Endless War?

By Walden Bello*
September 2001
Focus on the Global South
Available at <www.focusweb.org/publications/2001/endless_war.html>

The assault on the World Trade Center was horrific, despicable, and unpardonable, but it is important not to lose perspective, especially a historical one. For a response that is dictated primarily by fury such as that now displayed by some American politicians, while understandable, is likely to simply serve as one more proof for Santayana’s dictum that those who do not remember history are bound to repeat it.

The Moral Equation

The scale and consequences of the World Trade Center attack are massive indeed, but this was not the worst act of mass terrorism in US history, as some US media are wont to claim. The over 5000 lives lost in New York are irreplaceable, but one must not forget that the atomic raids on Hiroshima and Nagasaki killed 210,000 people, most of them civilians, most perishing instantaneously. But one may object that you really can’t compare the World Trade Center attack to the nuclear bombings since, after all, Hiroshima and Nagasaki were targets in a war. But why not, since the purpose of the nuclear bombings was not mainly to destroy military or infrastructural targets, but to terrorize and destroy the civilian population? Indeed, the whole allied air campaign against Germany and Japan in 1944-45, which produced the firestorms in Dresden, Hamburg, and Tokyo, that killed tens of thousands had as its central aim to kill and maim as many civilians as possible.

Similarly, during the Korean War, terror bombing of civilians was the policy of the US Air Force’s Far Eastern Bombing Command, which was instructed to pulverize anything that moved in enemy territory. After indiscriminately dropping 1400 tons of bombs and 23,000 gallons of napalm, the unit commander, Gen. O’Donnell, uttered his famous lines: “Everything is destroyed. There is nothing standing worthy of the name. Just before the Chinese came we were grounded. There were no more targets in Korea.”

During the Cold War, mass elimination of the enemy’s civilian population, alongside the destruction of his armed forces or industry, was institutionalized in the strategy of massive nuclear retaliation that lay at the center of the doctrine of Deterrence. In Indochina, where the US was frustrated by the fact that combatants and civilians seemed indistinguishable, indiscriminate killing of civilians was a central component of the American war. In the air war, US forces detonated 13 million tons of high explosive from 1965 to 1971, or the energy equivalent of 450 Hiroshima nuclear bombs. In the “counterinsurgency war” on the ground, 20,000 civilians were systematically assassinated under the CIA’s Operation Phoenix Program in the Mekong Delta.

But must not such actions against civilians be judged in the context of a broader strategic objective of sapping the enemy’s will to fight and thus bring the war to a conclusion? But then how different is this justification from the terrorists’ aim to change the foreign policy of the US government by eroding the support of the country’s civilian population?

The point is not to engage in a “maleficent calculus,” as the 19th century English philosopher Jeremy Bentham would have called this exercise, but to point out that the US government hardly possesses the high ground in the current moral equation. Indeed, one can say that terrorists like Osama bin Laden, an ex-CIA prot?g?, have learned their lessons on the strategic targeting of the civilian population from Washington’s traditional strategy of total warfare, where damage to the civilian population is not simply seen as collateral but as essential to achieving the ends of war.

The Clausewitzian Calculus

In the aftermath of the World Trade Center assault, the perpetrators of the dastardly deed have been called “irrational” or “madmen” or people that embody evil. This is understandable as an emotional reaction but dangerous as a basis for policy. The truth is the perpetrators of the deed were very rational. If they were indeed people connected with Osama bin Laden, their goal was most likely to raise the costs to the United States of its maintaining its current policies in the Middle East, which they consider unjust and inequitable, and this was their way of doing it. They very rationally picked the targets and weapons to be used, paying attention not only to maximum destruction but also to maximum symbolism. The choice of the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon as the targets, and American and United Airlines planes as the delivery vehicles doubling as warheads, was the product of cold-blooded thinking and planning. The loss of their own lives was factored into the calculation. What we saw was a rational calculus of means to achieve a desired end. In the view of these people, terrorism, like war, is the extension of politics by other means. These are Clausewitzian minds, and the worst mistake one can make is to regard them as madmen.

Pearl Harbor or Tet?

One metaphor that the Washington establishment has used to capture the essence of recent events is that of a second Pearl Harbor, with the implication that like the first, the September 11 tragedy will galvanize the American people to an unprecedented level of unity to win the war against still unidentified enemies. The other side, one suspects, operates with a different metaphor, and this is that of the Tet Offensive of 1968. The objective of the Vietnamese was to launch massive simultaneous uprisings that, even if defeated separately, would nevertheless add up to a strategic victory by convincing the other side, especially its civilian base, that the war was unwinnable. The aim was to rob the US of the will to win the war, and here, the Vietnamese succeeded.

