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You are here: Home > Reviews > Review of Philip Bobbitt, Terror and Consent

Review of Philip Bobbitt, Terror and Consent: The Wars for the Twenty-First Century (USA publication: Alfred A. Knopf, 2008. UK publication: Allen Lane, 2008) 673 + x pp. ISBN 978-0-713-99784-2. Reviewed by William Arthurs

Philip Bobbitt concluded his previous book The Shield of Achilles on the eve of the attacks on the World Trade Center. That work set out Bobbitt's history of the constitutional order of the modern state as it has evolved through epochal wars and their concluding peace treaties: Bobbitt identified, as part of this evolution, changes in the state's basis of legitimacy, its military organisation and aims, its approach to commerce and trade. Bobbitt argued that we are on the cusp of a change in constitutional order from the nation state to the market state, and used scenario techniques, accompanied by plausible narratives, to imagine various possible futures for the international order of market states.

Terror and Consent picks up this story at the inception of the global war on terror. Its discussion and policy recommendations are most obviously aimed at the United States, with a lesser emphasis on the United Kingdom. The Introduction, and indeed the starkly-designed dustjacket of the hardcover edition, make the bold claim: "[A]lmost every widely held idea we currently entertain about twenty-first century terrorism and its relationship to the Wars against Terror is wrong and must be thoroughly rethought." (p. 5) Ironically the dustjacket design is by graphic designer Pedro Inoue whose other work (eg. "The Corporate Vermin that rules America" which depicts the Bush administration as cockroaches and the War on Terror as a mere business opportunity for Halliburton and the oil majors) provides an excellent example of the utterly conventional views that Bobbitt intends to shake and undermine.

Bobbitt offers a thorough revision of the concepts of the state, sovereignty, legitimacy, war, and terror/ terrorism. His aim is in its own way as bold as that of Hobbes in the Leviathan, and that is to shape a compelling new vocabulary in which to discuss the problems of modern states – their legitimacy, their interrelations, indeed their very existence. Within thirty years of the publication of the Leviathan, both sides in debates about power and legitimacy within England were using Hobbes's intellectual framework whether they had read his work or not. We should judge Bobbitt's success by a similar criterion.

In Bobbitt's historical sequence, the rise of the nation state can be dated to approximately 1870. In the UK, for example, this marked the beginning of the retreat from full-blown laisser-faire industrial capitalism, with the establishment of the state education system, programmes of public works and public health projects. The two World Wars of the twentieth century were wars between nation states. The style and scope of government was set by the experience of those wars, as were generally accepted ideas about the law and morality of war, empire and territorial domination (codified by international legal documents such as the Geneva Conventions and the United Nations Charter). The basis of legitimacy of the nation state is the material well-being of its citizens: hence the priority given to full employment, economic planning, and the operation of a welfare state, as policy objectives. We are however now moving from the nation state to the market state, Bobbitt observes, in an environment shaped by the forces of globalisation, innovation in information and communications technologies, international markets, the "creative destruction" of capitalism, privatisation or outsourcing of the functions and offices of the state, and the recognition that the promise made by the nation state was unfulfilled. The market state's basis of legitimacy is that citizens are provided with opportunities to advance their own (subjectively assessed) well-being.

Terror and Consent looks both forward and backward. The historical element of Bobbitt's work demonstrates that concepts usually understood to be part of the furniture, such as the distinction between combatants and non-combatants in the laws of war, are in fact historically situated within an order of things that is passing away. If we continue to think in those terms bequeathed to us by the laws and practices of the nation-state system, we will be unable to describe, or even conceive of, policies to address the challenges of the new market-state order: any more than a mediaeval astronomer could conceive of a physical relationship between the earth and sun as a mere mathematical identity without any assumption of a prime mover or divine intention. Hence Bobbitt's concern to identify both the continuities and the discontinuities in the constellation of ideas that cover the internal and external relations of the state.

The forward-looking part of Terror and Consent develops ideas from The Shield of Achilles on scenario planning, a technique whose origins lie in game theory and Cold War deterrence theory and which was developed in the 1970s as a strategic planning technique by the Shell oil company. The nation state's promise of a stable economic environment has been unfulfilled and it is no longer credible to assume that the future will be a linear extrapolation of the past or that a powerful company or country can shape the factors that determine the future. The development of scenarios as a strategic technique is not intended to determine the most likely future, but instead to map out a range of possible futures, each with a plausible storyline to get participants from here to the scenario, and thus to identify the warning signs that will indicate which possible future we are heading towards. In the corporate context, this process, which attempts to stimulate the imagination, is a necessary counterweight to managers' concern with problems in the here and now. The scenario technique achieved credibility in the corporate world because one of Shell's early scenarios envisaged the 1973 oil price shock. Who knows whether, had scenario planning been adopted within government, Al Qaeda's 1996 declaration of war on the USA might have been identified as a warning sign, in the light of the first attack on the World Trade Center?

Bobbitt emphasizes the novelty of the wars against terror. Unlike previous wars, the aim is not to conquer and subjugate territory or to vanquish an ideology but "to secure the environment necessary for states of consent and to make it impossible for our enemies to impose or induce states of terror." (p. 3) The distinction between states of consent and states of terror is crucial, these terms being more general though indeed more accurate than, and preferable to, the usual "democratic" and "undemocratic" – "States of consent govern on the basis of authority freely derived from the unfettered consent of the governed, authority that must be regularly and frequently renewed and that can be withdrawn; states of terror govern by means of repression and are not bound by the freely given decision of the public or indeed any particular set of public representatives, nor can their regimes be peacefully replaced voluntarily." (p. 182)

"The source of these wars is not Islam but rather a fundamental change in the nature of the State and its evolving relationship to the new methods, purposes and technologies of warfare." (p. 3) Terror and Consent is not a book one can look to for an analysis of the psychopathology of the terrorist mind and how it could be cured. "It is because America is so very vulnerable and at the same time so ubiquitously and overwhelmingly powerful that twenty-first century global terrorism has arisen." (p. 400) "It is we who, by our acquisition of nuclear weapons and armed forces of awesome lethality, have made futile any conventional military challenge to our political interests." (p. 401) And this would remain true whatever America's foreign policy. Bobbitt's approach to the problem of terrorist attacks is to focus on how our political, commercial and environmental systems and infrastructure can be annealed and made resilient against the whole gamut of threats rather than puzzling over the motives of terrorist organisations.

"The wars comprise three different but related efforts at prevention and mitigation: an attempt to preempt attacks by global, networked terrorists; a struggle to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; and the worldwide endeavor to protect civilians from natural catastrophes and nonnatural assaults that result in gross diminutions of humane conditions, including human rights. To put it summarily, we are fighting terror, not just terrorists." (p. 3) Insofar as there is truth in the assertion that "we must carry on as we did before, otherwise we will have conceded victory to the terrorists" it is, in Bobbitt's view, that victory needs to be redefined. "Whereas wars in previous eras aimed for the capture of particular leaders or territory by means of battle, in the coming period conventional battles will be rare, violence will be directed almost entirely at civilians, and victory for states of consent in such wars will lie in precluding such attacks in the first place." (p. 236) Put another way, victory simply consists in maintenance of the rule of law, democracy and human rights, thus enabling us (the public) to carry on substantially as we did before – on which subject Bobbitt quotes Jean Bethke Elshtain: "This quotidian idea, this basic civic peace, is a great good." (p. 357) "Making the world safer than it would otherwise have been might strike some commentators as a pathetically modest, even commonplace goal, but it is hardly that." (p. 207) This is why, Bobbitt argues, we are engaged in a war "precisely against terror – and not simply against terrorism or the arming of terrorists". (p. 181)

