiyah Islamiyah are seen as problematic and need to be carefully approached and dissolved. Buzan, reinforces this conviction when he posits that, in the declaration of war, civilians must be separated from their governments as targets, if and only if the people do not deserve the government they have. Although the Geneva Conventions on War dictate that civilians should be treated separately from their governments, it must be noted that not all civilians are innocent. He further states, “To delink people from their governments, when they are in fact closely linked, is to undermine the political point of resorting to war in the first place.” (p.91). He gives the examples of flag-waving Serbs who either stood as silent supporters of Milosevic or as protectors of innocent civilians, Hussein’s despotic rule in Iraq, Kim’s Stalinistic regime in North Korea and Iran’s anti-US theocracy which were all sustained and reinforced by public choice and decision. In all of these, the international community has the right and responsibility to put an end to erring governments and people which cause threats to peace.
WHEN GLOBALIZATION AND CIVILIZATIONS COLLIDE
The post-9/11 period witnessed a new and sustained interest in the study of Islam and Muslim societies, with the cornucopia of knowledge projected in various governmental and media pronouncements on the subject. But, more often, the interpretation of Islam with regard to terrorism is determined by domestic and international political factors (Dalacoura 2002). The Islam faith has been demonized by
Globalization and fundamentalism are twin phenomena that cannot be separated. Barber has been consistent in his earlier position that we can allow either a globalized capitalist world (McWorld) or a world of fundamentalist (Jihad) to set the terms of international interdependence. We cannot strike a balance between the two because of the inherent nature of capitalism which automatically induces inequalities in the globe---the very reason of resentment among terrorists. There is a view that poverty among Muslim societies engenders terrorism because of clashes between Western consumerism and traditional Islamic teachings. Capitalism is perceived as part and parcel of the neo-liberal ideology which endeavors to secularize the religion of terrorists. In this regard, Smith’s chapter complements Barber’s position when the former formulates 10 factual questions directed to the US regarding the justification of its response, the nature of foreign policy it acted upon and the comprehensiveness of its understanding of the 9/11 attacks. One underpinning purpose of these inquiries is to investigate how cultures determine the perceptions of international actors regarding outsiders. Answers to these questions reveal that both the
Information technologies and the media are shaping the global citizens’ perception of terrorism and its concomitant actors. Acquisition of information and opinion about the aftermath of 9-11 has been a crucial factor in reconciling media coverage and opinion. Media networks have caused global citizens to perceive that the WTC attacks are reenactments of Bruce Willis’ Die Hard series and James Cameroon’s
Freedman and Ball concentrate on what they see as the evolution of a new form of warfare. Of interest to them is the war between a modern force and a primitive army (e.g. the
Ultimately, the intelligence community is anticipated to be burdened by the terrorist threats. Challenges lie on the lack of political will among governments to devote resources for the dismantling of intra-states terrorist networks and the failure to realign their legal and juridical systems to the principles of US’s anti-terror campaign. On the broad level, there is a lingering fear among states that the anti-terror campaign can easily translate into a war against freedom and privacy. Biersteker explains that gross infringement of civil liberties is not far-fetched in the future due to several strictures to be implemented on the use of the Internet and other correspondence and transaction systems including the financial market mechanisms. For instance, targeted financial sanctions (TFS), first applied by UN in
A NEW WORLD ORDER?
Have 9/11 events reconfigured the international state system? Some theorists maintain that it has unmistakably altered the traditional Westphalian concept of state as the sole enforcer of security. Interestingly, the book is concluded by Waltz’s statement that nothing has changed since 9/11, frustrating and downplaying the passionate trumpet call for the formation of global civil society by Linklater, Williams, Brown and Parekh. Waltz’s position seems to earn more plaudits since international events show that there is no plausible, major evidence suggesting the emergence of a new world order. The attacks may induce policing problem for the international community but they do not constitute a serious challenge to the norms of international society as the world’s global pattern of military, political and economic power remains unaltered (Brown 2002:263). Changes are more evolutionary rather than revolutionary, characterized by the following: increased assertion of US power, emergence of coalition of countries for and against the
Gray seamlessly describes the triumph of realist explanations as he chronicles how states supported US to further their national interests.
Asian governments managed to protect their interests by maximizing the opportunity of
Divergent perceptions towards 9/11 were also evident in the local level. For Acharya, the post-9/11 period saw state-society relations more divisive in terms of the relationship of governments to their people than between states.
The UN Millennium Declaration (Sept. 2000) promoting common values such as freedom, equality, solidarity, tolerance, respect for nature and shared responsibility became hollow post 9/11. The al-Qaeda and the coalition against terrorism see each other as uncivilized and there is no way that these perceptions can be reconciled in the near future. The authors offer their modest recommendations on how to address the recurring international violence. If
CONCLUSION: (UN)FILLED GAPS
No short reviews could provide justice to the 31 chapters of the book. Booth and Dunne remained faithful to aspirations they laid down in the introductory chapter—to investigate the fragile relationship between binary opposites: Islam and the West, terror and dialogue, force and law, among others. Nonetheless, the aim to do a comprehensive survey of academic opinions is undercut by their failure to include the works of scholars from other global regions. It must be noted that only two out of the 32 contributors are Asian-based academics--Mohan (
Nevertheless, a commendable strength of the collection concerns the authors’s attempt to shift the spotlight on to the subdued questions that have been marginalized by policy discourse of governments around the globe. The question of culture and terrorism is again put forth to revive the dying attention of many states toward the role of socio-economic deprivation in exacerbating the terrorist tendencies of their constituents. More importantly, it is very difficult to find a book that contains a wide array of par excellence scholars who have earned their academic reputation very well. Worlds in Collision provides a platform for left-wing socialists to reflect side by side with right-wing uber realists in their quest to explain the transformation of global history. The contributors to this volume come from variegated perspectives which do not always converge. But all of them share an aspiration for a more peaceful globe, a world in which transnational communities coexist peacefully, diverse religious and faith-based groups not only tolerate but also learn from one another, individuals are protected and empowered by their states which act judiciously to protect the collective rights of their citizens.
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