The perpetrators of World Trade Center assault are operating with a similar calculus, and, despite the current jingoistic talk in Washington, it is not certain that they are wrong. Will the American people really bear any burden and pay any price in a struggle that will persist way into the future, with no assurance of victory, indeed, with no clear sense of who the enemies are and of what “victory” will consist of?

The media are full of news about the creation of an alliance against terrorism, conveying the impression that coordination among key states combined with the outrage of citizens everywhere will give a Washington-led coalition an unbeatable edge. Perhaps in the short run, although even this is not certain. For the problem is that, as in guerrilla wars, this is not a war that will be won strictly or mainly by military means.

The Underlying Issues

If it was bin Laden’s network that was responsible for the World Trade Center attack, then the underlying issues are the twin pillars of US policy in the Middle East. One is subordination of the interests of the peoples of the region to the US’ untrammeled access to Middle East oil in order to maintain its high-consumption petroleum-based civilization. To this end, the US overthrew the nationalist government of Mossadegh in Iran in 1953, cultivated the repressive Shah of Iran as the gendarme of the Persian Gulf, supported anti-democratic feudal regimes in the Arabian peninsula, and introduced a massive permanent military presence in Saudi Arabia, which contains some of Islam’s most sacred shrines and cities.

The war against Saddam Hussein was justified as a war to beat back aggression, but everybody knew that Washington’s key motivation was to ensure that the region’s most massive oil reserves would remain under the control of pro-Western elites.

The other pillar is unstinting support for Israel. That Arab feelings about Israel are so elemental is not difficult to comprehend. It is hard to argue against the fact that the state of Israel was born on the basis of the massive dispossession of the Palestinian people of their country and their lands. It is impossible to deny that Israel is a European settler-state, one whose establishment was essentially a displacement from European territory of the ethnocultural contradictions of European society. The Holocaust was an unspeakable crime against humanity, but it was utterly wrong to impose its political consequences–chief of which was the creation of Israel–on a people who had nothing to do with it.

It is hard to contradict Arab claims that it was essentially support from the United States that created the state of Israel; that it has been massive US military aid and backing that has maintained it in the last half century; and that it is deep confidence in perpetual US military and political support that enables Israel to sabotage in practice the emergence of a viable Palestinian state.

Unless the US abandons these two pillars of its policies, there will always be thousands of recruits for acts of terrorism such as that which occurred last week. And while we may condemn terrorist acts–as we must, strongly–it is another thing to expect desperate people not to adopt them, especially when they can point to the fact that it was such methods that targeted civilians as well as military personnel, combined with the Intifada, that forced Israel to agree to the 1993 Oslo Accord that led to the creation of the Palestinian entity.

Yet another reason why the strategic equation does not favor the US is that there are a great many people in the world that are ambivalent about terrorism. In contrast to Europe, there has been a relatively muted response to the World Trade Center event in the South. A survey would probably reveal that while many people in the Third World are appalled by hijackers’ methods, they are not unsympathetic to their political objectives. As one Chinese-Filipino entrepreneur said, “It’s horrible, but on the other hand, the US had it coming.” If this reaction is common among middle class people, it would not be surprising if such ambivalence towards terrorism is widespread among the 80 per cent of the world’s population that are marginalized by current global political and economic arrangements.

There is simply too much distrust, dislike, or just plain hatred of a country that has become so callous in its pursuit of economic power and arrogant in its political and military relations with the rest of the world and so brazen in declaring its cultural superiority over the rest of us. As in the equation of guerrilla war, civilian ambivalence in the theater of battle translates strategically to a minus when it comes to the staying power of the authorities and a plus when it comes to that of the terrorists.

In sum, if there is one thing we can be certain of, it is that massive retaliation on the part of the US will not put an end to terrorism. It will simply amplify the upward spiral of violence, as the other side will resort to even more spectacular deeds, fed by unending waves of recruits. The September 11 tragedy is the clearest evidence of the bankruptcy of the 30-year-old policy of mailed-fist, massive retaliation response to terrorism. This policy has simply resulted in the extreme professionalization of terrorism.

The only response that will really contribute to global security and peace is for Washington to address not the symptoms but the roots of terrorism. It is for the United States to reexamine and substantially change its policies in the Middle East and the Third World, supporting for a change arrangements that will not stand in the way of the achievement of equity, justice, and genuine national sovereignty for currently marginalized peoples.

Any other way leads to endless war.

*Executive Director of Focus on the Global South and professor at the University of the Philippines.



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The Border Security Paradox

Paul Rogers
16 December 2016



With Donald Trump preparing to be inaugurated next month, his election raises the issue of border security to a new height. Much discussion of the issue focuses on Trump’s proposal to erect a strong protective fence right across the border with Mexico. This, though, is just one example of a world-wide trend seen in South-East Europe, the Middle East, South and South East Asia and Australia and now sub-Saharan Africa. While it has considerable implications for international relations, there are also doubts that it is a plausible response to the sense of insecurity that has become so significant in otherwise secure communities. Israel, as probably the best-developed example of intense border protection, is an illustration of how far the desire for security can go. While serving as a profitable marker for new forms of security, it raises many issues around the nature of security.

