September 11, 2001 remains to a great extent the bloodiest mark that defined the beginning of the 21st century. The terror visited upon civilians in the United States of America that day reshaped our thinking vis-à-vis warfare and military defenses and redefined laws and liberties in the USA and across the globe. Today, we live in an era where power seems to be shifting vertically: from people to government and from governments of nation states to the global realm. Democratically voted national policies that once defined the nature of exchange between sovereign countries are being gradually replaced with top-down multinational treaties that control global trade, finance, climate, economy, threats, and security.
The terrorist acts of 9/11 in the USA, unleashed a “War on Terror” that contributed more to the vertical power shift, from democratic constitutional state practices to global undemocratic – often unconstitutional – policies. Perhaps the war on terror was the loudest global call to action in the 21st century, louder than the war on poverty, illiteracy or global warming. It began in Afghanistan against a culprit in terror, gradually shifted into a war to topple despotic regimes and bring democracy to the Arab World and culminated in the so-called Arab Spring; only to unravel the fabric of many countries in the Middle East, causing more civilian deaths in the region than terrorism or tyranny ever did. Furthermore, its ripple effect could be felt everywhere around the globe: more limits imposed on individual freedoms, a market crash that depleted individual wealth and more powerful unelected authorities imposing sweeping policies on the nations of the old-world order.
Arguably, the seeming failure of the War on Terror facilitated the globalization of terrorism. The month of November 2015 has seen so far some of the highest profile terrorist attacks on non-Middle Eastern targets since September 11, 2001. A bomb brought down a Russian jetliner (flight 9268) over the Sinai desert in Egypt claiming 224 lives on board. A series of coordinated terrorist attacks – consisting of mass shootings, suicide bombings, and hostage taking – occurred in the French capital Paris and its northern suburb of Saint-Denis. The attacks killed 129 people and injured more than 435. This is in addition to Beirut, Belgium, Mali, etc.
The response to this flurry of terrorism is a cliché from GW Bush’s War on Terror. In 2015 France, President Hollande made it clear that he’s going the security route of Bush in 2001; creating thousands of security jobs, renewing the constitution and rewriting the laws to cope with the security needs of the 21st century… The era of the PATRIOT Act has dawned for France. The terrorists have succeeded in delivering another constitutional democracy to the teeth of the security industry and the new global order.
The terrorist attacks in Paris, preceded by an unprecedented influx of refugees from the Middle East to Europe, exposed vulnerabilities of the European Union (EU) that make the union in its current settings untenable. Unlike the USA, the EU lacks a unified (Federal) border control and security and police systems. Each member country retains sovereign control of its borders and may allow in whomever it chooses based on local needs and circumstances. Similarly, each member country has retained its right to have separate foreign and defense policies that may or not be aligned with those of other member countries, or those of the EU, and may expose the union to a variety of risks. The Schengen Area and the EU are two different zones that allow access to the countries of Europe with varying levels of permeability. These policies, although important for the identity and sovereignty of old nations, they make the union only as strong as its weakest link. They can allow terrorists into Paris, Brussels and Berlin through the porous Greek Islands and other loose borders.
The way the EU reacts to these threats determines its future: will it strengthen the union by adopting US-like federal policies of security and border control? Or will it disintegrate into the old-country clusters, with their national identities, closed to each other and to the world? The coming weeks and months will tell. The global nature of the threat makes it only reasonable to have in place global measures to cope with it, contain it and ultimately defeat terrorism. Will these measures include the creation of a new global force to fight terrorism? We have begun to see the silhouette of such a force in the coalitions assembled to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Soon we will see in place global security measures to control traffic, trade and international exchange. But the challenge is in making these global forces accountable; they do not respond to one nation state, they do not respond to a government. Whom and what do they respond to?
Is the “War on Terror” aiding and abetting terrorism in changing world democracies? Is it the state’s way of inching closer towards the new World Order, to morph its constitution and laws to fit the requirements of globalization? We saw it in the Homeland Security Act in the USA; we see it in many security cooperation treaties, in financial treaties, etc. These are no longer bilateral agreements between independent states but multilateral treaties forced upon states by new global powers. Soon, we will also see it in the EU.
This “dictatorship of the global market”, seemingly apolitical, requires political facilitation at all levels. It may not be ideological, but it surely has a lot of political teeth. What we are living through may not necessarily be an ultrahistory and certainly is not the end of history. What it may be is pretty much a part of history that represents a shift from one system of World Order to another; from an old World Order where power shifted “laterally” from one empire to another to a new World Order where power is shifting “vertically” to entities that transcend all empires, all governments and all constitutions. It is within this transitional realm that terrorism finds its ways into societies, oftentimes as a tool to force a change in their systems in favor of the new World Order. That’s what happened after 9/11 in the USA; the PATRIOT Act, the Homeland Security Act and others, all of which circumvented aspects of the constitution, were promptly adopted in the name of national security. France’s freedoms and open society must present a barrier at some level to a new global policy. The attacks of November 13, 2015 are sure to facilitate overcoming the French constitution and circumventing the laws to accommodate the new requirements of security… and the new supra-national global order.
At the end of the day, terrorism may prove to be the catalyst that facilitates the vertical shift from a state-based world order towards a new Global World Order.