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Shifting Security Parameters In The 21st Century

Paper delivered by Hon Gareth Evans AO QC, President of the International Crisis Group and Foreign Minister of Australia 1988-96, to Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research (ECSSR) 9th Annual Conference- The Gulf: Challenges of the Future, Abu Dhabi, 12 January 2004

A World at Risk

Looking out at the world as we find it early in this new century, there is both good news and bad news on the security front.

The good news is that the actual number of armed conflicts, not only between states but also within them, is in trend decline. The overall number of people being killed in battle has also been steadily decreasing. And, although it may not feel like it, even the number of international terrorist incidents has been steadily dropping - although, as suicide bombing has emerged as the weapon of choice for terrorists, the number of casualties has not been.[1] Looking objectively at the total picture, as bad as conflict and mass violence continues to be, it is significantly less bad than it was a decade ago.

This has all been much helped by the end of the Cold War, which removed a major source of ideological and great power conflict, and stopped the flow of resources to warring parties in proxy wars in the developing world and to authoritarian regimes of left and right. But we are also handling these situations better than we used to. There has been an extraordinary upsurge in conflict prevention and management activities by governments, regional organizations, World Bank, NGOs like my own International Crisis Group[2], and other international actors.

The United Nations itself was given new freedom, with the end of the Cold War, to play an active security role, and did so of course very effectively in the context of Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. And in other areas, despite inappropriate mandates, inadequate resources, lack of political commitment by key players and many other problems, there is certainly at least a prima facie case that the much-maligned UN has made a real difference in reducing the risk of war, both between and within states.[3]

So much for the good news. The bad news is that, for all the security problems we have become better at solving, the ones we have left are very big ones indeed; that they are, if anything, growing; and that our capacity to deal with them is, if anything, diminishing. There are some big things going wrong, both in terms of risks on the ground and in the way in which we as a global community are dealing with them.

In terms of risks, there are three generic ones that are causing justifiable alarm. The first is the growth of international terrorist organisations with deeply frightening agendas, and deeply frightening capacity – no less frightening as we see unfolding the development of al-Qaeda not so much as a single organisation, but as a global franchise.[4]

The second concern is the waning effectiveness of the treaty regimes trying to achieve the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, none more important or effective until now than the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). This confounded the predictions of the 1960s that there would be by now 20-30 nuclear weapons states but has been looking ever more fragile in the last few years, even with the apparently better news coming out of Iran, Libya and perhaps even North Korea in the last few weeks.

And the third is the continuing existence, and emergence, right across the arc of instability from West Africa to East Asia of too many failed, failing, fragile or simply overwhelmed states, which often look nothing like the fully functional sovereign actors on which international law and international relations theory is premised. These are states where, as a result of government action, inaction, incapacity or huge internal division, their own peoples are often at extreme risk; and where their debilitation is such that they often pose a risk as well to the peoples of other countries through their export of terrorism, drugs, other crime, fleeing refugees, health pandemics or environmental catastrophe.

In terms of the way in which we as a global community are dealing with these various risks, there are also three big things going wrong. There’s a weakening of confidence in the rules that are supposed to govern the use of force. There’s a weakening of confidence in the institutions making such rules as there are and trying to enforce them. And there is little or no consensus about the strategies that are needed to deal with the great risks of terrorism, weapons of mass destruction proliferation, and the threats - both internal and external - posed by fragile or overwhelmed states.

A Lopsided World

Making all these problems harder to handle is the cross-cutting problem of U.S. power.

The world has never in its history seen a global power balance as lopsided as that which exists at the moment. The United States is, quite simply – militarily, economically, and culturally as well – the biggest dog that has ever turned up on the global block (to employ a favorite metaphor of Bill Clinton). And its behaviour as such - actual, perceived, anticipated, feared or imagined – is the catalyst in turn for a great many reactions by other countries and peoples, both rational and some irrational, that bear upon global, regional and national security.

The military budget numbers alone make clear the immensity of U.S. authority. Before even getting to Iraq – which continues to cost the Pentagon nearly $US 1 billion a week – U.S. defence expenditure is now running at nearly $400 billion a year, just about as much as the whole rest of the world together. In percentage terms, this is over 40 per cent of global defence expenditure, and eight times the U.S. share of global population. And in dollar terms, this is higher than the combined total of Britain, France, Germany and the entire European Union; and China; and Russia; and with the seven ‘rogue states’ identified by the Pentagon as its most likely adversaries (including Iran and North Korea) thrown in as well.

The possession and exercise of dominant power has always generated a variety of reactions within other countries - to play the role of devoted acolyte; to compete, by building counterweight authority; or to be more or less impotently enraged – and we can see plenty of examples of all three reactions in the world around us. Acolyte sentiment is strong in my own country, Australia, at least under its current government. Competitive sentiment is strong in continental Europe, although it is generally acknowledged – albeit a little reluctantly in Paris - that even on the most favourable assumptions, it would take decades for the EU, or even China, to catch up economically, let alone militarily, with the US: the reality of US power, both absolute and relative, is going to be with us for decades.