Introduction – Kenya and Somalia’s Border Security

Although little noticed in the media, the international boundary between Kenya and Somalia is yet another example of intensive border security.  A security structure is currently being constructed by the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) in response to infiltration by members of the Somalia-based al-Shabab movement. The first three kilometres have just been completed of what is proposed to be a 700-kilometre barrier from the common border with Ethiopia right down to the shores of the Indian Ocean, including a high-tech section of 200 kilometres covering those areas considered at greatest risk of paramilitary infiltration. The first 30 kilometres are scheduled to be completed by the end of March.

The Kenyan border project is part of a world-wide trend which has included rapid developments in South-East European responses to the sudden upsurge in refugee movements in the past two years. Such projects may often attract considerable domestic support, with the unspoken assumption being that they provide protection in an increasingly divided and threatening world. Whether they do constitute a necessary and viable response, though, is open to question, not least because they may serve to create a false sense of security which prevents more fundamental security issues being addressed. Israel’s border protection represents another salient example.

Israel’s Border Protection and the Wider Security Implications

Since its declaration as a State in May 1948, Israel has placed a strong emphasis on secure borders, an emphasis greatly heightened in the wake of the Six Day War in June 1967 and the Yom Kippur War in October 1973. This emphasis on secure borders has been intensified further in recent years with the building of the barriers with the occupied territory of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza and, most recently, the borders with Egypt and Jordan.

Israel now exists within a very heavily protected external border; in addition to the internal barriers, the border extends some 600 kilometres with Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Egypt. The naval and coastal defence forces also maintain high levels of security in the Mediterranean and the Gulf of Aqaba. The overall costs of these measures are difficult to quantify, but a recent analysis in a leading US defence journal, quotes a Ministry of Defence source to estimate that the cost of the barrier with the West Bank and East Jerusalem alone has been 14 billion shekels ($3.6 billion) alone over the past fifteen years.

Despite its heavy border protection, Israel has found itself in a near-permanent race to improve the levels of protection in the face of opponents who have “gone underground” to penetrate the barriers. As the Defense News article points out:

“Painful lessons from the 2014 Gaza War exposed Israel’s unpreparedness in the face of infiltration and assault tunnels stretching more than a kilometre inside Israeli territory. In that 50-day war, Israel destroyed 32 tunnels losing dozens of soldiers in 17 days of nearly house-to-house maneuvering operations.”

Since then, Israel has invested heavily in advanced forms of detection, aiming to create what is being called an underground “Iron Dome”, to match the anti-missile shield of the same name. Despite this, the problems are proving formidable in the face of determined opposition. As the same source reports:

“Earlier this year, through improved operational and technological methods — most of which remain classified — Israel discovered another two tunnels reaching into its territory from Gaza.

With some up to 50 meters deep, many tunnels are supported by more than 500 tons of cement arches and come equipped with communications lines, filtration systems and hydraulic cables to transport weaponry. And at 2 meters high and 1.5 meters wide, gear-laden fighters are able to walk or run through such tunnels to kill or kidnap unwitting soldiers or civilians.”

Israel’s border security experience has been followed closely by other military powers. The Pentagon has been involved for nearly a decade in a joint cost-sharing programme. There have been twice-yearly meetings between relevant organisations within the Pentagon and the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) and the most recent meeting last month led to a programme intended to expand the use of high-tech systems suited to “detecting, mapping and operating in the underground domain”.

This should not be at all surprising given the close relationship between the Pentagon and the IDF, not least in the wake of the considerable help the IDF gave the United States at the time of the Iraq War in the mid-2000s. What is most significant, though, is that US sources now see the Israeli border security experience as highly relevant to the United States’ security concerns. According to Defense News, an Israeli general involved in last month’s meeting commented:

“This is not a threat exclusive to Israel, but one that we’ve been engaged with in a very intense way. But fruits of our joint work with Washington will also support US interests, given the tunnel threat in Mosul, Raka (sic), Afghanistan or even along their southern border.”

With the election of Donald Trump, the US/Israel cooperation in this field is likely to expand, not least because of the administration’s emphasis on control of the US/Mexico border.