In contrast, the role and scope of government cannot carry on as it did before, given that Bobbitt's reconceptualisation of war and victory would entail vast changes in the objectives and configuration of the armed forces, the intelligence services, emergency services, and public health authorities. "Pursuit of the war aim of protecting civilians will require that governments use their defense forces to preclude mass terror arising from many sources, including not only market state terrorism, and nuclear and biological weapons proliferation, but also from genocide, ethnic cleansing, and even natural catastrophes." (p. 236) Bobbitt discusses the events of Hurricane Katrina and the state and federal government response at length, arguing that "... if the government had appreciated that maintaining order and safety in the face of a natural disaster was a crucial element in its Wars against Terror and thus could never be delegated to, or predicated upon, action by subnational units like cities or counties; if, in other words, it had thought through the logic of its own rhetoric about the threat of twenty-first century terror, the debacle in New Orleans need not have happened." (p. 207) Indeed, Bobbitt observes that a prompt government response to a humanitarian catastrophe such as, for example, a massive power outage in the state of California, cannot wait upon an analysis of the cause, whether that be natural or the result of a terrorist plan.

Parmenides' Fallacy is a continual point of reference for Bobbitt: it "occurs when a decider contrasts a proposed option with the present context rather than with other possible contexts that will eventuate if other options are exercised; things change, and so indefinitely extending the present is never a realistic option." (p. 184) He applies this to the October 2001 invasion of Afghanistan: "My judgment... is that we, and the Afghan people, are vastly better off for our having acted. We may not be better off than we were [before the invasion took place] (though a great many Afghans unquestionably are) but rather than we would have been had we not acted." (p. 208) And to Iraq: "... are we, and the Iraqi people, better off now that Saddam Hussein and his sociopathic dynasty have been removed, or would we be better off if they had not been? As Rolf Ekeus, former head of UNSCOM and one of the most distinguished diplomats of his generation, put it, it ‘trivialises' the Coalition's intervention against Iraq to say that it was about finding and seizing Saddam Hussein's existing stocks of WMD." (p. 209) Hence the importance of the scenario technique and of the development of convincing precautionary narratives. "The most remarkable feature of preclusive victory is precisely this anticipatory, precautionary attention to possible futures, which relies heavily on intelligence and analysis, and therefore puts enormous burdens on trusted communication with the media and the public." (p. 207) The difficulty is that the news cycle, and hence the public, is used to the event-driven approach to policy formation, whereby the disaster or crisis has to have happened, or at least already be underway, before any action can be taken. The only exceptions to this are certain specific categories of scare-stories (environmental and medical) in which the precautionary principle (in the sense of a rallying cry for the quest in search of a zero-risk environment) is granted authority as a rhetorical device to be used against big business, big pharma, conventional medicine and scientific research. Bobbitt dismisses that version of the precautionary principle as a tool of analysis: "Applied generally, it would paralyze policy because any action invariably brings risks, and because some risks are worth bearing... [t]he Precautionary Principle must be about analysis – the comparative likelihoods, costs, and benefits of a particular course of action – in order to yield a prudent response." (p. 477)

Specifically considering the UK, I suggest that policy makers who seek to hold "trusted communication with the media and the public" on the subjects of WMD proliferation, natural disasters or public health crises, will have to square their objectives with the implications of the following three recent episodes. (1) The 45-minute claim about the deployability of Saddam Hussein's chemical and biological weapons made by the Prime Minister to Parliament on 24 September 2002 has now passed into legend, fairly or not, as an enormous lie, thereby, in Ekeus's terms, trivialising the case for intervention, indeed undermining future cases for similar interventions: once the media had seized on this claim, the government did nothing to reiterate the subtleties and qualifications that were correctly contained in Blair's original statement. (2) In 2000, a Medical Research Council research survey and report on the MMR vaccine, intended to dispel public concern about a putative connection between the vaccine and autism, went largely unreported by the popular media, which instead portrayed the proponent of the autism connection as a whistleblower. (3) The UK government has been able to implement measures (predicated upon the truth, or reasonableness, of predictive scientific theories) aimed at combatting climate change, with some degree of popular support or at least acquiescence, despite arguments from business that these measures impose excessive costs – arguments which, by comparison, carried much more weight in the USA. All three of these episodes concerned precautionary measures, and the public's reaction to them is now thoroughly tainted by cynicism about government, or failing that, about big business, a cynicism which is particularly corrosive in the state of consent's current predicament. Bobbitt's detailed comments on how the media and government communicators could do better occur in the chapter on intelligence, in a discussion of the Hutton Inquiry and the Butler Report. "... [T]he most significant [lessons to be learned from the official inquiries into intelligence and its use by government] have to do with the media and the need for public sophistication." (p. 337) An investigative journalist can always find a dissenter in the intelligence community who disagrees with the majority judgment about the intentions of key actors, upon which intelligence estimates depend just as much as upon the present facts. The public should be aware that such dissent does not support allegations of a flawed process. Equally, the facts upon which an intelligence estimate depends need not be secrets – the use of open-source material does not constitute a flaw in the process. "The press will have to learn to be as skeptical of its sources, and as shrewd in triangulating facts that confirm or disconfirm the accounts it collects, as any good intelligence agency. At the same time, government agencies must learn the techniques of collaborative information sharing that characterize the best editors and journalists." (p. 338)

Bobbitt's historical review identifies a correlative variety of terrorism for each type of state, starting with the princely states of the Renaissance: "In each era, terrorism derives its ideology in reaction to the raison d'etre of the dominant constitutional order, at the same time negating and rejecting that form's unique ideology but mimicking the form's structural characteristics." (p. 26) Terrorists attack civilians and their lawful activities using the methods and adopting the ethos of the states they have set themselves against. In recent years, nation-state terror groups such as the IRA and ETA have threatened the nations they operated in (that is, by attacking civilians, who had been considered off limits to nineteenth century terrorists) while adopting their own separatist versions of nationalism as their ideologies. Market-state terrorists, by contrast, threaten the principle upon which the market state is founded (that of expanding the choices available to each citizen) using market-state structures and techniques (globalisation, decentralisation, the internet, international funds transfer, outsourcing, incentivisation) against the market-state, including, notably, international trade in WMD, and the electronic availability of instructions on how to construct and use WMD. On the cusp of this change, Bobbitt warns us against preparing to fight the last war: "[nation-state terrorists] are the groups that contemporary Europeans have in mind when they assure Americans that terrorism is nothing new, and that, with proper police and investigative work, it can be managed." (p. 44)

Another error Bobbitt notes is that of concluding that, because Al Qaeda is not identifiable as a nation-state terror group with limited, definable territorial and political aims, it is a bogeyman "concocted by governments to instil fear in order to increase the powers of the State" (p. 66), a view purveyed by the 2005 BBC documentary series The Power of Nightmares. Al Qaeda is, in fact, a new form of state – a "terrorist market state", lacking only contiguous territory, of the essential attributes of a traditional state. "In a sense, Al Qaeda attempts to enlarge the choices available to individual Muslims, regardless of nationality, by creating a global state that enforces the sharia and to which Muslims can repair in a world that would deny them this means of governance... It does not aspire to be a nation state." (pp. 126-7) But it has an army, a legal system, a treasury, political leaders and propagandists. It can make alliances with host states. Its lack of contiguous territory "does mean that traditional strategies of deterrence and retaliation will have to be rethought" (p. 128). However nation-state terror groups were or should have been dealt with, Bobbitt argues that it does make sense now, bearing in mind the transformation in the nature of war, to say that the USA or the UK could be at war with Al Qaeda – to argue that a state cannot by definition be at war with a terror group, and that therefore we are restricted to the criminal justice process in dealing with terrorists, depends "upon assuming away what makes the problem so novel and so difficult" (p. 131).

