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Will the global war on terrorism be the new Cold War?

BARRY BUZAN * Washington is now embarked on a campaign to persuade itself, the American people and the rest of the world that the global war on terrorism (GWoT) will be a long war. This long war is explicitly compared to the Cold War as a similar sort of zero-sum, global-scale, generational struggle against anti-liberal ideological extremists who want to rule the world. Both have been staged as a defence of the West, or western civilization, against those who would seek to destroy it. As Donald Rumsfeld says of the terrorists: they will either succeed in changing our way of life, or we will succeed in changing theirs.1 The rhetorical move to the concept of a long war makes explicit what was implicit in the GWoT from its inception: that it might offer Washington a dominant, unifying idea that would enable it to reassert and legitimize its leadership of global security. The demand for such an idea was palpable throughout the 1990s. When the Cold War ended, Washington seemed to experience a threat decit, and there was a string of attempts to nd a replacement for the Soviet Union as the enemy focus for US foreign and military policy: rst Japan, then China, clash of civilizations and rogue states. None of these, however, came anywhere close to measuring up to the Cold War and the struggle against communism, which for more than 40 years had created a common cause and a shared framing that underpinned US leadership of the West. The terrorist attacks of 9/11 offered a solution to this problem, and right from the beginning the GWoT had the feel of a big idea that might provide a long-term cure for Washingtons threat decit. If it could be successfully constructed and embedded as the great new global struggle, it would also underpin the shaky legitimacy of US unipolarity, maintenance of which was a key goal in the US National Security Strategy (USNSS) of 2002, and is still visible, albeit in more muted tones, in the 2006 USNSS.2 Will this strategy succeed? Will the GWoT become the new Cold War?
* 1

I am grateful to Ole Wver and Lene Hansen and an anonymous reviewer for International Affairs for comments on an earlier draft of this article. Rumsfeld offers strategies for current war: Pentagon to release 20-year plan today and Abizaid credited with popularizing the term, long war, Washington Post, 3 Feb. 2006, p. A08, http://www.washingtonpost. com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/02/02/AR2006020202296.html and www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/ content/article/2006/02/02/AR2006020202242.html, accessed 17 Feb. 2006. Morten Kelstrup, Globalisation and societal insecurity: the securitization of terrorism and competing strategies for global governance, in Stefano Guzzini and Dietrich Jung, eds, Contemporary security analysis and Copenhagen peace research (London: Routledge, 2004), pp. 10616.

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2006 The Author(s). Journal Compilation 2006 Blackwell Publishing Ltd/The Royal Institute of International Affairs

Barry Buzan These questions seem at rst to mark disagreement with the recent argument of Kennedy-Pipe and Rengger that 9/11 changed nothing fundamental in world politics.3 What it does pick up on is their idea that the only thing that changed is the belief that something had changed. This article is about the strength and durability of that belief, and whether as a social fact it can be used to create a new political framing for world politics. In addressing this question I differentiate between a traditional materialist analysis of threat (whether something does or does not pose a specic sort of threat, and at what level) and a so-called securitization analysis (whether something can be successfully constructed as a threat, with this understanding being accepted by a wide and/or specically relevant audience).4 These two aspects of threat may run in close parallel, but they can also be quite separate. States, like people, can be paranoid (constructing threats where none exist) or complacent (ignoring actual threats). But since it is the success (or not) of the securitization that determines whether action is taken, that side of threat analysis deserves scrutiny just as close as that given to the material side. Keeping this distinction in mind, the explicit long war framing of the GWoT is a securitizing move of potentially great signicance. If it succeeds as a widely accepted, world-organizing macro-securitization, it could structure global security for some decades, in the process helping to legitimize US primacy. This is not to confuse the GWoT with US grand strategy overall, despite the GWoTs prominence in the 2006 USNSS. US grand strategy is much wider, involving more traditional concerns about rising powers, global energy supply, the spread of military technology and the enlargement of the democratic/capitalist sphere. US military expenditure remains largely aimed at meeting traditional challenges from other states, with only a small part specically allocated for the GWoT. The signicance of the GWoT is much more political. Although a real threat from terrorists does exist, and needs to be met, the main signicance of the GWoT is as a political framing that might justify and legitimize US primacy, leadership and unilateralism, both to Americans and to the rest of the world. This is one of the key differences between the GWoT and the Cold War. The Cold War pretty much was US grand strategy in a deep sense; the GWoT is not, but, as a brief glance at the USNSS of 2006 will show, is being promoted as if it were. Whether this promotion succeeds or not will be affected by many factors, not least how real and how deep the threat posed by terrorism actually is. The next section surveys the rise of the GWoT as a successful macrosecuritization. The one following examines conditions that will affect the sustainability of the GWoT securitization. The conclusions reect on the consequences of the GWoT should it become successfully embedded as the new Cold War. The argument is that it is unlikely, though not impossible, that the GWoT will be anything like as dominant and durable as the macro-securitization of the Cold
3 4

Caroline Kennedy-Pipe and Nicholas Rengger, Apocalypse now? Continuities or disjunctions in world politics after 9/11, International Affairs 82: 3, 2006, pp. 53952. Ole Wver, Securitization and desecuritization, in Ronnie D. Lipschutz, ed., On security (New York: Columbia University Press, 1995), pp. 4686; Barry Buzan, Ole Wver and Jaap de Wilde, Security: a new framework for analysis (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 1998).

