Saturday, July 26, 2008

Light Summer Reading: Bobbitt's Terror and Consent

"How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb"
Early Suicide Bombing
(Image from Wikipedia)

A discussion list that I belong to has asked for its members to make recommendations for heavy but enlightening summer reading, and since I expended most of my "precious bodily fluids" sweating this one out, I now feel emptied of my 'essence', far too fatigued to accomplish any creative blogging today, so I'll merely repost here what I posted on that mysterious, unnamed discussion list:
I've almost finished Terror and Consent: The Wars for the Twenty-First Century, by Philip Bobbitt.

This book is a follow-up to The Shield of Achilles: War, Peace and the Course of History, which I haven't read but which got a lot of attention for its argument that we are leaving the era of nation-states and entering the era of market-states. By this, Bobbitt means that we are are leaving behind the nation-state, which promised to care for a nation's welfare, and entering the market-state, which will promise to maximize a people's opportunities.

Concurrent with this shift is the rise of a new type of terrorism that we see in terrorist organizations such as Al Qaeda, which do not use terror merely as a method but use it also toward their aim of instituting a state of terror, rather than the state of consent offered by democracies. For this reason, Bobbitt argues, the expression "War on Terror" is well-phrased, for states of consent really do need to pursue a war consciously aimed at defeating terror itself (and not just terrorists).

Bobbitt, despite being a Democrat (and nephew to President Johnson), supported both the attack on Afghanistan and the invasion of Iraq and thinks that much of what President Bush and the current administration have done is right. However, he also argues that much is wrong, especially the administration's scofflaw attitude. Even on this point, Bobbitt expresses some understanding, for he thinks that many of our laws are outmoded, and he calls for legal reforms on both a domestic and international level to conform to a more realistic battle against terror.

As noted above, I've not yet finished the book, but I can definitely recommend it for August reading.

Next, I guess that I need to go back and read The Shield of Achilles: War, Peace and the Course of History . . .
I haven't yet concluded what I think of Bobbitt's views, which are rather complex and partly outside my fields of expertise -- especially in the realm of legal theory -- but his ideas are definitely thought-provoking, and after I've finished the book and had sufficient time to reflect, I'll post something definitive, as always.

Definitive subject to revision, of course.

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