March 02, 2009
Terror and Consent: The Wars for the 21st Century
The Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law welcomed Strauss Center Senior Fellow Philip Bobbitt to the UT School of Law's Eidman Courtroom on May 2, 2009, to discuss his book, Terror and Consent: The Wars for the 21st Century.
In Professor Bobbitt’s opening remarks, he asserted that the connection between ideas and action is hard to trace. It is especially rare for great ideas to motivate or influence people’s notions since they are commonly “picked up when handy” and set aside when not. Following Professor Bobbitt’s analysis of ideas and their inability to reshape preconceptions, he illustrated three ideas that coincidentally dominated political reasoning since the end of the Cold War.
Professor Bobbitt allotted the remainder of his presentation to looking at where the world is now. With the introduction of a new administration in the White House, Professor Bobbitt clearly outlined five points that show where the world currently sits. First, the creation of an international program of human rights supersedes the ability of any one nation to evoke their individual power and influence to the contrary of any internationally accepted human rights violations. Second, the creation of a global system of trade and finance prevents any one country from being able to dictate the value of their currency. Third, transnational threats, such as AIDS and climate change, affect every nation regardless of power or size. Fourth, a global system of culture and communication prevents governments from fully isolating their people from global perspective, influence and the spread of a health pandemic. Fifth, the development of weapons of mass destruction makes conflict between nations more worrisome for fear of global destruction.
The end of Professor Bobbitt’s presentation included some history of nation states, war and terrorism. While President Bush maintained his stance on declaring war against terrorism, Professor Bobbitt clarifies the validity of President Bush’s phrase by suggesting that war and terrorism are not synonymous terms.
Following the end of Professor Bobbitt’s speech, he entertained questions from the audience. Many of the questions coming from the audience pertained to historical case studies and the relationship between specific past events and their correlation with Professor Bobbitt’s analysis of past and present political ideology. After a brief question and answer period, Professor Bobbitt closed with a little humor.
Professor Bobbitt’s book Terror and Consent received a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly, which describes it as a “complex and provocative analysis of the West’s ongoing struggle against terrorism.” It is the first work to interpret terrorism in the context of political theory. Bobbitt contends that market states, rather than Islamist extremism, is the driver of terrorism, and that dealing with it requires a major shift in strategy.
In the lead essay of the New York Times Sunday Book Review, Niall Ferguson called Bobbitt's book "the most profound book to have been written on the subject of American foreign policy since the attacks of 9/11--indeed, since the end of the Cold War."
In addition to being a Senior Fellow at the Strauss Center, Professor Bobbitt is Herbert Wechsler Professor of Jurisprudence at the Columbia University Law School and Distinguished Senior Lecturer at The University of Texas at Austin School of Law. As one of the nation's leading constitutional theorists, his interests include not only constitutional law but also international security and the history of strategy. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is also a Fellow of the Club of Madrid. He is a Life Member of the American Law Institute, and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Pacific Council on International Policy, the International Institute for Strategic Studies and the Executive Council of the American Society of International Law.
Watch the full presentation below: