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08 january, 2007 | By Mikhail Delyagin

Ungovernable Crises Export, or the New Features of Global Terrorism (21214)

 A mere five years ago it could suffice to point out that the established world order prevented the development or even normal existence of two thirds of humanity, condemning those people to impossible living conditions; and that terrorism was a form of spontaneous response to this intolerable situation.  Even then this self-obvious truth tended to throw quite a few people into hysterics.  I remember saying, on September 11, 2001, that terrorism had no justification but it did have causes of its own, which effectively put paid to any freedom of speech for me on television, as though I had yelled ‘Heil, Hitler,’ or worse. 

But our enemy has since changed a good deal, and the situation has become qualitatively more complex. This is due to the fact that states as actors of international politics are increasingly ceding ground to various global networks. These networks are formed by merging, to use old phraseology, elements of state governance, both political and special service-related, with business, both global and national. Such networks have been around almost always, yet the novel aspect that arose in recent years has been their gradual emancipation, their severance from the interests of the relevant national states. 

Let me emphasize: I am not talking about these networks exercising control over comparatively weak states and even countries. The networks of such countries have more or less traditionally been instruments of influencing them by more powerful states. World history abounds in such examples. 

At present things are different, though; global networks, at any rate in the West, are breaking loose from the control of states as such. Take the most powerful country of all, the United States. You will see that the networks connected with the Islamic world, above all with Saudi Arabia, are increasingly pursuing their own interests that are not even remotely related to the national interests of the United States, and are fairly efficiently manipulating the rest of America.  They cannot subdue that other part, but the internal conflict of interests makes sure that the state itself is getting disorganized, and this appears to be the key reason for the current political crisis in the United States. 

Getting emancipated and breaking away from states, global networks are no longer responsible for the consequences of their activity even with regard to the countries where they are based, even with regard to the state that they have only recently viewed as “their own.” 

What makes networks fundamentally different from states as governance entities is their intrinsic lack of responsibility before society.  The state, willy-nilly, is objectively interested in stability and civil peace, while networks simply can’t be bothered with such matters.  They need a constantly growing aggregate influence and profit for their members, and these goals are a lot easier to attain not in a stable but in a destabilized situation, by fishing in troubled waters, as it were. 

At the same time emancipating or separating these networks from the state robs them of the chance to use in full measure its strategic planning potential (ranging from analysis to adjustment of external processes), which reduced dramatically the efficiency not only of the state they manipulate, but also of their own performance. 

A classic case in point was the operation to overthrow Saddam Hussein that achieved little beyond the strictly local aim of maintaining high oil prices beneficial to US and Saudi oil corporations. The strategic goal of the US section of the network, i.e. control over Iraqi mineral resources, was hopelessly bungled, while the Saudis were faced with a new headache – the rapid strengthening of their key opponent, Iran, which had got rid of the restraining factor in the person of Hussein. 

As a result, the idea of exporting controlled crises that the US has been thoroughly used to is degenerating before our very eyes into export of uncontrolled crises. This undermines global stability, enhances aggregate risks and threatens to effect not merely a change of the world order, but one that is bound to be destructive and chaotic. This is especially dangerous for weaker countries – which includes Russia. 

The basic vector of countering these destructive tendencies is obvious. It covers consolidation of national security; restoration and rehabilitation in the global consciousness of the notion of sovereignty; restoration of international law in the form it possessed prior to 1999; reversal to a nationally oriented system of values instead of the global value system which is self-destructive, if at all possible. 

We have been too hasty in the matter of uniting the world, and we now have to take a step back. It is necessary to establish priority of collective security over democracy and human rights in the Western interpretation of these terms, to give up democratization crusades and to recognize every country’s right to live according to its own laws and customs.  It is about time we admitted that the source of power in every society is its people and not the United States of America.  All of that is perfectly obvious. 

What is rather less obvious is the degree to which this is possible, for progress along these lines is against the immediate interests of the key forces of global politics, and in a way constitutes a return to the relatively safe past, a step back, whose fundamental possibility, even in purely methodological terms, appears dubious. 

However, unless these realities and needs are taken into account, it is currently impossible to fight not only international terrorism, but also global organized crime. While appreciating and endorsing the natural desire to keep away from politics, we have to remember that this kind of struggle, if successful, cannot but be essentially political. Without engaging in politics, however reluctantly, one could perhaps apprehend pickpockets, and then not all of them, not always, and not everywhere.  Struggle against organized crime, and even more so against terrorism, must needs be political. The classic case in point is Italy where the Clean Hands operation set the mafia back considerably, including in a series of government crises; another is the United States where the weakening of organized crime caused by application of RICO Acts has drastically changed the whole of US politics. 

One more reason why terrorism cannot be countered without taking into account political factors is the fact that the struggle itself against terrorism tends to alter the face of the state by making higher demands on it: the state has to be constantly on the alert in order to measure up to these higher standards. Consider Israel’s war against Lebanon: the government mindful of its image in the media proved unable to take even the most vital steps of the kind that must not be made public. The result was a humiliating defeat and growing awareness of the need to restore secret services and to strengthen their role. But given the dearth of ideologically motivated experts (which is the natural consequence of years of democratization in the Western meaning of the word), there is a serious risk of seeing such secret services degenerate. 

Another graphic example is Russia. On July 27 it put into effect the law that provided for sequestration of property within the framework of fighting against organized crime. That was the right thing to do, but it also introduced the practice of sentencing people in absentia and, moreover, not just for capital offenses, but for any felony as well, which in current circumstances makes this law an appalling tool of “raiding” – criminal seizure and re-division of property. 

This is a highly dangerous and destructive move that may cost Russia dear, and it proves yet again that while fighting terrorism and organized crime it is necessary to take into account all factors of society’s life without exception.


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