International Affairs 82: 6, 2006 2006 The Author(s). Journal Compilation 2006 Blackwell Publishing Ltd/The Royal Institute of International Affairs

Will the global war on terrorism be the new Cold War? War. One of the reasons for its fragility is precisely that it is not representative of US grand strategy as a whole. Another is that the means used to pursue the GWoT threaten two of the core things they are supposed to be defending: liberal values and the unity of the West. The rise of the GWoT as the new macro-securitization The Al-Qaeda attacks on the United States in 2001 brought the post-Cold War period to an abrupt end. It solved the threat decit problem for the US, and triggered a substantial shift in security denitions and priorities in many countries. The GWoT played strongly to the long-established propensity in US foreign policy to frame American interests as universal principles. This had worked well during the Cold War to legitimize US leadership. Washington saw itself as representing the future, and therefore having the right and the duty to speak and act for humankind, and this claim was, up to a point, accepted in much of the rest of the West. Right from the start the GWoT was also presented in this way:
At the beginning of this new century, the United States is again called by history to use our overwhelming power in defense of freedom. We have accepted that duty, because we know the cause is just we understand that the hopes of millions depend on us and we are certain of the victory to come.5

So far, the GWoT has been a rather successful macro-securitization.6 That AlQaeda and its ideology are a threat to western civilization is widely accepted outside the Islamic world, and also within the Islamic world, though there opinion is divided as to whether or not this is a good and legitimate thing. The US-led war against the Taleban and Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan shortly after September 11 was generally supported at the time, and NATO is still playing the leading role in the (so far not very successful) attempt to stabilize and rebuild that country. Beneath its exaggeration, there is some real substance to President Bushs boast about the coalition backing the GWoT:
the cooperation of Americas allies in the war on terror is very, very strong. Were grateful to the more than 60 nations that are supporting the Proliferation Security Initiative to intercept illegal weapons and equipment by sea, land, and air. Were grateful to the more than 30 nations with forces serving in Iraq, and the nearly 40 nations with forces in Afghanistan. In the ght against terror, weve asked our allies to do hard things. Theyve risen to their responsibilities. Were proud to call them friends.7

Immediately following 9/11 NATO invoked article 5 for the rst time, thereby helping to legitimize the GWoT securitization. Since then leaders in most western
5 6 7

Dick Cheney, Success in war is most urgent US task, Cheney says: remarks to the Commonwealth Club of California, 7 Aug. 2002, http://japan.usembassy.gov/e/p/tp-se1585.html, accessed 26 Dec. 2005. Kelstrup, Globalisation, pp. 11213. George W. Bush, President Bush discusses progress in the war on terror, White House, 12 July 2004, http:// www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2004/07/200407125.html, accessed 28 Dec 2005.

International Affairs 82: 6, 2006 2006 The Author(s). Journal Compilation 2006 Blackwell Publishing Ltd/The Royal Institute of International Affairs

Barry Buzan countries, but also, conspicuously, in Russia, China and India, have associated themselves and their governments with the view that international terrorism is a common threat. In the case of Russia, China, Israel and India, the move has been to link their own local problems with terrorism to the wider GWoT framing. Part of the GWoTs relative success can be attributed to the way in which it has tied together several longstanding security concerns arising within the liberal order, most notably crime and the trades in drugs and the technologies for weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Within the frame of the liberal international economic order (LIEO), it is well understood that while opening state borders to ows of trade, nance, information and (skilled) people is generally to be promoted, such opening also has its dark side in which illiberal actors, mainly criminals and terrorists, can take advantage of liberal openness in pursuit of illiberal ends. The problem is that the liberal structures that facilitate business activity cannot help but open pathways for uncivil society actors as well. Concern about criminal activity (particularly the drugs trade) hasat least within the United Statesbeen framed in security terms (the war on drugs) for some decades. And concern about trade in WMD is institutionalized in the nuclear non-proliferation regime as well as in conventions about chemical and biological weapons technology. The securitizing moves supporting the GWoT have linked all of these issues. Within the United States, the link between terrorism and drugs seeks to graft a newer securitization on to an older one.8 The link predates 2001, and its essence is the charge that terrorists engage in the drugs trade as a principal source of funding for their activities, one of which is seeking WMD:
As we enter the 21st century, the greatest threats to our freedom and security will come from a nexus of new threats: rogue states, terrorism, international crime, drug trafficking and the spread of weapons of mass destruction.9

Structural links between political terrorism and traditional criminal activity, such as drugs trafficking, armed robbery or extortion have come increasingly to the attention of law enforcement authorities, security agencies and political decision makers. There is a fairly accepted view in the international community that in recent years, direct state sponsorship has declined, therefore terrorists increasingly have to resort to other means of nancing, including criminal activities, in order to raise funds. These activities have traditionally been drug trafficking, extortion/collection of revolutionary taxes, armed robbery, and kidnappings. The involvement of such groups as the PKK, LTTE, and GIA in these activities has been established.10

9 10

Dan Gardner, Terrorists get cash from drug trade: trafficking prime source of funds for many groups, 14 Sept. 2001, http://www.cfdp.ca/terror.htm#trc, accessed 28 Sept. 2004; US Drug Enforcement Administration, Drug Intelligence Brief, Drugs and terrorism: a new perspective, Sept. 2002, http://www.usdoj.gov/dea/ pubs/intel/02039/02039.html, accessed 19 Aug 2004. Fact sheet, 24 Sept. 1996, Clinton initiatives on terrorism, crime, drugs, http://nsi.org/library/terrorism/ terrorcrimedrugs.html, accessed 20 Sept. 2004. INTERPOL General Secretariat, written testimony of Ralf Mutschke (assistant director, Criminal Intelligence Directorate, INTERPOL) before a hearing of the Committee on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime,

International Affairs 82: 6, 2006 2006 The Author(s). Journal Compilation 2006 Blackwell Publishing Ltd/The Royal Institute of International Affairs

Will the global war on terrorism be the new Cold War? In the EUs European Security Strategy document, organized crimeespecially trafficking in drugs, women, illegal migrants and weaponsand its links with terrorism, are given together as one of ve key threats to Europe, along with terrorism itself, proliferation of WMD, regional conict and state failure.11 This presentation has evolved from the pre-9/11 European pattern, where the main effort went into securitizing a threat package linking immigration, organized crime and drugthereby depicting immigrants as the root problem.12 Even before 9/11, these themes were echoed by some Third World spokespersons seeking to increase their leverage for reform of the LIEO. Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, for example, argued:
We recognise the grave threat posed by the debt question, poverty, corruption, looted funds, terrorism and drug-trafficking to the stability and prosperity not only of the developing world but of all countries. They are essentially global challenges for development and peace, security, stability and development.13