The individual, his or her opportunities and human rights, have primacy in the market state. What form does sovereignty take in such a state? Bobbitt's excellent historical discussion of the concept of sovereignty defines three types of sovereignty. Opaque sovereignty is assumed by the legal structure of the society of nation states (as, for example, in the UN Charter) – each formally equal in its relations to all the others. Each state has the right to develop whatever weapons it judges necessary for its own defence, and the right to govern all matters within its domestic jurisdiction. Thus, a preventive attack, such as Israel's destruction of Iraq's Osirak reactor in 1981, is a violation of state sovereignty, as is a intervention undertaken to protect human rights without the consent of the state against which the intervention is directed. Starting in the 1990s, however, the UN Security Council has endorsed interventions of this type: in Iraq, the former Yugoslavia, Somalia, Rwanda, etc. Such endorsement assumes the concept of translucent sovereignty, whereby states can be held accountable by international bodies for violations of human rights conventions or other treaty obligations: this is also exemplified by the EU structure. Both opaque and translucent sovereignty are fully vested in the state concerned: that is, citizens' rights are granted by the state (or by the society of states, for example in the UN human rights covenants). By contrast, "[t]he American theory of limited government is founded on the notion that the People possess rights that can't be alienated by delegation to the government." That is, "sovereignty is not fully vested in the American state." (p. 466) This transparent concept of sovereignty is dependent on popular consent and thus upon an implicit human rights compact between the state and its citizens: as a corollary, the veil of sovereignty can legitimately be torn aside, with or without the endorsement of international organisations, in the event of human rights violations. Bobbitt argues that the transparent conception of sovereignty will gain ground because of the need to act in the war on terror, as well as the media's ability to broadcast images of suffering elsewhere in the world, engaging the natural sympathies of the citizens of democracies. Of course, Bobbitt recognises that humanitarian intervention can itself be used as a flimsy pretext for military aggression and human rights violations (as in Russia's invasion of Georgia, which took place since the book's publication). He therefore proposes that the leading states of consent should form themselves into an alliance to promote a new legal framework for intervention: states of terror "can never be sovereign" (p. 481) and acts of resistance by persons within them are not acts of terror unless directed against civilians unconnected to state oppression: for a state's sovereignty to be assured and internationally respected, it has to become "transparently a state of consent" (p. 482): only states of consent may intervene of their own volition, and only against states of terror, otherwise the intervention must be authorised by the Security Council. The US and the EU should cooperate to create such an alliance.

This understanding of sovereignty and of the right of intervention underlies Bobbitt's proposed strategic doctrine: "An alliance of democracies that includes the United States and Great Britain will intervene in three circumstances: when substantial strategic interests and substantial humanitarian concerns intersect; or when, absent a vital strategic interest, humanitarian concerns are extremely high owing to an acute crisis – famine, civil war, disease, genocide – and risks are apparently low; or when truly vital strategic interests are in truly imminent danger." (pp. 445-6) He finds the Bush Doctrine wanting because of the lack of logical connection between its two elements (preemptive action against states attempting to acquire WMD, and democracy promotion), illustrated most clearly in the case of Iran, where "far from providing guidance, it has paralyzed US policy." (p. 437) Free and fair democratic elections in certain states will simply bring violent anti-Western factions to power. While not denying the desirability of extending the rule of law and the protection of human rights around the world, the first priority must be to consolidate and defend conditions within the existing states of consent, since, just as in particular theatres in the war on terror, "the preservation of civil society is an important element in victory" (p. 445)

