“What vetting procedures are there to make sure the guy you just smoked is really a bad guy?”

“What vetting procedures are there to make sure the guy you just smoked is really a bad guy?”

Barry Buzan – Will the ‘global war on terrorism’ be the new Cold War?
Will the ‘global war on terrorism’

be the new Cold War?

International Aff airs 82: 6 (2006) 1101–1118 © 2006 The Author(s). Journal Compilation © 2006 Blackwell Publishing Ltd/The Royal Institute of International Aff airs

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 ideolo- gical 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 off er 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 defi cit, and there was a string of attempts to fi nd a replacement for the Soviet Union as the enemy focus for US foreign and military policy: fi 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 off ered 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 Washington’s threat defi cit. If it could be successfully constructed and embedded as the great new global struggle, it would also underpin the shaky legiti- macy 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?

  • I am grateful to Ole Wæver and Lene Hansen and an anonymous reviewer for International Aff airs for comments on an earlier draft of this article.

1 ‘Rumsfeld off ers 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.

2 Morten Kelstrup, ‘Globalisation and societal insecurity: the securitization of terrorism and competing strate- gies for global governance’, in Stefano Guzzini and Dietrich Jung, eds, Contemporary security analysis and Copen- hagen peace research (London: Routledge, 2004), pp. 106–16.

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These questions seem at fi 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 diff erentiate between a traditional materialist analysis of threat (whether something does or does not pose a specifi c 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 specifi cally 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 signifi cance. 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 GWoT’s promi- nence in the 2006 USNSS. US grand strategy is much wider, involving more tradi- tional 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 specifi cally allocated for the GWoT. The signifi cance of the GWoT is much more political. Although a real threat from terrorists does exist, and needs to be met, the main signifi cance of the GWoT is as a political framing that might justify and legitimize US primacy, leadership and unilater- alism, both to Americans and to the rest of the world. This is one of the key diff erences 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 promo- tion succeeds or not will be aff ected 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 macro- securitization. The one following examines conditions that will aff ect the sustain- ability of the GWoT securitization. The conclusions refl ect 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 Caroline Kennedy-Pipe and Nicholas Rengger, ‘Apocalypse now? Continuities or disjunctions in world poli- tics after 9/11’, International Aff airs 82: 3, 2006, pp. 539–52.

4 Ole Wæver, ‘Securitization and desecuritization’, in Ronnie D. Lipschutz, ed., On security (New York: Colum- bia University Press, 1995), pp. 46–86; Barry Buzan, Ole Wæver and Jaap de Wilde, Security: a new framework for analysis (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 1998).

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

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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 defi cit problem for the US, and triggered a substantial shift in security defi nitions 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 human- kind, 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 Al- Qaeda 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 Bush’s boast about the coalition backing the GWoT:

the cooperation of America’s allies in the war on terror is very, very strong. We’re grate- ful to the more than 60 nations that are supporting the Proliferation Security Initiative to intercept illegal weapons and equipment by sea, land, and air. We’re grateful to the more than 30 nations with forces serving in Iraq, and the nearly 40 nations with forces in Af- ghanistan. In the fi ght against terror, we’ve asked our allies to do hard things. They’ve risen to their responsibilities. We’re proud to call them friends.7

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

5 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.

6 Kelstrup, ‘Globalisation’, pp. 112–13. 7 George W. Bush, ‘President Bush discusses progress in the war on terror’, White House, 12 July 2004, http://

www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2004/07/20040712–5.html, accessed 28 Dec 2005.

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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 GWoT’s 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 fl ows of trade, fi 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) has—at least within the United States—been 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 terror- ists 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 traffi cking and the spread of weapons of mass destruction.9

And:

Structural links between political terrorism and traditional criminal activity, such as drugs traffi cking, 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 fi nancing, including criminal activities, in order to raise funds. These activities have traditionally been drug traffi cking, extortion/collection of ‘revolutionary taxes’, armed robbery, and kidnappings. The involvement of such groups as the PKK, LTTE, and GIA in these activi- ties has been established.10

8 Dan Gardner, ‘Terrorists get cash from drug trade: traffi cking 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.

9 Fact sheet, 24 Sept. 1996, ‘Clinton initiatives on terrorism, crime, drugs’, http://nsi.org/library/terrorism/ terrorcrimedrugs.html, accessed 20 Sept. 2004.

10 INTERPOL General Secretariat, written testimony of Ralf Mutschke (assistant director, Criminal Intelli- gence Directorate, INTERPOL) before a hearing of the Committee on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime,

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In the EU’s European Security Strategy document, organized crime—especially traffi cking in drugs, women, illegal migrants and weapons—and its links with terrorism, are given together as one of fi ve key threats to Europe, along with terrorism itself, proliferation of WMD, regional confl ict and state failure.11 This presentation has evolved from the pre-9/11 European pattern, where the main eff ort went into securitizing a threat package linking immigration, organized crime and drug—thereby 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-traffi cking to the stability and prosperity not only of the devel- oping 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 eff orts 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 se- curity … 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 infl ict 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 traffi cking 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. 6–9.