In relation to the securitization of WMD, the new twist is the addition of a strong concern that not only rogue states, but also terrorist organizations, might acquire nuclear weapons or other WMD.
The gravest danger our Nation faces lies at the crossroads of radicalism and technology. Our enemies have openly declared that they are seeking weapons of mass destruction, and evidence indicates that they are doing so with determination. The United States will not allow these efforts to succeed History will judge harshly those who saw this coming danger but failed to act. In the new world we have entered, the only path to peace and security is the path of action.14

And, from Europe:

Proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is potentially the greatest threat to our security The most frightening scenario is one in which terrorist groups acquire weapons of mass destruction. In this event, a small group would be able to inict damage on a scale previously possible only for States and armies.15

One benchmark for the success achieved in linking the GWoT to WMD has been the ability of the United States since 2003 to set up the Proliferation Security
13 Dec. 2000, The threat posed by the convergence of organized crime, drugs trafficking and terrorism, http://www.house.gov/judiciary/muts1213.htm, accessed 28 Sept. 2004. 11 Javier Solana, A secure Europe in a better world: European Security Strategy (Paris: European Union Institute for Security Studies, 2003), pp. 69. 12 Didier Bigo, Polices en Rsaux: lexprience europenne (Paris: Presses de Sciences Politiques, 1996); Barry Buzan and Ole Wver, Regions and powers: the structure of international security (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), p. 359. 13 Agence France-Presse, Nigerian president urges richpoor partnership, Global Policy Forum, 20 July 2000, http://www.globalpolicy.org/socecon/ffd/nigeria1.htm, accessed 4 April 2005. 14 George W. Bush, The National Security Strategy of the United States of America (Washington DC: White House, Sept. 2002). 15 Solana, A secure Europe in a better world, pp. 78.

International Affairs 82: 6, 2006 2006 The Author(s). Journal Compilation 2006 Blackwell Publishing Ltd/The Royal Institute of International Affairs

Barry Buzan Initiative (PSI). Despite reservations about US unilateralism, opposition to its invasion of Iraq and concerns about the legality of intercepting trade, the PSI has attracted participation from over 40 countries.16 Even critics acknowledge the GWoTs success. An Action Aid report on the distorting impact of the GWoT on aid ows notes that The war on terror is like a new Cold War where everything is subordinated to a single purpose.17 On this evidence, there can be little doubt that during the half-decade since September 2001 the GWoT has achieved considerable progress as a macrosecuritization. It has been successfully tied in to some pre-existing securitizations and has achieved a broad acceptance within international society. The question is: does its success to date give the GWoT the potential to become embedded as the successor to the Cold War? How will events from here on either reinforce or weaken the GWoTs bid to be the new Cold War? Will the GWoT securitization be durable? As the recent furor over the Danish cartoons shows, events are largely unpredictable: we cannot say who will die when, or get elected when, or when some natural disaster will occur. Nor can we forecast the impact of events, which may depend much on context and timing. Some events could be so big that they wipe out most or even all assumptions based on historical continuities and trends (e.g. a large and rapid rise in sea levels caused by a faster than expected meltdown of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets). Nevertheless, concentrating only on the types of event that are both plausibly probable and closely related to the GWoT, it is possible to think in a systematic way about their impact on the intensity and durability of the GWoT securitization. There are ve obvious types of event that could signicantly reinforce or undermine the GWoT securitization:

the impact of further terrorist plans and/or attacks (or plans or attacks success the commitment of the United States to the GWoT securitization; the legitimacy of the United States as a securitization leader within international society; the (un)acceptability and (il)legitimacy of both the GWoT securitization as a whole or of particularist securitizations that get linked to it; the potency of securitizations competing with the GWoT. The impact of terrorist attacks and/or plans Easily the most obvious type of event to inuence the durability of the GWoT securitization will be the success of Al-Qaeda and its imitators and successors in
16 17

fully attributed to terrorists);

Mark Valencia, The Proliferation Security Initiative, Adelphi Paper 376 (London: International Institute for Security Studies, 2005). John Cosgrave, The impact of the war on terror on aid ows, Action Aid, 1 March 2004, p. 1, http://www. actionaid.org.uk/100235/our_research.html, accessed 24 Feb. 2006.

International Affairs 82: 6, 2006 2006 The Author(s). Journal Compilation 2006 Blackwell Publishing Ltd/The Royal Institute of International Affairs

Will the global war on terrorism be the new Cold War? sustaining a sufficient level of attacks and provocations to feed the securitization. Analysts like Paul Wilkinson (who are themselves part of the securitizing process) argue that the struggle against Al-Qaeda is likely to endure for some decades aheadnot least because, with networks in 60 countries, Al-Qaeda is the most widely dispersed non-state terrorist network in history.18 While it is impossible to predict what terrorists will do, the spectrum of options ranges from reduction, through more of the same, to escalation. Reduction means that the terrorist threat fades into the background and becomes an acceptable part of everyday life risks. This could happen because the terrorist cause loses steam for internal reasons, and/ or because countermeasures become effective enough to foil most attacks. More of the same means something like what we have had since 9/11, with a fairly regular drumbeat of medium-sized attacks sufficient to cause local disruption and some general angst, but not on a scale sufficient either to threaten the operation of the global economy or to cause major upheavals in the relationship between state and society. Escalation means that the terrorists motivation and organization remain strong, countermeasures are only partly effective, and periodically, or even worse regularly, some effective, high-casualty and/or high-cost attacks are mounted on soft targets, with the worst case being use of WMD. The escalation option would strengthen the GWoT securitization, and the reduction option would weaken it. More of the same does not look sufficient to sustain the costs of a long-term macrosecuritization unless the fear of escalation can be maintained at a high level. One cannot rule out the possibility that governments with a strong vested interest in maintaining the GWoT securitization (most obviously Russia, China, India and the Bush and Blair administrations) might resort to agent provocateur actions in order to strengthen a terrorist threat that had itself become too weak to serve the political purposes of maintaining the GWoT securitization. Since the agencies that deal with counterterrorism are among the most secretive in government, and since these agencies control reporting of alleged terrorist plots uncovered and foiled, there is quite a bit of scope for manipulations ranging from spin to wholesale fabrication. There will always, of course, be conspiracy theorists who will think this anyway; but we have already been treated to enough government lying, secrecy, deception, and abandonment of legal and moral principles during the GWoT to give this option some plausibility. And, as will become clear below, what the terrorists do, or are thought to be capable of doing, may well be the most crucial variable affecting the sustainability of the securitization. If done convincingly, such action could help to sustain the GWoT. But if done and exposed, it would help to undermine its legitimacy. The commitment of the US to the GWoT securitization Since the United States was the initiator of the GWoT after 9/11, and remains its leader, its commitment will be a crucial factor in whether the securitization

Paul Wilkinson, International terrorism: the changing threat and the EUs response, Chaillot Paper 84 (Paris: European Union Institute for Security Studies, 2005), pp. 1316, 25.