The more worrying phenomenon is the outright rage and hatred which U.S. dominance is also generating, particularly concentrated in many parts of the Arab and Islamic world. Some of this sentiment can readily be dismissed as not all that different to the hostility which has always been expressed toward the top dog of the day, from the Romans to the Ottomans to the Imperial British. The U.S. can’t do anything to alter its size, or much to moderate its relative clout, or anything to redress the disappearance of the Soviet Union as a power balancer.

But what is also manifestly generating a great deal of hostility is not just the fact of U.S. power but the way in which it is being, or at least perceived as being, presently exercised.

The charge sheet is familiar: a distaste for multilateral institutions and processes; a disposition to make rules for others which it won’t apply to itself; a tendency to dress up realpolitik as high morality – ‘to talk like Athens, but behave like Sparta’; and a tendency to be highly selective in its assessment of others’ behaviour, especially when it comes to its friends.

In relation to the last point, it has not escaped notice that at least as many of the world’s current serious security problems are associated with the U.S’s friends as with its avowed foes. The foremost global nuclear proliferators, for example, has been Pakistan; the main sources of funding, recruitment and refuge for al Qaeda and other radical Islamists drawing inspiration from it have been Saudi Arabia and, again, Pakistan; and Israel’s obduracy on the Palestinian issue has been at least as unhelpful in resolving that issue as any misbehaviour on the other side, while its possession of nuclear weapons continue to be a serious inhibition on rational global non-proliferation policy.

No-one can sensibly ask the U.S. to abandon its own national interests – it can’t and it won’t, any more than any other country would if it had the choice. But what one can ask of the U.S., like anyone else, is that it think carefully about what its national interests actually are in this highly interdependent, globalised world we all now occupy, and recognise that it is no longer sufficient to define them in terms of security and economic benefits, both narrowly conceived. No country, however big or powerful, can solve by itself all the problems that affect it, whether the issue is terrorist violence, weapons proliferation, narcotics or other organized crime, refugee flows, health pandemics or environmental spillovers: the cooperation of others is essential, and that cooperation will only in turn be won if there is a willingness to help others solve their problems. In short, all of us, including the U.S. should think of national interest not just in terms of traditional security and economic interests, but as embracing a third element: the national interest in being, and being seen to be, a good international citizen.

The problem that many countries perceive with the U.S. at the moment is not any lack of engagement with the rest of the world, but a determination to conduct that engagement almost wholly on its own terms. There are some in the present administration, Secretary Powell conspicuous among them, who have always understood that this is not only irritating to others but ultimately counterproductive for the U.S. itself. But there are others who remain to be persuaded.

We are very far from seeing a fully cooperative approach prevail across the big-three contemporary security problems I identified – lack of confidence in rules, in institutions and in strategies. But that’s no reason for not continuing to try to improve policy in all three areas - as difficult as it is, in this lopsided world of the 21st century, to make progress on anything without U.S. support.

The Problem of Rules

There has undoubtedly been a a growth of cynicism and scepticism about the existence and bindingness of the international rules governing the use of force. Under the guise of acting to meet threats of one kind or another, states – and the U.S. in particular – have been seen as making up rules as they go along, going to war when they should not be, and not going to war when they should.

There are three different situations here we have to distentangle: the right to take military action against another state in self-defence; the right to take such action against a state posing a threat to any other states or individuals outside its borders; and the right to intervene against a state when the only threat involved is to those within it.

Self Defence.

On self defence, Article 51 of the UN Charter clearly acknowledges that there is an ‘inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations’ – which can be exercised without prior UN Security Council authorisation (as it was by the US, without much argument from anyone, in Afghanistan after 9/11).

It is well accepted in international practice that this right extends beyond an actual attack to a threatened one, at least where the threatened attack is ‘imminent’. What is very much challenged is the US notion, asserted in relation to Iraq in 2003, that the right to react in self-defence extends without check to situations where the threatened attack is neither actual nor imminent – and where the state reacting (here the U.S.) is, in effect, the sole judge of whether there is a real threat at all.

The problem is not so much with the notion of pre-emption as such. Countries have never been expected to wait until an imminently threatened attack became actual, and it is perfectly possible to imagine threats, including the nightmare scenario combining rogue states, WMD and terrorists, which are very real indeed, albeit not imminent. But international unease has to be expected when, as Sandy Berger has put it, this Administration has ‘elevated pre-emption from an option every President has preserved to a defining doctrine of American strategy’.[5]

Ultimately the question boils down to credible evidence, and whether – assuming there is time to consider alternatives - the military attack response is the only reasonable one in all the circumstances. This is why there continues to be so much focus on the issue of whether credible and compelling intelligence was indeed available to support the war in Iraq. It is difficult to argue with the proposition that, if the whole international security system is not to descend into anarchy, the less imminent a threat and the weaker the evidence of its reality – as clearly was the case in Iraq 2003 - the greater the need to win Security Council support for the proposed response.

External Threats Generally.

Moving beyond self-defence cases to response to external threats generally, Chapter VII of the UN Charter clearly empowers the Security Council to take any action ‘necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security’. The Council can, and does at its complete discretion from time to time, authorise or endorse the use of force by blue helmets, Multinational Forces, ‘coalitions of the willing’ or individual states, as well as endorsing (sometimes after the event) military action by regional organisations operating under Ch VIII – e.g. ECOWAS in Liberia and Sierra Leone.