12 Didier Bigo, Polices en Résaux: l’expérience européenne (Paris: Presses de Sciences Politiques, 1996); Barry Buzan and Ole Wæver, Regions and powers: the structure of international security (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), p. 359.

13 Agence France-Presse, ‘Nigerian president urges rich–poor partnership’, Global Policy Forum, 20 July 2000, http://www.globalpolicy.org/socecon/ff d/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. 7–8.

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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 GWoT’s success. An Action Aid report on the distorting impact of the GWoT on aid fl 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 macro- securitization. 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 GWoT’s 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 unpredict- able: 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 fi ve obvious types of event that could signifi – cantly reinforce or undermine the GWoT securitization:

ü the impact of further terrorist plans and/or attacks (or plans or attacks success- fully attributed to terrorists);

ü the commitment of the United States to the GWoT securitization; ü the legitimacy of the United States as a securitization leader within interna-

tional society; ü the (un)acceptability and (il)legitimacy of both the GWoT securitization as a

whole or of particularist securitizations that get linked to it; ü the potency of securitizations competing with the GWoT.

The impact of terrorist attacks and/or plans

Easily the most obvious type of event to infl uence the durability of the GWoT securitization will be the success of Al-Qaeda and its imitators and successors in 16 Mark Valencia, The Proliferation Security Initiative, Adelphi Paper 376 (London: International Institute for Secu-

rity Studies, 2005). 17 John Cosgrave, ‘The impact of the war on terror on aid fl ows’, Action Aid, 1 March 2004, p. 1, http://www.

actionaid.org.uk/100235/our_research.html, accessed 24 Feb. 2006.

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sustaining a suffi cient 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 ahead’—not 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 eff ective 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 suffi cient to cause local disruption and some general angst, but not on a scale suffi cient 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 eff ective, and periodically, or even worse regularly, some eff ective, 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 suffi cient to sustain the costs of a long-term macro- securitization 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 govern- ment, and since these agencies control reporting of alleged terrorist plots uncov- ered 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 aff ecting the sustainability of the securitization. If done convinc- ingly, 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

18 Paul Wilkinson, International terrorism: the changing threat and the EU’s response, Chaillot Paper 84 (Paris: European Union Institute for Security Studies, 2005), pp. 13–16, 25.

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fl 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 America’s goodness need to watch their backs.

The outcome of this is again impossible to predict, and is likely to be strongly aff ected 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 reasser- tion of government powers through a state of permanent fear and emergency. Another would be isolationists and ‘off shore 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 immedi- ately 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 increas- ingly attacked. Grounds for opposition include its costs, in terms of both money and liberty, and the ineff ectiveness of a permanent increase in the state’s surveil- lance over everything from trade and fi nance to individual patterns of travel and consumption. The refusal of Congress in late 2005 to grant the administration’s request for a long-term extension of the Patriot Act, and the political fi reworks

19 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. 8–9; Melvyn P. Leffl er, ‘9/11 and the past and future of American foreign policy’, International Aff airs 79: 5, 2003, p. 1049.

20 ‘Public unenthused by democracy push’, Pew Research Centre, 3 Feb. 2006, http://people-press.org/commen- tary/display.php3?AnalysisID=126, accessed 18 Feb. 2006.

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over unauthorized government wire-taps on US citizens,21 are perhaps indicative of a growing, though not yet decisive, reaction against the domestic and interna- tional eff ects of the GWoT securitization.

A possible straw in the wind was a recent shift of rhetoric by some top offi cials 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 gener- ated 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 suffi cient 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 confl icts. 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

21 ‘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.

22 Kim R. Holmes, ‘What’s in a name? “War on terror” out, “struggle against extremism” in’, Heritage Foun- dation Policy Research and Analysis, 26 July 2005, http://www.heritage.org/Research/NationalSecu- rity/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.

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unipolarity as a justifi cation 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 specifi c 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 specifi c way in which the Bush administration has defi ned and pursued it, is itself undermining the legitimacy and attractiveness of US leadership. These questions refl ect 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 weath- ered better the disagreements, particularly those concerning Iraq, that have arisen over the GWoT. But a unilateralist United States that has made itself unpopular fi 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 signifi cance 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 inter- national society has, in eff ect, 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 Kelstrup’s 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 inter national

23 Michael Cox, ‘Beyond the West: terrors in Transatlantia’, European Journal of International Relations 11: 2, 2005, pp. 203–33.

24 Tim Dunne, ‘Society and hierarchy in international relations’, International Relations 17: 3, 2003, pp. 308, 314– 15.

25 Kelstrup, ‘Globalisation’, pp. 113–15.

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

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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 aff ord 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-Barnathan’s position is closest to the likely outcome, though successful escalation by the terrorists could easily rewrite this script to match Kelstrup’s 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 aff ected by the extent to which both the GWoT securi tization 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 diffi cult 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 Israel’s own WoT), or hotly contested because the facts of the link to the GWoT are themselves contro- versial (most obviously the invasion of Iraq on the grounds of its alleged possession of WMD and its links to Al-Qaeda).

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