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Terror and Consent : The Wars for the Twenty-First Century
Terror and Consent : The Wars for the Twenty-First Century
Philip Bobbitt
Knopf, 2008
688 pp., $35.00

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Harold Fickett

The Logic of Terror—and How to Resist It

The first installment in a new series.

Seven years after 9/11, there's no consensus about where we stand. Is it the case, as many have argued, that America's actions since the attacks of that day—and especially our policy in Iraq—have greatly strengthened al-Qaeda? Or is the trend, as others maintain, in the opposite direction, with al-Qaeda and its allies weaker? Is the appeal of violent strains of Islam growing in the Muslim world, or not? Is the ongoing struggle against radical Islamist movements going to be the defining conflict of the 21st century, as a number of observers have repeatedly insisted, or is that forecast grossly exaggerated, as others pronounce with equal conviction? Is the notion of a "war on terror" coherent? Is the danger of eroding our freedoms in a quest for security actually greater than that posed by any external threat? And so on.

More striking than the lack of consensus is the tone of the conversation, on all sides. Whence cometh all this righteous certainty? And why the reflexive contempt for anyone who disagrees? Are the facts on the ground really so transparent? With this issue we begin an occasional series, "What's Next?", exploring such questions.

In Terror and Consent: The Wars For The Twenty-First Century, Philip Bobbitt offers a penetrating, sober, and wide-ranging meditation on the issues raised by the proliferation of terrorism. Bobbitt examines developments in the global economy and international law that he sees as even more fundamental than the appeal and durability of radical Islam. While he relates these matters to terrorism's chief practitioner, al-Qaeda, he shows how they may continue to apply even if radical Islam subsides.

Consider the organizational structure of Wal-Mart. Backed by international finance, Wal-Mart's executives coordinate a transnational supply line facilitated by electronic communications and international shipping. Development and production are outsourced to vendors around the globe, who rely on equally dispersed commodities markets. ...

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