The Iraq situation has rung all the changes on this theme. The Security Council gave such an authorisation for the attack on Iraq in 1991, after its invasion of Kuwait; but didn’t, of course, in 2003, though it is a reasonable bet that it would have been prepared to do so if more time had been available to test Iraq’s apparent failure to cooperate with the international inspectors, and obstruction had continued.

Internal Threats.

For wholly internal threats, raising the issue of so called humanitarian intervention, the UN Charter is conspicuously unhelpful. Article 2.7 expressly prohibits intervention "in matters which are essentially within the jurisdiction of any state" although this is in tension with language elsewhere acknowledging individual human rights, and a mass of law and practice over the last few decades which have set real conceptual limits claims of untrammeled state sovereignty, not least the Genocide Convention.

The Security Council can always authorise Chapter VII military action against a state if it is prepared to declare that the situation, however apparently internal in character, does in fact amount to a ‘threat to international peace and security’ – as it did for example in Somalia, and eventually Bosnia, in the early 1990s.

But more often than not, even in conscience shocking situations like Rwanda in 1994, it has declined to initiate or authorise any enforcement action at all. Most people accept that the Security Council should continue to be the first port of call in these situations; the question is whether it should be the last. This is the issue that was brought to a head by NATO’s intervention in Kosovo in 1999, bypassing the Security Council. And it has been brought to a head again in Iraq 2003, with the emergence of the argument – as other rationales in terms of bombs and terrorists drop away – that it was Saddam’s murderous tyrannizing of his own people that made him a suitable case for humanitarian intervention treatment.

When it’s Right to Fight: Six Criteria.

The most urgent need in the international security debate, from whatever point in the ideological spectrum one approaches it, is to try to re-establish consensus about what the basic rules, or principles, governing the use of force should be, and how they should be applied in practice. I suggest that in all cases there is a basic over-arching checklist of six principles, or criteria, that must be worked through in determining whether it’s right to fight - applicable whether the threat is external or internal; or whether the threat is constituted by armies marching, by WMD acquisition, by terrorism, or by tribal machetes.

These six criteria – a threshold test of seriousness, four prudential criteria and a legal test - were essentially those agreed by the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty[6] which I co-chaired with my Algerian colleague Mohamed Sahnoun three years ago. The ICISS commission, as it has become known, published its report ‘The Responsibility to Protect’, setting out these principles, in December 2001. The formulation of the criteria owes much to traditional ‘just war’ theory, but these principles owe their force much more to their intuitive acceptability than to any theological doctrine. And they are certainly intended to reflect universal, not just Western, values. They are as follows:

(1) Just Cause: is the harm being experienced or threatened sufficiently clear and serious to justify going to war?

For external threats to others, as with self defence, everything depends on the quality of the evidence. Actual behaviour is one thing, merely threatened behaviour is something else: to establish a threat, plausible evidence of both capability and intent to cause harm is required.

For internal threats, the threshold criteria to justify coercive intervention need to be tough. Unless the bar is set very high and tight, excluding less than catastrophic forms of human rights abuse, prima facie cases for the use of military force could be made across half the world: the only rule book would be the whim of the potential enforcer, and any prospect of mobilising consensus for international action in the cases most deserving it – e.g. another Rwanda – would fly out the window.

It was these kinds of considerations that led my ICISS commission to propose that the ‘just cause’ for intervention in these internal cases should be narrowly confined to two kinds of situation: large scale loss of life, actual or apprehended, with genocidal intent or not, which is the product either of deliberate state action, or state neglect or inability to act, or a failed state situation; or large scale ‘ethnic cleansing’, actual or apprehended, whether carried out by killing, forced expulsion, acts of terror or rape.

For Iraq 2003 this threshold test cuts both ways. It would certainly have been satisfied a decade and more ago (when the West could not have cared less), but probably not in more recent years, as tyrannical as Saddam’s regime continued to be in other ways. I find it difficult personally to accept as a trigger for war a ‘humanitarian intervention’ ground which is only seriously advanced as other grounds for military action retrospectively evaporate. But it is hard to denounce Saddam’s murderous behaviour for twenty years, as many of us have done, then object, at least on this ground, when someone finally proposes to do something about him.[7] Call honours even on this one.

(2) Right Intention: is the primary purpose of the proposed military action to halt or avert the external or internal threat in question, even if there are some other motives in play as well?

For Iraq 2003, in the case of the UK, the judgment of history may be that the decision to go to war was wrong-headed, but at least palpably sincere.

For the US, however, the jury on intention may well be out a good deal longer, given most observers’ experience that the only common motivation was regime change, for reasons not having an awful lot to do with Saddam’s bastardry towards his own people. There may have been a genuine fear of physical attack with WMD by Saddam or those he might assist. But a variety of other considerations, each coming down to a regime change bottom line, all seemed to rank higher in the motivation table – if not a hand in Iraqi oil production, then certainly considerations like bestowing the values of American democracy on the Arab world; or asserting absolute U.S. military authority for its demonstration effect; or just being seen to be doing something (and never underestimate that as a motivation for any government) to keep up the momentum of response post 911.