But why should it be the US that has to offer leadership? Because it is the only power with truly global interests, and capable of deploying resources globally in defence of those interests. "It cannot do so successfully alone, yet none of these issues can be satisfactorily resolved without the US. Every other power is essentially regional." (p. 487) Arguments by the US's many detractors that the US intervened in Iraq only because of oil find a receptive audience because of "the widely shared assumption that when a state has an obvious interest in the outcome of intervening, it is necessarily intervening improperly and hypocritically." (p. 491) But it is only when humanitarian concerns are aligned with strategic interests that those concerns stand a chance of being addressed. "...[S]tates are unwilling to send their young men and women to be killed without a strategic as well as a humanitarian rationale." (p. 492) Bobbitt observes that the USA's "selfless" entry into World War I heralded the isolationism of the following decades: "Wilson's magnanimous instincts could not underpin a long-term policy in the absence of a well-defined strategic imperative and of allies who were willing to run risks in order to distribute burdens." (p. 491) Iraq's oil resources could not be irrelevant to the decision to intervene, if only because the Saddam Hussein regime continued to put oil revenues in the service of a malevolent, repressive agenda, in respect both of Iraq's Middle Eastern neighbours and of its own population. "This demand – that a state's motives must be purely self-sacrificing if they are not to be judged discreditable – reflects expectations about states that are so unrealistic as to be counterproductive to those very goals that human rights advocates wish to promote." (p. 493)

Legitimacy of action by a state of consent is attained within a rules-based system that respects the rule of law and human rights. The current system of international law which, it is popularly held, President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair scoffed at during the Iraq intervention, is based on the nation-state model and will pass away, becoming irrelevant, as we move to the market state (just as intellectual property law has not kept up with technological development). What approach should a world leader take when faced by a series of problems that cannot be solved without the establishment of international norms, but where existing norms are inadequate? "[T]he president of the United States has become the person most publicly identified with contempt for international law. The law, it seems, is merely a set of irksome rules to be ignored, or to be evaded, but not to be reformed." (p. 503) "Because current international law has not caught up with the changes in the global strategic context, it seems to present states with an intolerable choice: either follow the rule of law and sacrifice one war aim (the protection of civilians) or dispense with law and sacrifice the legitimacy of the war effort (which is, after all, another war aim, namely the legitimation of market states as states of consent). The answer to this dilemma is to reject it: law must be reformed." (p. 532) In the absence of legal rules that address the challenges of the war on terror, the duty falling on political leaders of the states of consent is to propose and advocate new laws.

Discussing the US administration's approach to the treatment of suspected Al Qaeda detainees (who are neither uniformed combatants, nor civilians) under the Geneva Conventions, Bobbitt asks: "Why didn't the US government simply decide what sort of rules it thought appropriate, propose these as amendments to the Geneva Conventions, and obey them in the meantime? This is how customary international law is changed: by how states behave." (p. 464) What is more, human rights organisations, he argues, are equally culpable for their unhelpful approach to law reform: they insisted that Al Qaeda terrorists were, under the existing Conventions, civilians and therefore could be detained only as part of the criminal process. Yet the criminal process is unsuited to terrorist trials, for three reasons: "First, terrorist prosecutions provide terror groups with a rich source of intelligence... Second, the demand on prosecutorial resources is enormous... Third, the rules used to protect the rights of ordinary criminals strike a balance between the interests of the person prosecuted and the potential harm to public safety" and this balance is inappropriate in the case of a terrorist (p. 284). Bobbitt proposes various guidelines for the operation of specially convened tribunals to get round these problems. Guantanamo Bay symbolises "[t]he current US administration's position that it can arrest anyone it believes to pose a terrorist threat and hold them without charge for an indefinite period..." (p. 285)

Bobbitt's careful discussion of torture envisages that there are indeed circumstances where public officials in civilised societies are obliged to subject terrorists or suspected terrorists to aggressive interrogation techniques in order to gain valuable information about their networks and their future plans. Bobbitt observes that Machiavelli's insight "that officials must disregard their personal moral codes in carrying out the duties of the State" (p. 365) needs to be assessed within the context of the law: the objective that justifies the violation of the law is in fact the preservation of the rule of law "which is shall we say ‘dented' by the very means that avoid a catastrophic collision." (p. 366) "The officials of a state of consent are bound to behave, in their official capacity, in a way that maximises the ‘ends' or goals of the persons in whose name they govern." (p. 364) This delegation of duty from the people displaces the officials' private moral codes (which are likely to include many absolute or a priori rules), replacing them by an equally rigorous consequentialist ethic in the performance of their official duties.

The argument by the squeamish that "torture doesn't work" is too easy, and, having recounted the trial and execution of Guy Fawkes, and discussed several instances where torture has clearly been used for political purposes, Bobbitt reminds us of the valuable information extracted from terrorist detainees using coercive techniques, which has saved many lives. His objective, as always, is to bring the use of these techniques under the law. He envisions that legitimacy be afforded to the decision to coercively interrogate a detainee by the empanelling of a citizens' jury, possibly with their identities kept secret to avoid reprisals: "[u]nless they can be persuaded that the detainee is in fact a terrorist with valuable information, he cannot be coercively interrogated." (p. 390) "In a conventional war, it is permissible to kill a sentry in the course of an operation to get crucial information. In a war against terror, the terrorist, by his adamant refusal to provide information to which the interrogator is lawfully entitled, can by that act render himself liable to coercion short of severe pain." (p. 393) Bobbitt rules out absolutely the use of torture or coercive interrogation for political or evidentiary (legal) purposes. The infliction of severe pain is torture on any definition, and a state that is believed to resort to such methods is losing the war against terror.

"There is in my book, it seems, something to offend everyone." (p. 540) Bobbitt is rightly keen for his views, which are rather subtle by the current standards of public discourse, not to be assimilated into any particular political position. He argues that there really is a war on, that it is against terror itself, that Al Qaeda exists, that (despite numerous errors in the execution) the intervention in Iraq was not an unjustifiable course of action, and that we need to think differently about civil liberties. Given that, in popular parlance, the term "neo-conservative" has become merely a dismissive synonym for "hawk", I suppose this is enough in the popular mind to mark Bobbitt down as a neoconservative, despite his extensive criticism of the Bush administration. That said, if this work has the influence it deserves, it will not be directly upon the popular mind, but instead through the adoption of its conceptual framework by policy makers, intellectuals and communicators, who are in need of a new language to express to the public what everyone who is directly and professionally concerned with international politics and security already knows. Many of the opinions that Bobbitt criticises (in the course of making the arguments that I identify immediately above) are straw men. But they are still very important opinions, because they are so widely held by the public, at least in the UK. Whatever discussion and disagreement there may be, from informed commentators, about the precise details of Bobbitt's proposals for changes in international law or the operations of the intelligence services, these come secondary to the pressing need to persuade the public that pulling the bed-sheets over our heads, as it were, will not make the bogeyman go away.

Finally, what, ultimately makes Western societies resilient in the face of calamity? Bobbitt and other writers on today's globalised, interconnected world sometimes seem to characterise it as a vulnerable construction, rather like a sculpture made of spun glass. I would suggest that the resilience that we all seek resides in properties of the entire system – the modularity of the resources of capitalism which can be swiftly redirected from one use to another; the freedom of speech which enables problems and proposed solutions to be widely discussed, and which, allied to the institutions of scientific research, furthers technological advance; and the democratic culture which, at its best, should build a broad base of social support for necessary policy measures – and not in particular plans or policies. Some of Bobbitt's proposals enhance the capacity and resilience of the state of consent, but others risk creating single points of failure. For example, Bobbitt approves of identity card schemes. The merit of traditional methods of establishing one's identity is that they draw upon diversely-sourced documents which taken together provide a body of coherent information – this exemplifies a networked, interconnected philosophy far better than an identity card linked to a single record in a state-operated database, the corruption or destruction of which is sure to be a terrorist aim.

I noted misprints on the following pages: 58, 276, 422, 469, 482, 512, 522, and 544. An intriguing footnote on p. 512 mentions a companion volume "Global Scenarios for the Wars on Terror (forthcoming, 2008)" about which I have been unable to ascertain any further information.


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