May 24, 2006
The War on Terror has produced responses and practices that have divided the United States and Europe in much the same way - if in different circumstances - as the second Intifada has produced responses that have divided Israel from its allies, especially in Europe. The ethical costs of countering terrorism have been much debated since the 1980s, long before 9/11 and the War on Terror. The debate today ranges much wider than merely measures such as Presidential Directive 203 or 'Zones of Indistinction' such as Guantanamo Bay and the practice of extraordinary rendition. It now encompasses counter-insurgency operations in what Rupert Smith most recently calls "war amongst the peoples." Ethically this is the most demanding sort of warfare. Arguably it's the most likely type of warfare that Western forces will be committed to in future. In this talk I will look at the extent to which we may or may not have to revise our current discourses on war; what the ethical conundrums of fighting terrorism actually comprise; and whether the United States has reacted in the most realistic, not to mention ethical, fashion to the challenges of the Long War. Western militaries will have to face many kinds of conflict in the future. Will that require a new discourse on war or merely a modification of existing practices? And to what extent should we continue to legislate ethical norms, and at what disadvantage does this put our own soldiers? Operationally, in the conflicts of the future, ethical practices are likely to loom much larger in their strategic and political consequences than in the (arguably) less ethically complex campaigns of the past.
Christopher Coker is a Professor of International Relations at the London School of Economics, and Adjunct Prof Staff College, Oslo. He is the author of The Future of War: the re-enchantment of war in the Twenty-First Century (Blackwell 2004), Waging War without Warriors (2002), Humane Warfare (2001); War and the Illiberal Conscience (1998); The Twilight of the West (1997); War and the Twentieth Century (1994); Britain's Defence Policy in the 1990s: an intelligent person's guide to the defence debate (1992); A Nation in Retreat (1991); Reflections on American Foreign Policy (1989) and in a previous incarnation many publications on South Africa and African security. Globalisation and Insecurity in the Twenty-first Century was published in 2002 as an Adelphi Paper for the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS). Empires in Conflict: the growing rift between Europe and the United States was published as a Whitehall Paper for the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) the following year. He was a NATO Fellow in 1981. He has served two terms on the Council of the Royal United Services Institute. He is a serving member of the Washington Strategy Seminar; the Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis (Cambridge, Mass); the Black Sea University Foundation; the Moscow School of Politics and the LSE Cold War Studies Centre. He is a member of Council on the 21st Century Trust. He was a Visiting Fellow of Goodenough College in 2003-4 and is an Associate Fellow of the Institute for the Study of the Americas (United States Programme). He is also President of the Centre for Media and Communications of a Democratic Romania. He is a former editor of The Atlantic Quarterly and The European Security Analyst. He is on the Editorial Board of Millennium and The Journal of Totalitarian Movements and Political Religions. He has advised several Conservative Party think tanks including the Institute for European Defence and Strategic Studies and the Centre for Policy Studies and helped to draw up the Party's defence platform in the 1996 European Parliamentary Elections. He has written for The Wall Street Journal; The Wall St Journal (Europe); The Times; The Independent; The European, The Spectator, The Times Literary Supplement and The Literary Review. He is a regular lecturer at the Royal College of Defence Studies (London); the NATO Defence College (Rome), the Centre for International Security (Geneva) and the National Institute for Defence Studies (Tokyo) He has spoken at other military institutes in Western Europe, North America, Australia and South-east Asia.