The Global Context

From a global historical perspective, the ultra-secure border defences such as those around Israel are hardly new. The “Iron Curtain” between the Warsaw Pact and Western Europe was a remarkable example and North and South Korea’s border is a lingering legacy of the Cold War’s intense border security. Nevertheless, what is happening now in many parts of the world is an expansion of the idea that borders provide sustained security against a human “threat”. This idea was powerfully expressed in the “Breaking Point” poster displayed on the closing days of the Brexit debate in the UK. The poster portrayed what were in reality desperate refugees from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere trying to move to a better life in Western Europe as threats to the European “way of life”. This distortion was part of a more general political claim by many right-wing populist groups, which depicts Europe as a continent being inundated with hordes of dangerous outsiders, with Muslims often depicted as potential terrorists.

Within this wider claim are the deep-seated views that elite governments have no understanding of the fears and vulnerabilities of ordinary people, that they have failed to offer proper protection and that there must be radical changes towards safer and far better protected countries. This implies far tougher control of entry are needed and it is in this context that attitudes to borders are changing with a marked intensification of the levels of protection desired – a classic “close the castle gates” approach.

There are many flaws with this approach, not least that in a much more globalised and interconnected world it is well-nigh impossible to maintain such control unless, like Israel, it is a small state prepared to isolate itself from its regional cultural base and spend a large proportion of its resources in doing so. Moreover, Israel is exceptional in two other ways in that its need to be “impregnable in its insecurity” means that insecurity is a permanent state of existence, and that it would be unable even to maintain this stance if it was not under the permanent protection of the United States.

The Israeli example is so relevant in the wider global context because it demonstrates the high level that border protection has to reach for it to be remotely effective, and the capacity of opponents to penetrate even those levels. It is essentially a short-term response to an unsolved problem, not to mention a powerful symbol of division and inequality. In Israel’s case, it may be possible to maintain that stance for some years to come, given the wider protection that the United States affords, but in the great majority of the world it offers now more than a false answer – an illusion of security that actually militates against addressing the underlying issues, even if there are healthy profits to be made in the process.


The fundamental drivers of insecurity, as analysed in recent years by Oxford Research Group and others, are the widening wealth-poverty divide and the onset of severe environmental limits, especially climate change. Unless these are addressed at root the consequences will be, among many other forms of instability, far greater pressures on population movements as increasing numbers of desperate people seek to move to a better life. The central problem with developing increasingly secure borders is that they seem to provide an answer to the problem, but in reality they do no more than constitute a short-term response, thus postponing the time when the underlying problems have to be addressed.

Image credit: Ibodi/Wikimedia

About the Author
Paul Rogers is Global Security Consultant to Oxford Research Group and Professor of Peace Studies at the University of Bradford. His ‘Monthly Global Security Briefings’ are available from our website. His new book Irregular War: ISIS and the New Threats from the Margins will be published by I B Tauris in June 2016. These briefings are circulated free of charge for non-profit use, but please consider making a donation to ORG, if you are able to do so.

Copyright Oxford Research Group 2016.



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Trump in Context

Paul Rogers  openDemocracy 11 November 2016.
The American election result can fruitfully be seen in a global context, as an expression of ‘revolts from the margins’ that arise in response to a failed economic system.

PA-29114429A revolt from the margins? Donald Trump’s supporters at a campaign rally. Charles Krupa AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved. The reasons for Donald Trump’s victory in the United States presidential election are already being intensively examined and discussed. Many more tens of thousands of words will be published in the coming weeks. The focus may be on American domestic politics, the way in which Washington and the media failed to predict the result, or on themes of gender, race, and class.

An important aspect is the experience of white males in low-paid work, and more generally the fact that a huge minority of blue-collar Americans have had virtually no increase in real wages in more than a decade. This is in contrast to many white-collar jobs, and far more to the wealthiest fifth of the population.

Even more interesting though, and probably less discussed, is whether Trump is a symptom of a much wider global trend of ‘revolts from the margins‘. In the United States, this perspective might easily have focused to even greater effect on Bernie Sanders in the event he had won the Democrat ticket.

For a decade and a half – almost from the start of openDemocracy – a consistent (and hopefully not too boring) element in these columns has been the view that a combination of socio-economic divisions and environmental limits will be the defining determinants of international insecurity in the coming decades, unless both trends can be reversed (see “The global crisis: seeing it whole“, 1 May 2014).

Edwin Brooks’s dystopic vision from the early 1970s of a “crowded, glowering planet of massive inequalities of wealth, buttressed by stark force yet endlessly threatened by desperate men in the global ghettoes” was seen as the negative future in which determined and violent military operations would become the instrument of that “buttressing by stark force” (see “A tale of two towns”, 21 June 2007).

The origin and nature of those possible revolts was examined in an analysis that pre-dated 9/11. The question now is whether it relates in any way to the success of Trump’s mission to lead the United States.