For Australia, if there was any other motive than following the leader (and earning Frequent Fighter Points along the way) I have yet to hear it credibly argued - but having been out of the country for the last few years, I may have missed something.

(3) Last Resort: has every non-military option for the prevention or peaceful resolution of the crisis been explored, with reasonable grounds for believing lesser measures will not succeed?

In the case of Iraq, it continues to be strongly argued by opponents of the war – with more and more credibility in retrospect - that there was ample time for the inspection process to have been carried through, and that resort to military action in March 2003 was at the very least premature. That kind of response doesn’t go to an argument based on Saddam’s past treatment of his own people, but it is a pretty good answer to the other rationales for war.

(4) Proportional Means: is the scale, duration and intensity of the planned military action the minimum necessary to secure the defined human protection objective?

In the case of Iraq, the question has to be asked whether some 5,000 civilian deaths and 10,000 military deaths – assuming that those guesstimates are at least roughly accurate – were an appropriate trade, from an Iraqi perspective, for the end of Saddam Hussein’s capacity to persecute his people

(5)Reasonable Prospects: is there a reasonable chance of the military action being successful in meeting the external or internal threat in question, with the consequences of action not likely to be worse than the consequences of inaction? Military action can only be justified if it stands a reasonable chance of success, and will not risk triggering a greater conflagration or a greater peril.

This has to be called at the outset, not with the benefit of hindsight, but it has been from the beginning, and certainly remains now, a tough one for proponents of war in Iraq. We cannot finally assess the balance of consequences until we know how long Iraq’s post-war misery will last, whether it is going to become a democracy or a theocracy, whether the war has indeed concentrated the minds of other dictators, and whether al-Qaeda and like networks will indeed find it easier to recruit. But the outlook on most of these fronts was not very encouraging before the war, and it is getting worse, not better, now

(6) Right Authority: is the military action lawful?

As international law now stands, if the Security Council says no that means no. But should the absence of Security Council endorsement be the end of the intervention story? Is legality the whole story or, as many have argued, are there not wider questions of legitimacy as well? What if the Security Council fails to approve military action in another Rwanda-type, utterly conscience-shocking situation that just about everyone else thinks cries out for action? A real question arises as to which of two evils is the worse: the damage to international order if the Security Council is bypassed, or in the damage to that order if human beings are slaughtered while the Security Council stands by.

The ICISS Commission’s response to this dilemma was to give a clear political message: if an individual state or ad hoc coalition does step in, fully observe and respect all the necessary threshold and precautionary criteria, intervene successfully, and ends up being seen to have so acted by world public opinion, then this is likely to have damaging consequences for the stature and credibility of the UN itself. That is pretty much what happened with the U.S. and NATO intervention in Kosovo: the UN cannot afford to drop the ball too many times on that scale.

On the other hand, in Iraq 2003, the contrary argument has been put with some force – that compliance with the six criteria was on balance so weak, particularly on the issues of last resort and reasonable prospects – that the Security Council would have lost global credibility had it supported military action.

It will be a long haul to gain general acceptance in principle of the relevance and utility of all six criteria[8], and an even longer haul to have them systematically applied in practice in every case – and when they are applied it won’t mean the end of argument about particular cases, as we have just seen. The alternative to making a serious effort to enforce the international rules we have, and to supplement them with further principled guidelines and criteria of the kind here proposed in the areas where there are gaps, is to abandon the field to those who are more comfortable with the ad hoc exercise of power - who don’t really want to be limited by rules and principles, who feel constrained by international process, who see multilateral cooperation in very narrowly self-interested terms.

But a world that appeals to people like this is not one in which most people in the world want to live.

The Problem of Institutions

The effectiveness of the international security system depends not only on the rules in place but the credibility of the institutions making and enforcing them. There are multiple problems in this respect at the global, regional and national level which need to be addressed.

The basic one is that nearly all our contemporary security architecture, from the UN to NATO to the configuration of most country’s armed forces, was designed by policymakers preoccupied by the primary concern of statesmen for centuries, states waging aggressive war. Of course we can’t assume that the human habits of centuries have changed, that in an our contemporary, interdependent, globalised world the rewards of war will always be much less than the risks, and that aggressive war is a thing of the past, with Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait the last twitch of the dinosaur in that respect. But as was said at the outset, we can certainly be confident that for the foreseeable future that traditional warmongering we will be less of a policy problem for us than how to deal with terrorism and WMD proliferation and failed and fragile states. And it is in these areas that our institutions have not been functioning as flexibly, effectively and credibly as they should.

United Nations.

Secretary General Kofi Annan last year[9] is just one of the many who have argued that UN institutional architecture is badly out of date and desperately needs reform – designed as it was for its original membership of 51 states, not its current 191, and reflecting in the composition and powers of the Security Council the power balances of 1945, not the world of 2003. The decisions of the Security Council, he said, ‘increasingly…lack legitimacy in the eyes of the developing world, which feels that its views and interests are insufficiently represented among the decision-takers.’ And he has now appointed a High Level Panel – on which I have the pleasure of sitting along with, among others, Amre Moussa - to come up with answers on this and related issues.[10]

The basic question we have to confront is whether those big five with the power, whose veto can block any Charter change, will ever be in the mood to relinquish that power, or share it with the likes of India and Brazil and Nigeria. Will Britain and France, for a start, ever be prepared to subsume their identity in a single EU seat?

