A distinguished scholar proposes an entirely new way of understanding and combating modern terrorism.
With the startling statement that “almost 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,” Bobbitt (Law/Columbia Univ.; The Shield of Achilles: War, Peace, and the Course of History, 2002, etc.) reframes the discussion, placing terrorism in a historical, strategic and legal context. Building on the premises of his previous work and drawing on a staggeringly wide array of authorities, he argues that with the emergence of the globalized market state, we can expect terror groups to become every bit as worldwide, networked and decentralized as the states themselves. In this sense, the market states have “caused” terrorism or, at least, forced it to assume its modern face. With access to lethal weapons and state-of-the-art communications, future terrorists will make al-Qaeda memorable only as a crude pioneer. To meet this security threat, writes the author, states that depend on the consent of the governed must radically recalibrate their strategies and laws. Bobbitt’s prescriptions for preventing terrorism and the proliferation of WMDs, for intervening to prevent genocide or ethnic cleansing, and for mitigating the human-rights consequences of natural catastrophes will likely prove controversial. There are many who will disagree with his arguments, including those unconverted to his belief in the waning of the nation-state, those who insist that the target is confined to radical Islam, and those who resist the idea that we are in a proper war and recoil at the prospect of any diminution of our civil rights to fight it. But this is a serious book, and, notwithstanding his impressive theoretical reach and philosophical scope, Bobbitt keeps his feet on the ground, boldly offering detailed real-world proposals to combat the problems he outlines. To learn, for example, that our safety may require the repeal of statutes passed in the wake of the Civil War—specifically, the Posse Comitatus Act—is to glimpse the shaky state of our preparedness for this new conflict.
A challenge for the general reader but a feast for students of law, foreign policy and international relations.