The analysis from the late 1990s suggested:

“What should be expected is that new social movements will develop that are essentially anti-elite in nature and draw their support from people on the margins. In different contexts and circumstances they may have the roots in political ideologies, religious beliefs, ethnic, nationalist or cultural identities, or a complex combination of several of these. They may be focussed on individuals or groups but the most common feature is an opposition to existing centres of power. They may be sub-state groups directed at the elites in their own state or foreign interests, or they may hold power in states in the South, and will no doubt be labelled as rogue states as they direct their responses towards the North.  What can be said is that, on present trends, anti-elite action will be a core feature of the next 30 years – not so much a clash of civilisations, more an age of insurgencies.”

The movement matrix

How does that look after fifteen years of the post-9/11 world, and does it relate to Trump?  There are many and varied examples of social movements, with diverse origins. Some are involved in brutally violent revolts. These include the multiple Islamist outgrowths, from ISIS to al-Qaida and Boko Haram to al-Shabaab. Few analysts doubt that these groups are persistently sustained by perceptions of gross marginalisation, especially within the Middle East and north Africa, but also extending to numerous diasporas. Among tens of millions of educated young people with poor life prospects, only a very few may find extreme movements appealing. But that might still amount to many thousands of potential followers willing to give their lives, with effective and self-reinforcing results (see “Al-Qaida, and a global revolt“, 22 May 2014).

There are also movements with a political focus, often with a military arm: neo-Maoist Naxalites in India, Sendero Luminoso and others in Latin America, Nepal and the Philippines, socialist movements such as the Zapatistas in southern Mexico, as well as numerous movements with strong ethnic and nationalistic bases.

In parallel with these it is reasonable to argue that the revolts from the margins extend to a wide political dimension. These may belong on the left, in the form of Podemos, Syriza, the Corbynistas and others; and on the right, encompassing movements with a very strong anti-migrant stance, some of which have acquired power, as in Hungary. Fear of migration is strong and is alighted on by many politicians in Europe and beyond, notably Marine le Pen in France, Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, and Nigel Farage in the UK.

The climate effect

These two levels – violent revolts from the margins and less violent political movements – are linked. At each, there is disgust at an economic system that is not producing a sufficient sharing, a fault that has been greatly exacerbated by the effects of the 2007-08 financial crash. The feeling is reinforced by a pervasive perception that an entrenched elite remains immune from these effects.

Some of this sentiment is then captured by leaders who themselves come precisely from within those elites. The billionaire property developer, Donald Trump, and the privately-educated and wealthy former city trader, Nigel Farage, are leading examples. Even as they stretch credibility in their positioning, it must be recognised that they still manage to gain appeal.

The failings of the neoliberal economic system that developed apace from the late 1970s are even now seldom recognised as being at the root of so many of the current convulsions. In fact, this view meets sustained resistance from within business and financial communities, including exchequers and banks. Few politicians recognise this, with Jeremy Corbyn an example, but he is still very much the exception.

Trump should therefore be seen as yet another manifestation of a global trend. But he adds a very unwelcome factor: his resolute denial of the reality of climate change, and his accompanying desire to boost coal and oil. If that attitude prevails and the world’s largest economy gives up on a low-carbon future, other states will quietly follow the lead. Much of the limited progress made since the Paris summit will be lost.

People may certainly worry about Donald Trump’s finger being on the nuclear button, but that still represents a small risk of an utter catastrophe. To have the United States in the grip of a climate denier for at least four years carries a much greater risk, as an actual development with damaging consequences that will prove very difficult to reverse.

About the author

Paul Rogers is professor in the department of peace studies at Bradford University, northern England. He is openDemocracy’s international security editor, and has been writing a weekly column on global security since 28 September 2001; he also writes a monthly briefing for the Oxford Research Group. His latest book is Irregular War: ISIS and the New Threat from the Margins (IB Tauris, 2016), which follows Why We’re Losing the War on Terror (Polity, 2007), and Losing Control: Global Security in the 21st Century (Pluto Press, 3rd edition, 2010). He is on Twitter at: @ProfPRogers

A lecture by Paul Rogers, delivered to the Food Systems Academy in late 2014, provides an overview of the analysis that underpins his openDemocracy column. The lecture – “The crucial century, 1945-2045: transforming food systems in a global context” – focuses on the central place of food systems in human security worldwide. Paul argues that food is the pivot of humanity’s next great transition. It can be accessed here

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Paul Rogers: What will be Donald Trump’s foreign policy?


What will be Donald Trump’s foreign policy?

The Yorkshire Post. Published 6:13 Thursday 10 November 2016

GIVEN that Donald Trump has little experience in foreign policy and has few advisors in this area, trying to separate out some of his bombastic statements during the campaign from likely policy stances is tricky. Even so, there are some clues, leading quickly to the conclusion that if the Republican-dominated Congress agrees with him, there will be substantial changes.