And there are other questions as well. Will, for example, a legion of developing countries in the General Assembly ever be prepared to abandon the old-think which has blocked any talk, for example, of a new role for the now out-of-work Trusteeship Council in managing non-colonial states in distress?

Will they ever be prepared to support even the establishment of a serious conflict assessment and analysis capability within the Secretariat?[11] And will any country, developed or developing, ever be seriously prepared to vest the necessary authority and resources to create a standing military rapid reaction force to do the Security Council’s bidding when emergencies demand it?

Everybody acknowledges that the UN has its uses, and may even be indispensable as a source of legitimacy and a vehicle for global burden sharing. Even the U.S. periodically goes through learning experiences in this respect. But continued UN credibility and the maintenance in perpetuity of present Permanent Five privileges simply don’t mix: sooner or later one will have to go.

A good start, quite a gentle one, would be for the Permanent Five to reach a gentleman’s agreement (actually proposed once by the French), in which they would undertake to each other, in the absence of their own vital interests being involved, not to exercise the veto to obstruct humanitarian intervention missions for which there was otherwise majority support on the Council. But there is no evident enthusiasm at the moment among the Five for even this limited start.


So UN reform is a dispiriting business. But these are all issues on which we must, in a spirit of optimism, persist. Just as we must continue to work away to try to strengthen the security role of regional organisations. NATO is a potentially important new recruit to the role of UN enforcer not only in Europe but out of area, and the African organisations have already shown that their role can be absolutely crucial. But there is much more that others can do in defence cooperation, conflict prevention, and crisis management – including throughout Asia and the Pacific, and here in the Middle East with the Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council.

So too must we continue to urge individual countries, in Europe and elsewhere, to strengthen their own defence capability, building greater self reliance in strategic lift and other areas of conspicuous shortfall. As Washington not unreasonably comments from time to time, complaints about U.S.military dominance would carry a little more weight if more countries did a little bit more to pull their weight: part of the answer is providing the soft power (development funds and the like) while the U.S. provides the hard power, but it is not the whole answer.

The Problem of Strategies

In the conduct of international relations, on issues of war and peace as elsewhere, rules and institutions are only as good as the intelligence with which they are applied. The big problems I identified at the outset – global terrorism, weapons of mass destruction proliferation and coping with fragile, collapsed and divided states – all need sensible response strategies. How well have we been doing in developing them?


The problem with the global war on terror that has been waged since 9/11 is that its primary achievements so far seem to have been more war and more terror. Osama bin Laden is still alive, and al-Qaeda is down but not out. Its affiliates and offshoots and imitators in South East Asia and elsewhere are damaged but certainly not destroyed. In Iraq, where the terrorist connection was the least plausible of all the reasons for going to war, terrorist violence has now become the most harrowing of all its consequences. In Israel, with the collapse of the roadmap process, the suicide bombers are back with a vengeance. Nobody anywhere is confident that the ‘big one’ can’t or won’t happen – an attack bringing together the sophistication and ruthlessness of the attack on the twin towers with the use of nuclear, chemical or biological weapons.

There are at least two general lessons we can learn from what has happened so far. One is that to wrap everything up in the language of a "war on terrorism" or a "war on evil" doesn’t contribute much to clear operational thinking. A war against evil is, almost by definition as many have said, unlimited and interminable. The concept doesn’t help us much in identifying points of entry, and there is certainly no obvious exit strategy. There are big risks in ignoring those problems which are not easily subsumed under the mantle of a war against terror. And perhaps there are even bigger risks in wrapping in that mantle security problems – like those in Iraq, Iran and North Korea – which at most are only marginally connected to terrorism.

The second lesson is how little the fundamentals of conflict and mass violence have actually changed since 9/11. The great dangers come from political problems – some of them with underlying economic and social causes – that are unresolved, unaddressed, incompetently or counter-productively addressed or deliberately left to fester, until they become so acute they explode. Part of the fall-out of such explosions can be terrorism, but this is not in and of itself a self-driving concept, or in and of itself an "enemy". It is not even an ideology, as anarchism was in the 19th century. Rather it is a tool or a tactic, resorted to almost invariably by the weak against the strong – weak individuals, weak groups, weak states.

Since power relativities have changed to the point where virtually everybody is weak in comparison to the U.S., and since 9/11 has shown the way, there is considerably more risk today that those in serious dispute with Washington, and by extension its allies, will use terror as a tactic to compensate for that weakness.

But the core problems go back to political issues, broadly defined. Tough internal police action is part of the answer, and so too can be military force, which was legitimately used in Afghanistan for punitive, retaliatory and in effect self-defence purposes. But – whether in the hands of the U.S., Israel, Saudi Arabia or anyone else – force can never be an effective substitute for the traditional hard work of dealing with those core problems.

From a Western perspective, the right strategy for dealing with global terrorism involves operating at five different levels simultaneously: first, homeland defence; secondly, pursuit and punishment of known perpetrators; thirdly, and most crucially, building frontline defences in the countries of origin of the terrorists themselves, by building in turn the capacity and will of those countries to act both internally and cooperatively with the wider international community; fourthly, addressing the political issues that generate grievance; and fifthly, addressing the underlying social, economic and cultural issues that generate grievance.

The real point of addressing the so-called underlying political and economic causes of terrorism is not to try to destroy the motivation of every individual terrorist: we all know that most of the 9/11 perpetrators were not poor and cared little about the Palestinians, and were driven more by religious than political passion as such. Rather it is to neutralise support for terrorists in the communities in which they live, and above all to generate the will to act against them and the capacity to act against them by the relevant governments and authorities.

And it’s that job that we are not now doing very well, especially in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

There is a peaceful two-state solution, which has been outlined by many and mapped in great detail eighteen months ago by ICG[12], and now again in the Beilin-Rabbo Geneva Accord.[13] The leaderships of both sides know perfectly well what is needed to meet the basic aspirations of the Palestinians and guarantee Israel’s security as a Jewish state, and which big majorities of ordinary Israelis and Palestinians will accept - but left to themselves, they have proved utterly incapable of delivering.

They can get there, but only if the U.S.-led Quartet – playing it straight down the middle – assists, monitors, militarily supervises, and above all leads the process every inch of the way. To abdicate responsibility to address the real and resolvable political grievances that lie at the heart of the terrorist violence yet again being perpetrated, to do nothing to give moderate Palestinian leaders the capacity to deal with the extremists in their midst or Palestinians as a whole the will to oppose them, is to condemn both Israelis and Palestinians to ever more killings, to endless further tragedy.

Weapons of Mass Destruction.

International legal regimes generally, and arms control treaties in particular, play a critical stabilising role in the international community. But here it has to be acknowledged that the present U.S. administration has been leading by example in the worst possible way, and not just in relation to the Kyoto Climate Change Convention and the International Criminal Court. After playing an important leadership role a decade ago in securing a tough international inspection regime for chemical weapons, the most recent contributions of the US have been to scuttle a draft protocol seeking a similar enforcement mechanism for biological weapons, withdraw unilaterally from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty (which continues to have implications for long term strategic stability in North East Asia in particular), and to assert the US right to develop a new generation of nuclear weapons, including the so called bunker-busters.

With the Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Comprehensive Test Ban Treaties both faltering, the risk is now more real than it has been for years of the few nuclear weapons states becoming many, even with the destruction of Saddam’s regime in Iraq and the better news coming recently out of Libya, Iran and even North Korea.

The recent entry of India and Pakistan to the club – joining the five original declared nuclear powers and Israel – should remind us once again of the simple but powerful conclusions of the Canberra Commission on the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons a few years ago: that so long as any state retains nuclear weapons, others will want them; that so long as any state has them, they are bound one day to be used, if not by design then by accident; and that any such use will be catastrophic for humankind.

The compelling force of these conclusions continue, unfortunately, to leave the relevant policy makers unmoved, for reasons that are never very compellingly explained. Why, in the post Cold War World, it is necessary to ultimately retain, after a series of progressive reductions, any nuclear weapons at all for balance of terror reasons is not at all clear.

Why you need nuclear, chemical or biological weapons to deter rogue states – or in the case of Israel, any of your neighbours - producing or using them, when current generation conventional weapons give you all the deterrent or retaliatory muscle you could ever need, is never explained. Why you could need a nuclear or CBW armoury to deal with terrorist groups or individuals producing home-made weapons of this kind is simply impossible to explain.

This double standard issue is crucial. As we know from ordinary life, saying ‘do as I say but not as I do’ cuts no ice with anyone. And it certainly cuts no ice internationally for major countries with pride and dignity and aspirations of their own.

If the U.S. and its nuclear armed colleagues on the UN Security Council really want to prevent a nuclear break out - to hold the line on the progress made in Iran and Libya, to make progress toward a nuclear weapons free zone in the Middle East, to stop a nuclear arms race getting started in North East Asia, to win global cooperation for coercive measures to be applied against proliferators and those assisting them – they simply cannot go on saying that it is legitimate for them (and selected friends) to retain a nuclear armoury in perpetuity, but that no-one else can be trusted to get to first base.

Article 6 of the NPT places an obligation on the original declared nuclear weapons states to commit themselves to the ultimate elimination of their armouries: and it is long overdue for this to be taken seriously. There is a leadership role here that Britain, for one, could play: if Prime Minister Tony Blair really wanted to rewrite his place in the record books, and reestablish his deserved place in the Labour Pantheon, a declaration of intent to reduce the UK arsenal down to zero over a given timeframe might involve the sacrifice of a little testosterone, but not any discernible military advantage.

Failed, Failing, Fragile and Overwhelmed States.

The international community confronts this problem first, and most starkly, in the context of post-conflict peacebuilding, when the task is to not only meet immediate humanitarian needs but to ensure that the cycle of conflict does not start all over again.

