About Paul Rogers
Paul Rogers is professor in the department of peace studies at Bradford University, northern England. He is openDemocracy's international-security editor, and has been writing a weekly column on global security since 28 September 2001; he also writes a monthly briefing for the Oxford Research Group. His books include Why We’re Losing the War on Terror (Polity, 2007), and Losing Control: Global Security in the 21st Century (Pluto Press, 3rd edition, 2010). He is on twitter at: @ProfPRogers
A lecture by Paul Rogers on sustainable security, delivered to the Quaker yearly meeting on 3 August 2011, provides an overview of the analysis that underpins his openDemocracy column. It is available in two parts and can be accessed from here
Articles by Paul Rogers
This week's editor
Mandela: the global icon
One part of the context for this is that there is a general perception that the war in Afghanistan has been won, that the al-Qaida network is dispersed and the Taliban destroyed.
There are three aspects that stand out following the start of the conflict against the Taliban regime and the bin Laden network.
The first is that the initial attacks were quite small scale, much smaller than the onset of the Gulf War. There will be detailed bomb damage assessment already underway, with further targets to be hit in the coming nights, and initial targets to be attacked again. There are likely to be significant casualties, but details may not be forthcoming from the Kabul regime, and certainly not from Washington.
Secondly, all the raids were staged from US or UK territory or from ships at sea. No bases in neighbouring countries were used and it is unlikely that any will be in the coming days. If they had been available, the air attacks would have been more intense and therefore over quicker.
Thirdly, this means a period of many days of air attack, with a developing reaction in the Middle East and South West Asia, especially Pakistan. The closure of the US Embassy in Saudi Arabia is also significant, as is rising tension in Indonesia.
Among the “unknowns” are reactions from the occupied territories and South Lebanon, and possible incitements from Iraq. The Saddam Hussein regime, in particular, may use the conflict to escalate tensions with the US, knowing that the Saudi authorities would be very reluctant to let the US use Saudi bases for counteraction against Iraq.
Overlying all of this is the continuing suspicion that the bin Laden network/coalition positively wants a strong US military response. From such a perspective, the greater the US presence in the Gulf and South West Asia, and the greater the military action, the better.
In the immediate aftermath of these attacks, the focus of concern is Afghanistan, and the challenge to its Taleban regime. But it seems certain that the ‘war on terrorism’ will have implications for the wider region, where a number of strategic tensions are unresolved: among them, conflict over Iraq, the Israel-Palestine struggle, the uncertain stability of the post-Soviet central Asian republics, and the competing India-Pakistan claims over Kashmir. The militancy of radical Islamic groups and ideas is a factor in several of these developing conflicts.
The United States and its allies are planning a military assault against those it deems responsible for the attacks of 11 September 2001 in New York and Washington. Before it does so, a number of points deserve to be made:
- the group responsible has engaged in detailed planning over many months and has substantial numbers of supporters with total dedication to its aims
- the group should be assumed to be operating in the context of a long-term strategy, and it should be assumed to have the near-term capability for further attacks, either using hijacking or some other method(s) with equivalent or greater effect
- the aims of the attacks were to have an immediate and lasting effect on US financial military and political centres, and to deliberately incite a massive US military response
- the group will have prepared for the latter and will have dispersed its assets and key personnel. From its perspective, the most desirable US response would be widespread military action against training, logistical and other anti-US paramilitary facilities in several countries, together with direct attacks against the Kabul regime and possibly Iraq
- if the US takes any such action it will be precisely what the group wants - indeed the stronger the action the better. In its view, such action will serve to:
a) weaken the strong pro-US international coalition
b) weaken the position of the more moderate elements of the Kabul regime
c) above all, enable the group to recruit more support.
- the group should also be expected to respond to such action with further paramilitary attacks in the US or against transnational US interests or its allies. It should be anticipated that such a response would be at least as devastating as the recent attacks. It is less likely to stage immediate attacks in the absence of such a major US military response, as these would further isolate it
- thus, vigorous military action by the US, on its own or in coalition, will be counterproductive, whatever the intense and understandable domestic pressures for such action.
- the extent of the devastation and human suffering inflicted in the attacks means that support for the United States among its allies is far-reaching, and extends to a remarkable range of states
- in this light, the immediate response should be to:
a) develop, extend and cement this coalition
b) base all actions on the rule of law
c) put every effort into bringing the perpetrators to justice.
- the longer-term response should be to:
a) greatly improve intelligence and cooperation
b) substantially strengthen international anti-terrorism agreements
c) analyse, understand and then seek to reduce the bitter and deep- seated antagonism to the United States in southwest Asia and the middle east from which these actions and groups have arisen.
- the group responsible welcomes and seeks military confrontation. It is far more fearful of being brought to trial, a process that is likely to weaken it, both in the near and long term, than direct military action.