On Russia, Trump admires Putin and his dominant leadership style, appears willing to make allowances for Russian moves in Crimea and Ukraine and believes that a relationship can be forged which will help resolve the US/Russia antagonism over Syria. Putin will relish this, not least in ensuring that Russia has a long-term role in the Middle East but more generally that it is taken more seriously as a major world power.

On a related issue, Trump is highly dubious about the role of Nato and especially the cost to the United States. He would prefer Nato to ease up on confronting Russia and put far more emphasis on tackling terrorism. He argues that if European states do not increase defence spending and bear more of the cost of Nato during his first term, then the US should consider withdrawing. He is also deeply critical of the EU, especially its failure to tackle terrorism, and this includes European attitudes to gun control which he sees as reducing the ability of individual Europeans to protect themselves.
While sympathetic to Putin and Russia, Trump is much harsher on China and intends to strengthen the US military presence in the region. He will want to renegotiate trade agreements and take action against currency manipulation, hacking and intellectual property theft. He sees China as the main threat to US power whereas Russia is a potential ally.

In apparent contradiction to this, he wants China to pressurise North Korea on the nuclear issue while allowing the US to hold direct talks with Pyongyang. His attitude to North Korea also seems mixed since he has talked about withdrawing US troops from South Korea while considering the value of Japan and South Korea having nuclear weapons.

Where his outlook gets really forceful is on Middle East policy. While initially ambivalent on his approach to Israel, he has come to regard it as the most significant ally in the region and there is talk of his wanting to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a move of great political significance and to be thoroughly welcomed by the Netanyahu government while strenuously opposed by the Palestinians. He deeply distrusts the Iranian nuclear deal and wants to renegotiate it while imposing far harsher sanctions as a means of forcing Iranian concessions on this and other issues.

Interestingly he now regards George W Bush’s invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003 as a major mistake, whatever he thought at the time. That may be thought to imply that the US should now have nothing to do with Iraq but he is, at the same time, highly antagonistic to Daesh – the so-called Islamic State. He has talked of the need for 30,000 US troops to be deployed to defeat IS but is not specific as to when this might happen. He believes that torture is acceptable when dealing with terrorists. Interestingly he sees Russia as having a stabilising role in Syria, even to the extent of appearing willing to let the Assad regime survive.

On immigration, Trump remains adamant that a 1,000-mile wall will be built along the Mexican border, up to 11 million “illegals” will be deported and the border protection forces will be tripled in size. While the border is directed at Latino control, he is even more forceful on Muslims. His original blanket ban on Muslim entries may have been moderated but it still means a ban on those from “terror states and terror nations”, both undefined terms, and what he terms “extreme vetting” of Muslims from elsewhere.

Much of his foreign policy stance is predicated on the need to make the United States an oasis of well-defended stability but his wider stance on international security is difficult to comprehend. On the one hand he intends substantially to increase military spending but on the other he is cautious about oversees adventures, excepting IS and China. Presumably the assumption is that no-one will be foolish enough to threaten US interests in the face of a much stronger US military and a Trump White House.

Perhaps most significant of all in relation to long-term impacts is his denial that climate change is a problem and his desire to increase the use of coal and oil. He would even like to withdraw from the Paris climate deal. That will cause great dismay among many governments while some may hide behind this stance to limit their own commitments. Since violent climate disruption is now one of the greatest threats to world security, two Trump presidential terms of office involving sustained climate change denial could be little short of catastrophic.

Paul Rogers is Professor of Peace Studies at Bradford University. His new book, “Irregular War: ISIS and the New Threat from the Margins”, is published by I. B. Tauris.

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York Against the War

Public Meeting


Paul Rogers

Emeritus Professor of Peace Studies,

University of Bradford

Paul is a leading expert in the field of international security, arms control and political violence.

After more than a decade of war on terror global terrorism is increasing. Paul will look at the changing nature of war and argue that the world is becoming more dangerous and riddled with irregular war.

7.30pm Thursday November 10th
Friends Meeting House
Friargate, York YO1 9RL


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Maurice Vassie
29 October 2016

In the current era of civil wars between sects and tribes, in the Middle East and Africa with the misery they bring to non-combattants, especially women and children, we commend the desire of  British Governments to take action to prevent the suffering, but reject the recourse to armed intervention. British participation in military action and in arms sales to combattants has patently  failed to bring an end to suffering in Afghanistan, in Libya, in Iraq, in Yemen and in Syria.

We cannot understand why the United Kingdom fails to capitalise on its hard-won expertise in bringing an end to the decades of armed sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland. The conflict was the product of centuries of resentment and bad feeling between the Catholic and Protestant communities in both parts of Ireland. It was exacerbated by foreign involvement with the provision of funds and arms. The involvement of the British army was not effective. It was resolved by negotiation between the two combattants and between the governments of Ireland and the United Kingdom.