International Affairs 82: 6, 2006 2006 The Author(s). Journal Compilation 2006 Blackwell Publishing Ltd/The Royal Institute of International Affairs

Barry Buzan ourishes or fails. On the face of it, there is every reason to think that the US commitment will stay strong. Legions of the commentariat on both sides of the Atlantic have observed how deeply the 9/11 attacks impacted on the United States, and this impact has been played to and strengthened by the subsequent rhetoric of the Bush administration.19 On the other hand, that same administration could well be the agency that delegitimizes the GWoT securitization. Its gigantic strategic error in invading Iraq, its incompetence as an occupier, its appalling behaviour over torture and prisoners of war, and the visible damage all this has done to its reputation abroad could be enough to discredit the GWoT securitization simply by its association with a particular administration, even within the United States. The campaign rhetoric and the outcome of the 2004 presidential election would suggest not, but the continuing catastrophe in Iraq, and the shocking spectacle of the US Vice-President defending the right to torture, might yet be enough to turn public opinion. The observation attributed to Alexis de Tocqueville that America is good. And if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great plays strongly in US domestic politics, and politicians seen to be violating Americas goodness need to watch their backs. The outcome of this is again impossible to predict, and is likely to be strongly affected by how the terrorist threat unfolds. Americans, like most other citizens of democracies, quite willingly surrender some of their civil liberties in times of war. But it is easy to see the grounds within American society for reactions against the GWoT securitization, especially if its legitimacy becomes contested. One source of such reactions would be civil libertarians and others opposed to the reassertion of government powers through a state of permanent fear and emergency. Another would be isolationists and offshore balancers who oppose the current levels and logics of US global engagement. A Pew poll from October 2005 found 42 per cent of Americans favouring a more isolationist policy, on a steeply rising trend that already surpassed the highest level on the question reached immediately after the Vietnam War.20 There is also room for a similarly informed dispute over what kinds of emergency action are legitimized by the GWoT, including treatment of prisoners of war (aka enemy combatants), torture, pre-emptive war, regime change and unilateralism generally. It will be interesting to see whether the present substantial consensus on the need to improve homeland security, both in the United States and in many other countries, becomes embedded or is increasingly attacked. Grounds for opposition include its costs, in terms of both money and liberty, and the ineffectiveness of a permanent increase in the states surveillance over everything from trade and nance to individual patterns of travel and consumption. The refusal of Congress in late 2005 to grant the administrations request for a long-term extension of the Patriot Act, and the political reworks


Pierre Hassner, The United States: the empire of force or the force of empire?, Chaillot Paper 54 (Paris: European Union Institute for Security Studies, 2002), pp. 89; Melvyn P. Leffler, 9/11 and the past and future of American foreign policy, International Affairs 79: 5, 2003, p. 1049. Public unenthused by democracy push, Pew Research Centre, 3 Feb. 2006, http://people-press.org/commentary/display.php3?AnalysisID=126, accessed 18 Feb. 2006.

International Affairs 82: 6, 2006 2006 The Author(s). Journal Compilation 2006 Blackwell Publishing Ltd/The Royal Institute of International Affairs

Will the global war on terrorism be the new Cold War? over unauthorized government wire-taps on US citizens,21 are perhaps indicative of a growing, though not yet decisive, reaction against the domestic and international effects of the GWoT securitization. A possible straw in the wind was a recent shift of rhetoric by some top officials of the Bush administration in the way they talk about terrorism. They stopped talking about a global war on terrorism and began to use phrases such as a struggle against global extremism, or a global struggle against the enemies of freedom, the enemies of civilization. This repackaging could be seen as a retreat from the GWoT securitization, with framings in terms of struggle leaning towards more normalized, politicized responses. But given the parallel use of long war rhetoric, it was more likely an attempt to reformulate the GWoT so as both to justify a broader response and to counter criticisms of the excessively military focus generated by the war framing.22 And in any event, the USNSS of 2006 reasserted the war framing, which leans strongly towards maintaining the securitization. The legitimacy of the US as a securitization leader within international society Even if the US itself holds to the GWoT securitization, will it be able to hold others in a sufficient consensus to sustain it as a dominant macro-securitization? The answer to this question depends on several factors, not least the importance of the terrorist threat remaining strong enough, as discussed above. It also depends on the credibility and legitimacy of the United States as a leader within international society, which will be the subject of this subsection, and on the acceptability and legitimacy of the GWoT securitization itself, which will be the subject of the next. The US successfully generated and led the macro-securitization of the Cold War against communism generally and the military power of the Soviet Union in particular. It was aided in this both by the broad acceptability of its own qualities as a leader in the West, and up to a point even in the Third World, and by the fact that other states, especially west European ones, plus Turkey, Japan and South Korea, shared the fear of communism and Soviet military power. The GWoT has the potential to draw together an even wider grouping, comprising not just the western states and Japan, but also other major states such as Russia, China and India, all of which have reason to bandwagon with the GWoT as a way of addressing their own internal conicts. It is, however, hardly controversial at this point to observe that the legitimacy and acceptability of the United States as a leader have declined sharply under the stewardship of the Bush administration. The embracing of


Daschle: wiretaps never discussed with Congress: former Senate Majority Leader domestic war powers were also rejected, CNN.com, 23 Dec. 2005, http://www.cnn.com/2005/POLITICS/12/23/domestic.spying.ap/, accessed 26 Dec. 2005. Kim R. Holmes, Whats in a name? War on terror out, struggle against extremism in, Heritage Foundation Policy Research and Analysis, 26 July 2005, http://www.heritage.org/Research/NationalSecurity/wm805.cfm, accessed 8 Dec. 2005; Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker, Washington recasts terror war as struggle, 27 July 2005, New York Times as reprinted in International Herald Tribune, http://www.iht.com/ articles/2005/07/26/news/terror.php, accessed 8 Dec. 2005.

International Affairs 82: 6, 2006 2006 The Author(s). Journal Compilation 2006 Blackwell Publishing Ltd/The Royal Institute of International Affairs

Barry Buzan unipolarity as a justication for unilateralism by that administration shocked and alienated many of its allies who had got used to working within the multilateral system largely constructed by the United States during the half-century following the end of the Second World War. Within that general reaction there have been a whole host of well-rehearsed specic disagreements about issues ranging from the International Criminal Court, through the environment and arms control, to the invasion of Iraq, torture and the treatment of prisoners of war. A weight of punditry agrees that the Atlantic has got wider, to the point where even the idea that there is a western community is now under serious threat.23 There are two linked questions in play here: one is about the weakening of US legitimacy as international leader generally, arising from its unilateralist turn; the other is about whether the GWoT itself, or more particularly the specic way in which the Bush administration has dened and pursued it, is itself undermining the legitimacy and attractiveness of US leadership. These questions reect sets of dynamics that are in principle separate, but which can easily become linked. A United States that had remained committed to multilateralism might have weathered better the disagreements, particularly those concerning Iraq, that have arisen over the GWoT. But a unilateralist United States that has made itself unpopular nds that this unpopularity and the disagreements over Iraq become mutually reinforcing. This situation raises interesting questions about the position of the United States within international society, and about the nature of international society; and it is these questions that underpin the potential political signicance of the GWoT securitization. Tim Dunne argues that US unilateralism has been taking it outside international society, though he is uncertain about whether this means that international society has, in effect, shrunk by losing a member, or been pushed into a more hierarchical form by the suzerain behaviour of its most powerful member.24 Kelstrup reaches a clearer formulation.25 He sees that the successful securitization of the GWoT has created a formative moment in the global system in which the United States is bidding for a new strategy of governance in the global system that rejects the traditional multilateralism and favours a more power-based unilateralism. Such a shift would normally, as Dunne partly argues it is doing, take the United States outside international society. But Kelstrups concern is that a successful and durable securitization of the GWoT might be strong enough to legitimize a shift towards the more hierarchical form of international society also pointed to by Dunne, echoing the wider debate about whether the United States is now a type of empire. If the combined force of reactions against US unilateralism and its conduct of the GWoT take it outside international society, then both its leadership position, and international society at the global level, are gravely weakened. If the GWoT securitization is strong enough to legitimize a more hierarchical international
23 24 25

Michael Cox, Beyond the West: terrors in Transatlantia, European Journal of International Relations 11: 2, 2005, pp. 20333. Tim Dunne, Society and hierarchy in international relations, International Relations 17: 3, 2003, pp. 308, 314 15. Kelstrup, Globalisation, pp. 11315.

International Affairs 82: 6, 2006 2006 The Author(s). Journal Compilation 2006 Blackwell Publishing Ltd/The Royal Institute of International Affairs

Will the global war on terrorism be the new Cold War? society, then the United States leadership position is greatly strengthened. A third option is explored by Press-Barnathan, who argues that in several important respects the classical institutions of international society have been strengthened by the GWoT, despite some appearances to the contrary.26 The thrust of her argument is that the United States will probably have to drift back into line, having had its unilateralist bid rejected, and not being able to afford to stay outside for too long. Its implication is that the United States will then be in a weaker leadership position, having broadly failed to translate its unquestioned power to destroy into a basis of legitimacy for a more hierarchical international society. To the extent that the United States is unpopular apart from the GWoT, its attempt to use the GWoT securitization to consolidate its sole superpower position could encounter resistance simply because it could do so. In other words, states might support or oppose the GWoT not only on its merits, but also because of how it plays into the global hierarchy of power.27 The unfolding of events at the time of writing suggest that Press-Barnathans position is closest to the likely outcome, though successful escalation by the terrorists could easily rewrite this script to match Kelstrups scenario. The unacceptability and illegitimacy of the GWoT securitization as a whole and/or of associated particularist securitizations The durability of the GWoT securitization, and the ability of the United States to lead it, are also affected by the extent to which both the GWoT securitization as a whole and/or particularist securitizations that get linked to it become unacceptable and illegitimate. Although the general GWoT macro-securitization has in many respects been rather successful, it has not gone entirely unopposed, and it is not difficult to imagine where additional lines of opposition might come from. So far, opposition is not so much to the general securitization itself as to the framing of it as a war and, increasingly, to the practices that the US tries to legitimize within the GWoT frame. Even if the general securitization continues to command wide support, reaction against it could also grow from US attempts to link to it issues that are either related, but hotly contested (most obviously Israels own WoT), or hotly contested because the facts of the link to the GWoT are themselves controversial (most obviously the invasion of Iraq on the grounds of its alleged possession of WMD and its links to Al-Qaeda). In terms of the GWoT securitization as a whole, some of the lines of opposition are the same in the rest of the world as they are in US domestic debates, particularly over what kinds of emergency action it legitimizes. To the extent that the GWoT becomes associated with actions that seem to contradict the values that the West seeks to represent against the likes of Al-Qaeda, the legitimacy of the securitization is corroded. If the GWoT means that prisoners or war are denied
26 27

Galia Press-Barnathan, The war against Iraq and international order: from Bull to Bush, International Studies Review 6: 2, 2004, pp. 195212. I am grateful to Ole Wver for this point.

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Barry Buzan the rights of the Geneva Conventions; that some forms of torture are used as interrogation techniques; that the United States arrogates to itself the right to attack others on grounds of suspicion of links with terrorists; that civil liberties and economic freedoms are restricted in the name of homeland security; then many will think that the GWoT securitization is doing more harm than good to the civilized world. Wilkinson, who has solid credentials as a hard foe of the terrorists, echoes a sentiment widely held across the political spectrum when he says that If we undermine or destroy our hard-won liberties and rights in the name of security against terrorism we will give the terrorists a victory they could never win by the bomb and the gun.28 In this respect it is of more than passing interest that all of the current strategies being used to pursue the GWoT seem actively to damage the liberal values they purport to defend. I shall return to this point in my conclusions. It is also conceivable that the GWoT securitization will come under attack because of the way in which it facilitates the linkage of religion and politics. Most western leaders (the ever undiplomatic Berlusconi having been a notable exception) have tried hard right from the beginning not to stage the GWoT as a war between the West and Islam. They have trodden the difficult line of maintaining that, while most of the terrorists speak in the name of Islam, that does not mean that most adherents of Islam are terrorists or supporters of terrorists. But despite this, the profoundly worrying relinking of religion and politics in the United States, Israel and the Islamic world easily feeds zero-sum conicts. This linkage could help to embed the securitization of the GWoT, as it seems to have done within the United States and Israel. If religious identities feed the growth of a clash of civilizations mentality, as seems to have happened in the episode of the Danish cartoons, this too could reinforce the GWoT securitization. It could, equally, create a reaction against it from those who feel that their particular religion is being misrepresented by fundamentalists, and/or from those who object to religious inuence on politics. The latter is certainly part of what has widened the gap between the US and Europe. Another weakness of the GWoT macro-securitization is that Al-Qaeda and its like, while clearly posing a threat to the West, do not represent a plausible political alternative to it, Islamist fantasies about a new caliphate notwithstanding. The contrast with the Cold War could not be more striking. Then, the designated opponent and object of securitization was a power that represented what seemed a plausible political alternative: one could easily imagine a communist world. The post-9/11 securitization focused neither on an alternative superpower nor on an alternative ideology, but on the chaos power of embittered and alienated minorities, along with a handful of pariah governments, and their ability to exploit the openness, the technology, and in some places the inequality, unfairness and failed states generated by the western system of political economy. While serious, the terrorist threat seems to lack the depth of the Soviet/communist one. It therefore has shallow roots, and could well be harder to sustain.

Wilkinson, International terrorism, pp. 1718, 245.

International Affairs 82: 6, 2006 2006 The Author(s). Journal Compilation 2006 Blackwell Publishing Ltd/The Royal Institute of International Affairs

Will the global war on terrorism be the new Cold War? In addition to the general vulnerabilities of the GWoT securitization, there is the problem of controversial securitization linkages being made to it. Like the problem of GWoT-legitimized actions that go against western values, contested linked securitizations also threaten the legitimacy and attractiveness of the wider securitization. The most obvious, widespread and deepest dispute of this kind has been over the invasion of Iraq. The US and British governments attempted to justify the invasion by linking Saddam Husseins regime to both terrorists and WMD. This securitizing move was successful within the United States, but vigorously contested in many other places, resulting in serious and damaging splits in both the EU and NATO. Russia was generally very supportive of the GWoT securitization, seeking to link its own difficulties in Chechnya to it, but Putin joined Germany and France in strong opposition to the US-led invasion of Iraq. The ill-prepared occupation that followed the successful blitzkrieg against Iraq only deepened the splits, with many opponents of the war agreeing with Dana Allins assessment that Iraq was probably the war that bin Laden wanted the United States to ght,29 and Wilkinsons that it was a gratuitous propaganda gift to bin Laden.30 During the 2004 US election, even John Kerry began to argue the point that invasion of Iraq was distracting effort away from the GWoT.31 As the political disaster in Iraq continues to unfold, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that it was both a tactical and strategic blunder of epic proportions in relation to the problem of global terrorism represented by Al-Qaeda. The steady ow of bad news from Iraq, and the lack of sound options for either staying in or getting out, corrodes the legitimacy of the GWoT securitization by associating it with bad decisions and unsuccessful, even counterproductive, actions. Whether this type of association is sufficient to bring down the GWoT securitization is an interesting question. If the Vietnam War is taken as an analogy, then the answer is probably no. Vietnam weakened the United States because, probably like Iraq, it came to be seen both as a mistake and as a defeat. But it did not much damage the wider macro-securitization of the Cold War, despite being closely linked to it. Somewhat different from Iraq, but similar in creating tension over the broader GWoT securitization, was Israels attempt to link its own war against the Arabs to Americas GWoT. This move was largely successful in the United States, where it increased the already strong US tilt towards Israel, and largely rejected everywhere else (where Israels problems were seen to be largely of its own making because of its expansionist settlement policy). Like the invasion of Iraq, this particular securitization divided the United States from many of its allies in the GWoT, and so weakened the consensus on the overall securitization of the GWoT. This type of linkage strengthened the view that the GWoT represents not just a legitimate response to a genuine threat, but also a manoeuvre by the Bush administration to manipulate the 9/11 trauma to create a climate of fear which could help it achieve the radical political goals which it brought with it to office. The attacks of 9/11
29 30 31

Dana H. Allin, The Atlantic crisis of condence, International Affairs 80: 4, 2004, p. 652. Wilkinson, International terrorism, p. 21. Bush, Kerry clash on Iraq war, Chicago Sun Times, 30 Sept. 2004, http://www.suntimes.com/output/news/ 01bush.html#, accessed 26 Dec. 2005.

International Affairs 82: 6, 2006 2006 The Author(s). Journal Compilation 2006 Blackwell Publishing Ltd/The Royal Institute of International Affairs

Barry Buzan offered the Bush administration not only a huge opportunity to pursue its domestic agenda within the United States, but also, as it thought, an opportunity to remake the world.32 To the extent that links to Iraq and Israel reinforce the view that the GWoT is just a plot on the part of the Bush administration, the legitimacy of the GWoT securitization will be eroded. The potency of securitizations competing with the GWoT The nal obvious type of threat to the durability of the GWoT securitization is that it will be overtaken by a competing securitization and pushed into the background. Just as the GWoT pushed other concerns into the background after 9/11, so too it might be subordinated to more apparently urgent concerns. Recall also that the environment for the GWoT securitization was particularly propitious, given that the United States had been casting about during much of the decade following the end of the Cold War for some new threat around which to organize its foreign and security policies. The GWoT had no strong challengers and was therefore easily able to ll the vacuum. There are quite a variety of possible candidates for competing securitizations. Rising sea levels or approaching asteroids, or the spread of a new killer plague, could easily put planetary environmental concerns at the top of the securitization agenda. But in conventional mode the most likely threat to the GWoT as dominant macro-securitization comes from the rise of China. That the GWoT did not eliminate other, more traditionally state-centric, US securitizations is shown by the 2002 National Security Strategy, which pointedly reasserted the US intention to retain military superiority over all others: We must build and maintain our defenses beyond challenge Our forces will be strong enough to dissuade potential adversaries from pursuing a military build-up in hopes of surpassing, or equaling, the power of the United States.33 The idea of China rising to superpower status and becoming a peer competitor to the United States has been strong in the US since the end of the Cold War,34 and the empirical case for China achieving superpower capabilities within the next couple of decades is plausible.35 It was perhaps only the perceived remoteness in time of China achieving superpower status that prevented this securitization from becoming the dominant rhetoric in Washington during the 1990s. As time marches on, the rise of China becomes more real and less hypothetical.
32 33 34


Ivo H. Daalder and James M. Lindsay, America unbound: the Bush revolution in foreign policy (Washington DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2003), pp. 7897. Bush, The National Security Strategy, pp. 2930. Richard K. Betts, Wealth, power and instability: East Asia and the United States after the Cold War, International Security 18: 3, 1993/4, pp. 3477; Thomas J. Christensen, Posing problems without catching up: Chinas rise and challenge for US security policy, International Security 25: 4, 2001, pp. 540; Adam Ward, China and America: trouble ahead?, Survival 45: 3, 2003, pp. 3556; Robert S. Ross, The geography of peace: East Asia in the twenty-rst century, International Security 23: 4, 1999, pp. 81118; Denny Roy, Hegemon on the horizon? Chinas threat to East Asian security, International Security 19: 1, 1994, pp. 14968; David Shambaugh, Containment or engagement of China? Calculating Beijings responses, International Security 21: 2, 1996, pp. 180209. Barry Buzan, The United States and the great powers (Cambridge: Polity, 2004).

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Will the global war on terrorism be the new Cold War? Given an ongoing disposition within Washington to construct China as a threat, the likely increase in Chinese power, both relative and absolute, and the existence of tensions between the two governments over, inter alia, Taiwan, trade and human rights, it is not difficult to imagine circumstances in which concerns about China would become the dominant securitization within the United States. Certainly such a securitization would at least in part restore the parallel to the Cold War, inasmuch as China is a potential superpower plausibly capable of becoming a challenger to the United States self-understood unipolar status. The Chinese government is also authoritarian, though there is no longer any parallel to the ideological competition between the United States and the Soviet Union. What is interesting here is that it is the United States that is most likely to be inuenced by this competing securitization. Should this scenario unfold, it would of course impact strongly on the role of the United States as leader of the GWoT securitization. The two are not likely to merge because China has no interest in supporting Islamic terrorists. It is also entirely possible that if competition with China becomes the dominant securitization for the United States, this securitization will have little appeal or use as a macro-securitization to audiences outside the United States. Indeed, so long as China conducts its so-called peaceful rise in such a way as not to threaten its neighbours or the general stability of international society, many outside the United States might actually welcome it. Europe is likely to be indifferent, and many countries (e.g. Russia, China, India, Iran, France, Malaysia) support a rhetoric of multipolarity as their preferred power structure over the predominance of the United States as sole superpower. If played cleverly, Chinas rise might seem threatening only to the United States, and not to most other countries. If so, such a rise might well weaken the GWoT as a macrosecuritization by lowering it in US priorities, while not replacing it with any other macro-securitization. Only if China rises in such a way as to threaten its neighbours would it provide the basis for a securitization that the United States could share with others. In sum, the durability of the GWoT as a macro-securitization looks quite doubtful. Although outcomes for each of the factors above are difficult to predict with any certainty, the GWoT macro-securitization is vulnerable to being derailed if any one of them ceases to be supportive of it in a major way. In other words, everything has to go right if the GWoT is to inherit the mantle of the Cold War. This could, of course, happen, especially if the terrorists succeed in escalating their attacks. But given the number of things that could plausibly go wrong for it, the chance that the GWoT securitization will endure does not look all that strong. Conclusions To conclude, I want to focus on the contradiction between pursuit of the GWoT macro-securitization and maintenance of both domestic and international political and (especially) economic orders based on liberal values. The argument is that 1115
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Barry Buzan pursuit of the GWoT inevitably generates profoundly difficult choices for liberal societies between effective counterterrorism policies on the one hand and quite fundamental compromising of the principles of the liberal order on the other. This dilemma is made more poignant by the fact that terrorism is the dark, uncivil, side of liberalisms much prized liberation and cultivation of domestic and global civil society as an antidote to excesses of state power. The GWoT is mainly about the state versus uncivil society. This is the traditional form of the Hobbesian insecurity agenda, where the state protects its citizens against each other by creating a legal framework, and enforcing a monopoly of legitimate violence against warlords, terrorists, organized crime and whatever uncivil elements seek to disrupt the peace or deploy force against the citizenry for private ends. But under globalization a wider dimension gets added. The openness of a liberalized economy provides opportunities for transnational criminals and terrorists and extremists of all sorts to operate on a global scale. As a consequence, the traditional Hobbesian domestic security agenda gets pushed up to the international level. Because a world government is not available, the problem pits international society against global uncivil society. An additional difficulty, as Wilkinson notes, is that Al-Qaeda and its ilk have such profoundly revolutionist objectives that a negotiated solution is not really an option.36 Rumsfeld is quite right that the struggle is to the death. The dilemma arises out of the policy choices faced by liberal societies in responding to terrorism. The three options currently in play all require that terrorism be securitized and emergency action of some sort taken to try to counter and eliminate it. In each case, the necessary action requires serious compromising of liberal values. Insulation Insulation is exemplied by homeland security and hardening the state both against penetration by terrorists and against vulnerability of infrastructure to terrorist attack. Pursuing the logic of homeland security quickly begins to undermine some core elements of the LIEO. The free movement of people for purposes of business, education and the arts is restricted by tighter controls on travel and immigration. The free movement of goods is restricted both by increased requirements for inspection and traceability, and by the imposition of more controls on the export of technology related to WMD. The free movement of money is restricted by the measures taken to disrupt the nancial networks of terrorists. By hardening borders, homeland security measures erode some of the principles of economic liberalism that they are designed to defend; and the same argument could be made about the trade-off between enhanced surveillance under the GWoT and the civil liberties that are part of the core referent object of western civilization.37 At various points insulation blends into the next option: repression.
36 37

Wilkinson, International terrorism, pp. 13316. Jef Huysmans, Minding exceptions: the politics of insecurity and liberal democracy, Contemporary Political Theory 3: 3, 2004, pp. 32141. See also Stephen Gill, The global panopticon: the neoliberal state, economic life and democratic surveillance, Alternatives 20: 1, 1995, pp. 149.

International Affairs 82: 6, 2006 2006 The Author(s). Journal Compilation 2006 Blackwell Publishing Ltd/The Royal Institute of International Affairs

Will the global war on terrorism be the new Cold War? Repression Repression is about carrying the ght to the terrorists in an attempt to eliminate them by police and/or military action. It is the sharp end of the GWoT, and involves a wide spectrum of activities from, at one extreme, taking down whole states (e.g. Afghanistan, Iraq), through sustained occupations (e.g. Israel in the West Bank and Gaza) and military searches for and assaults on terrorist bases (e.g. in Pakistan, post-Taleban Afghanistan, the Philippines), to, at the other extreme, targeted assassinations (e.g. Israeli policy against Hamas and the PLA) and arbitrary arrests and detentions (the US extra-legal gulag in Guantnamo Bay and elsewhere) of individuals. War is seldom good for liberal values even when fought in defence of them. It undermines civil liberties, peace, the openness that the LIEO requires and, as US practice shows, the commitment to human rights. Equalizing Equalizing starts from the assumption that the root causes of terrorism lie in the inequalities and injustices that are both a legacy of human history and a feature of market economies. The long-term solution to terrorism in this perspective is to drain the waters in which the terrorists swim by redressing the inequalities and injustices that supposedly generate support for them. It is not my concern here to argue whether this contested causeeffect hypothesis is correct or not. My point is that if a policy along these lines is pursued, it cannot avoid undermining the foundations of a competitive market economy. Redistribution on the scale required would put political priorities ahead of market logics, and in doing so quench the res of the market which fuel the liberal project. A possible liberal counter to this view is that a liberal policy would be not so much redistributive as ameliorative, making the liberal system work better by, for example, eliminating rich country protectionism in agriculture. However, while this might reduce inequalities in the very long run, in the short and medium term it is likely to cause huge amounts of pain (as in the recent shift in the textile regime, which enabled China to drive many Third World producers out of the market). If inequality is the source of terrorism, neo-liberal economics does not provide a quick enough solution. It thus becomes clear that terrorism poses a double threat to liberal democratic societies: open direct assaults of the type that have become all too familiar, and insidious erosion as a consequence of the countermeasures taken. It is easy to see how this dilemma drives some towards seeking a solution in total victory that will eliminate both the terrorists and the contradiction. But if it is impossible to eliminate terrorists, as is probably the case, then this drive risks the kind of permanent mobilization that inevitably corrodes liberal practices and values. If the priority is to preserve liberal values, one is pushed towards the option of learning to live with terrorism as an everyday risk while pursuing countermeasures that stop short of creating a garrison state. This choice is not to securitize 1117
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Barry Buzan terrorism, but instead to make it part of normal politics. Taking this route avoids a contradiction between counterterrorist policies and liberal values. The necessary condition for doing so is that state and society raise their toleration for damage as a price they pay for openness and freedom. Kenneth Waltz long ago made the point that if freedom is wanted, insecurity must be accepted,38 though it has to be said that this part of his analysis has made little impact on US thinking about national security.39 This is not to say that under this policy nothing would be done to counter terrorism; but the countermoves would stop short of declaring war and/or a state of siege. Terrorism would be treated like traffic accidents: a structural problem dealt with through normal politics, despite the quite large number of deaths and injuries involved. Citizens would have to accept the risk of being killed or injured by terrorists in the same way that they accept the risk of accident when they enter the transport system. In principle, this should be possibletransport accidents kill far more people than terrorists dothough whether any form of polity, and especially a democratic one, could in practice sustain it is an interesting and difficult question. Perhaps, with brave, honest, charismatic and determined leadership, it could be done. But these qualities are not abundant in political life, and there is a question whether such a policy could or should be sustained if terrorist violence escalated beyond current levels. Short of such escalation, a strategy along these lines should be possible. But if terrorism is a problem of the long term, as it well might be for advanced industrial societies, it would require a level of democratic sophistication and commitment rather higher than anything yet seen. If this is the way to go, then Europe, which has already learned to live with a degree of terrorism as normal politics, may have much more to offer than the United States, which is driven by much higher demands for national security. Robert Kagan had a point when he noted that the US and European positions in the world were determined by their respective power and weakness.40 But in relation to the GWoT, and the defence of liberal values, the positions may be reversed. Europe is more resilient and better able to defend its values without resorting to excesses of securitization. By comparison, the United States seems a softer target, too easily pricked into intemperate reactions that in themselves work to undermine what it claims to stand for.

38 39 40

Kenneth N. Waltz, Theory of international politics (Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1979), p. 112. Buzan, The United States and the great powers, pp. 1723. Robert Kagan, Paradise and power: America and Europe in the new world order (London: Atlantic Books, 2003).

International Affairs 82: 6, 2006 2006 The Author(s). Journal Compilation 2006 Blackwell Publishing Ltd/The Royal Institute of International Affairs