If there is any single lesson we imbibed during the whole long debate on conflict prevention through the 1990s, and through the experience of every peacekeeping mission, successful and unsuccessful, of the last decade, it was the need to address in these post-conflict situations, effectively and together, not only immediate security needs, but economic and social needs, governance and participation needs, and justice and reconciliation needs as well. In these circumstances it almost beggars imagination that so little was done to prepare adequately for the post-war peacebuilding task in Iraq, or that the commitment to Afghanistan’s reconstruction remains so incomplete and fragile.

Every situation has its own distinct combination of needs, and it is difficult to usefully generalise about the strategies required in each case. But we should have learned at least ten lessons from our collective experience, quite extensive in the post-Cold War years, in trying to rebuild societies in crisis. We have to better understand the overall task; recognise that there are limits to what outsiders can and should do; allocate functions appropriately; learn how to pursue multiple objectives simultaneously; coordinate the process effectively; commit the necessary resources; understand the local political dynamics; make security the first priority; make justice and the rule of law a higher priority; and know when to get out.

Of all these lessons, probably the most critical one is the need for outsiders to have a close understanding of both the cultural norms and the internal political dynamics of the society that one is trying to reconstruct. As ICG first warned in Bosnia in 1996, while the urge to get legitimate local leadership in place is wholly understandable, early elections can be disastrously counterproductive if they only consolidate existing ethnic or other divisions: concentrating on first building civil society institutions can often make much more sense.

In Iraq we have been warning[14], similarly, of the huge downside risks in what looked at first sight the very clever arithmetical weighting of the appointed Iraqi Interim Governing Council, and the cabinet in turn it has selected, to precisely reflect Shiite and Sunni, and Arab and non-Arab proportions of the population. The trouble with this is that for the first time in the country’s modern history, sectarian and ethnic identity has been elevated to the rank of primary organizing political principle. People are now more likely to join political parties built on these lines, and secular Iraqis are feeling weakened. The irony is that the U.S., which for so long has feared Shiite activism in Iran and Lebanon, is now effectively promoting it in Iraq. There is a scramble now to broaden the base of interim government in the context of the announced handover of sovereign powers in June, but this may be too late to redress the damage that has been done.

There is a second context in which better strategies are necessary. It is not only in post-conflict situations, with states already broken by war, that we need to be focusing on how improve the quality of governance and to reduce the risk of internal disintegration, with all its potential external consequences. Building the conditions for sustainable peace, to avoid conflict or mass violence erupting in the first place, is the responsibility of all governments, supported as necessary and appropriate by the wider international community.

This is not the occasion to dwell on the particular problems of the states in this region, but it is hard to avoid the perception that something is going wrong – with potentially seriously destabilising consequences unless serious corrections are fast put in train – when it remains the case that not one of the 22 Arab League countries has a leader elected in a free and fair election; and when, as was pointed out in the Arab Human Development Report 2002, the deficits of freedom, education and women’s empowerment have left the region so behind that the combined GDP of the 22 is less than that of a single middle-ranking EU country, Spain

As ICG has noted[15], the absence of a credible political life in most parts of the region is not necessarily bound to produce violent conflict, but it is intimately connected to a host of questions that affect its longer-term stability:

Ineffective political representation, popular participation and government responsiveness often translate into inadequate mechanisms to express and channel public discontent, creating the potential for extra-institutional protests. These may, in turn, take on more violent forms, especially at a time when regional developments (in the Israeli-Palestinian theatre and Iraq) have polarized and radicalized public opinion.

In the long run, the lack if genuine public accountability and transparency hampers sound economic development. While transparency and accountability are by no means a guarantee against corruption, their absence virtually ensures it. Also, without public participation, governments are likely to be more receptive to demands for economic reform emanating from the international community than from their own citizens. As a result, policy makers risk taking insufficient account of the social and political impact of their decisions.

Weakened political legitimacy and economic under-development undermine the Arab states ability to play an effective part on the regional scene at a time of crisis when their constructive and creative leadership is more necessary than ever.

The deficit of democratic representation may be a direct source of conflict, as in the case of Algeria.

Addressing this question is the governments’ responsibility, with such help but not theirs alone. Too often opposition parties and civil society have contented themselves with vacuous slogans and unrealistic proposals that do not resonate with the people and further undermine the credibility of political action.

Cooperating for Peace

The world as we now look out upon it is a decidedly uncomfortable place. The security challenges facing policy makers are as difficult and complex as they have ever been, and at the same time they are disconcertingly different to the kinds of problems – mainly related to the risk of states waging aggressive war - that generations of international policy makers have been most used to confronting.

The context is a globalised, ever more interdependent environment, where states are less able than ever before to insulate themselves from events around them – in security matters as with everthing else – and for most states their capacity to completely determine their own destiny is more limited than it has ever been.

At the same time it is a global context in which one preeminent power has a greater position of dominance than any single country has ever had, with a greater capacity to have its own way internationally than most states have ever had, and this has either contributed to the creation of a number of our contemporary security problems or made their resolution more difficult, or both.

The lesson in these circumstances is that the only productive way forward, in wrestling with the security problems of the 21st century, is for every country – from the biggest to the smallest – to recognize that, while a huge amount of responsibility continues to rest on the leaders of individual sovereign countries, no country is an island, and protection from the scourge of conflict and mass violence can only ultimately be achieved through a wholly cooperative approach.

Not everyone likes the idea of Bill Clinton as a messenger, but I recently heard him deliver a very powerful message that U.S. policy makers in particular would do well to ponder. The U.S., he said, had a choice about how to exercise its present enormous and unrivalled power: "We could use it to try to stay top dog on the global block in perpetuity. Or we could use it to create a world in which we would be comfortable living when, and that time will come, we are no longer top dog on the block."

There is not much doubt about which approach the rest of the world would prefer, nor – I suggest – that which would most benefit the U.S’s longer term interests.

[1] The trends referred to here will all be fully documented in the first annual Human Security Report, to be published by OUP early in 2004, produced by the University of British Columbia Human Security Centre, directed by Andrew Mack ( Director of the UN Secretary-General’s Strategic Planning Unit 1998-2001 and formerly Professor of International Relations at the Australian National University )

[2] The International Crisis Group (ICG) is an independent, non-profit, multinational organisation, with 90 staff members on five continents, working through field-based analysis and high-level advocacy to prevent and resolve deadly conflict. Its Chairman is former Finnish President, UN and EU envoy Martti Ahtisaari, and its 55 Board members include Zbnigniew Brzezinski, Wesley Clark, I.K.Gujral, Mo Mowlam, Fidel V. Ramos, Salim A. Salim, Surin Pitsuwan and Grigory Yavlinsky. For a full account of ICG’s work in some 40 conflict or conflict-potential areas see www.crisisweb.org .

[3] This analysis is further developed in the December 2003 report to the World Economic Forum by the Global Governance Initiative Peace and Security Expert Group, comprising Gareth Evans (Chair), Ellen Laipson, Andrew Mack, Jane Nelson, Mohamed Sahnoun and Ramesh Thakur (publication forthcoming).

[4] Cf. Moses Naim, YaleGlobal, 29 December 2004

[5] Samuel R. Berger, ‘Power and Authority: America’s Path Ahead’, Brookings Institution Leadership Forum, 17 June 2003

[6] The Commission’s members were Gareth Evans and Mohamed Sahnoun (Co-Chairs), Gisele Cote-Harper, Lee Hamilton, Michael Ignatieff, Vladimir Lukin, Klaus Naumann, Cyril Ramaphosa, Fidel Ramos, Cornelio Sommaruga, Eduardo Stein and Ramesh Thakur. It consulted comprehensively over a full year, meeting in Asia and Africa as well as North America and Europe, and holding roundtables and other consultations in Latin America, the Middle East, Russia and China. The ICISS`report, with its large supplementary research volume, is available on www.iciss-ciise.gc.ca. On the six criteria for military intervention, the specific context of our report was the responsibility to protect against internal threats; but the language we came up with– generalised just a little - is equally applicable to external ones

[7] Cf Michael Ignatieff, ‘Why are we in Iraq? (And Liberia? And Afghanistan?)’, New York Times, 7 September 2003.

[8] Efforts have already been made within the Security Council and the General Assembly, led by the Canadian government (who initiated the ICISS commission) and supported by the Secretary-General, to win at least informal acceptance of these criteria, and these efforts will continue in forthcoming months. The argument is that with perseverance and application and declaratory resolutions guidelines can become norms, and norms can become accepted principles of customary international law, even if they never see the light of day as treaty or Charter provisions.

[9]Implementation of the United Nations Millennium Declaration, Report of the Secretary –General, 8 September 2003

[10] The High Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, to report to the Secretary General in September 2004, was appointed in November 2003. Its members are Anand Panyarachun (Thailand, Chair); Robert Badinter (France); João Clemente Baena Soares (Brazil); Gro Harlem Brundtland (Norway); David Hannay (United Kingdom); Mary Chinery-Hesse (Ghana); Gareth Evans (Australia); Enrique Iglesias (Uruguay); Amre Moussa (Egypt); Satish Nambiar (India); Sadako Ogata (Japan); Yevgeny Primakov (Russian Federation); Qian Qichen (China); Nafis Sadik (Pakistan); Salim Ahmed Salim (Tanzania); and Brent Scowcroft (United States).See www.un.org/apps/news

[11] The Brahimi Panel on UN Peace Operations recommended in 2000 the creation of a new Information and Strategic Analysis Secretariat (EISAS), with a staff of over 50, to bring a strong new focus and professional competence to this task. But essentially because of member states’ anxieties about the secretariat becoming too competent in its receipt and handling of sensitive intelligence, the proposal was drastically watered down, and has still not been implemented even in its diluted form.

[12]See ICG Middle East Reports Nos 2-4, 16 July 2002: Middle East Endgame I: Getting To A Comprehensive Arab-Israeli Peace Settlement; Middle East Endgame II: How A Comprehensive Israeli-Palestinian Peace Settlement Would Look; and Middle East Endgame III: Israel, Syria and Lebanon – How Comprehensive Peace Settlements Would Look.

[13] See www.geneva-accord.org.

[14] See ICG Middle East Report No17, Governing Iraq, 25 August 2003, p.12.

[15] See ICG Middle East Briefings on The Challenge of Political Reform in Egypt (30 September 2003) and Jordan (8 October 2003).