It is a remarkable achievement, and can surely serve as a template in the resolution of other conflicts. In the light of the United Kingdom’s standing in the United Nations Security Council, and other international bodies, it should be able to work in conjunction with Ireland, and other nations, such as Sri Lanka which have brought an end to armed intercommunal disputes to provide a political and diplomatic task force to resolve civil conflicts.


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Maurice Vassie,
29 October 2016

In the war against terrorism the meeting of force with force, it is the terrorists, who draw up the rules of engagement that apply equally to counter-terrorist forces. When we take armed action against terrorists the nature of the conflict necessitates our fighting according to their rules. It is axiomatic that human life has no value except as a means of achieving a political ends. A terrorist is expected to be ready to give his life as a suicide bomber for example, and to take the life of others to gain attention, or to take out an enemy and any innocent bystanders that happen to be near him. That inhumanity is reflected in the counter-terrorist response.

It is a war in which the enemy is not defined by nationality or race or any physical feature. In an area in which a terrorist or counter-terrorist force is operating, the enemy is any individual, who does not accept the authority of the fighter and who is deemed ready to resist actively that authority. Such an individual is seen as putting himself beyond being treated humanely. If when he is targeted he is in the company of other people, whether self-designated enemies or non-combatants, his arrest or elimination takes precedents over their human rights.

It follows that a terrorist will be expected to have no compunction in locating himself in a family group, or among schoolchildren or in a hospital. Similarly a counter-terrorist is not expected to refrain from arresting by force or eliminating a terrorist even if that action puts the lives of civilians at risk or denies them their human rights: as for example destroying a vehicle in which an identified terrorist is a passenger although other passengers include women and children, or destroying a hospital treating terrorists.

It is accepted by counter-terrorists that since terrorists may and usually do operate as individuals or as ad hoc groups their identities can only be determined from recorded or printed records, or by informers. This is seen in practice as justifing torture and housebreaking. It is acceptance of the fact that counter-terrorism by force cannot be undertaken effectively if conducted in accordance with the internationally agreed Convention of  War.

It is nation states that have drawn up and signed the several Conventions of War and sanctions can be imposed on those nations that break them. Terrorist groups are not nation states; they are not and cannot be a party to them, they set their own rules of engagement.

By committing our armed forces to engage in a form of warfare, which is not covered by internationally agreed conventions, the U.K. is exposing our soldiers to situations where they may not be able to safeguard themselves by restricting the use of force, including lethal force, to instances where a clear distinction can be made between combatants and civilians. We may be requiring them to act against the traditions and national ethos of the United Kingdom.


A New Short Film by Oxford Research Group

Oxford Research Group (ORG) has produced a new short film to showcase its work. The three minute film features ORG’s Professor Paul Rogers and Gabrielle Rifkind as well as their patron Dr Hans Blix and leaders of our dialogue projects in Palestine and Israel. It vividly explains the crucial importance of ORG’s work in fostering sustainable alternatives to militarism and safe spaces for strategic dialogue. To see the film go to:


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Protest at Fylingdales on Saturday 1st October 12.00 to 15.00

md-1Russia and China view the build up of US and NATO missile defence bases in Europe and the Pacific as destabilising and an aggressive threat to their nuclear deterrence strategies. This forward deployment of missiles and radars on their borders is not only preventing any progress in nuclear disarmament talks but is actually on the verge of reversing some of the agreements made on the stationing of nuclear weapons in Europe. At a time of increasing international tension and distrust it is important that we protest at the use of US bases in the UK for this purpose and for the global threat posed by the increasing militarisation of space.

The demo is one of the events during ‘Keep Space for Peace Week’, organised by the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space to highlight the growing use of space by the military for communication, surveillance, targetting and management for power projection and military interventions.

The Fylingdales demo is shaping up to be a great mix of music, poetry and excellent speakers. Fabulous York band ‘Bull the Band’ will be playing us in (check them out at https://www.facebook.com/BullTheBand/). Speakers include Kate Hudson (General Secretary of CND), John Bourton (Chair of Veterans for Peace), Denise Craghill (York Green Councillor) and all the way from Germany, Konni Schmidt who will talk about missile defence and the protests against the Ramstein base in Germany, NATO’s Air Command HQ.

Meet 12.00 at Eller Beck, just north of Fylingdales on the A169 between Pickering and Whitby.

There will be food, hot drinks and a toilet by the marquee. The politics and entertainment will be followed by a march to the main gate at Fylingdales (about 1 mile), where we will hand in a letter to the Base Commander.

Speakers: Kate Hudson (General Secretary of CND), Konni Scmidt from Germany’s Stop Ramstein Campaign, John Bourton, Chair of Veterans for Peace, Denise Craghill , York Green Councillor.

For more detailed info about US missile defence see:


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The west’s indifference will doom Aleppo

Natalle Nougayrede
The Guardian Weekly 05.08.16


As Europe reels from terrorist attacks, Aleppo, once Syria’s second city, is suffering its own nightmare. The connection between these two developments is more than coincidence. As bombs, guns and knives were being wielded in France and Germany, a massive military operation was under way to besiege, and perhaps empty or starve, the eastern districts of Aleppo that since 2012 have been controlled by the anti-Assad rebellion.

When responding to the latest terror in Europe, few if any western officials draw parallels with the plight of Aleppo. That is understandable. Public opinion is naturally more focused on the domestic fallout from traumatic events. When security fears take over and political passions are aroused, it is hard to look beyond what lies in your immediate vicinity. Yet Aleppo will have consequences for Europe and for its citizens, and there is little cause to think they will be positive.

This is why: Islamic State cannot be defeated just through military action in Iraq and Syria, or police operations in Europe. It can be defeated only if the attraction that the militant group exerts on young, confused Sunni Muslims, in the Middle East and elsewhere, is somehow neutralised. The massacres carried out by the Assad regime in Syria over the past five years, and the failure of the international community to put an end to them – or even to hold his power accountable – have provided no small reason for the radicalisation now making Europe bleed.

The summer of 2015 went down in history as a time when the chaos of the Middle East suddenly became a vivid reality for Europeans because of the refugee crisis. The summer of 2016 may go down as the tipping point when all hope of a negotiated settlement in Syria’s civil war, one that would deprive Isis of much of its ability to recruit and sow terror, entirely faded.

In recent days, Bashar al-Assad’s army, assisted by Russian air power and Iranian-connected ground forces, has achieved its long-held objective of encircling eastern Aleppo, where 200,000 to 300,000 people are now helplessly stranded and under attack. Any European who remembers the 1990s should think about parallels with the siege of Sarajevo, and the Srebrenica massacre 21 years ago.

As one UN official put it this week: “In the 1990s, we said never again. Aleppo is the new Srebrenica.” Those who rightly express solidarity with refugees need to go one step further and ask why nothing has been done to prevent the mass atrocities that have sent so many people struggling over land and sea to reach our world. We should question the faulty western strategies that have focused entirely on combatting Isis and not on protecting Syrian civilians.

Right now more questions should be asked about Russia’s behaviour in Syria than about its cyber warfare in the US (however huge that story) because the consequences of Moscow backing Assad are a bigger threat to Europe’s liberal, democratic order. If Assad stays in power, which seems to be the ultimate goal of recapturing Aleppo, more – not less – radicalisation will ensue; the absence of political transition in Syria will fuel the Sunni anger that Isis thrives on. That, in turn, will lead to more terrorism in Europe, providing even more fertile ground for far-right movements who want to up-end fundamental democratic principles.

And if progressives who care about preserving those principles join the dots, they should realise the need to look a bit further outwards. However strong the “no more wars” slogans of the western left, in the past five years there have been no significant street demonstrations against the war that Assad and his allies have waged on Syrian civilians. What does that say about the solidarity with Muslims that many claim to profess?

We mourn our dead in Europe, and that sorrow cannot be minimised; but our difficulty in concentrating even a little on the suffering of Syrians may one day be something that haunts us. Rather than worry about how jihadi terrorists’ pictures are published in our newspapers, we’d do better to relentlessly draw attention to the wider picture of how an unravelling in the Middle East leads to a political unravelling in European societies; and we should spend more energy trying to overcome the difficulty of covering Syria and what its citizens are being put through.

There are no simple answers to the mess the Middle East finds itself in, but building awareness of how the safety of citizens in Europe cannot be dissociated from the question of protecting civilians in Syria should be a constant focus. In recent decades no large-scale atrocity, whether Rwanda, the Balkan wars or post-2003 Iraq, has affected Europe’s political and social fabric like the Syrian war has.

As Aleppo’s agonies deepen, the distant dream of a peaceful, democratic country emerging from the wreckage may live on among the Syrian diaspora in Europe. But in the meantime, it is our confusion and our fatalism – the “western bombs are the biggest problem” line, or the “what can we possibly do” line – that so many refugees live among.

It’s a good thing voices are calling for Europeans to stay steadfast and to refrain from conflating immigrants with terrorists. But we are still missing part of the equation: we can no longer ignore the connection between our fate and that of Syrians whose remaining hopes of being saved are fast dwindling.

The forces now besieging Aleppo are counting on our indifference as much as on their military hardware – witness the effort they have put into producing propaganda images. Russian and Syrian official announcements about “humanitarian safe passage” aren’t just aimed at tightening the noose on a whole population before it falls prey to a state machine of repression (a tactic from the Kremlin’s Chechnya war, by the way). They are also a ploy aimed at making the rest of us turn our gaze away, in the – not unfounded – belief that our attention span and our empathy for distant victims are limited.

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