Foreign Economic Policy After September 11th"
Barry Eichengreen, Economics, University of California,
Law and Justice in a Global Age"
David Held, Political Science, London School of Economics
Reach of Transnationalism"
Riva Kastoryano, Center for International Studies and Research,
Globalization of Informal Violence, Theories of World
Politics, and 'the Liberalism of Fear'"
Robert O. Keohane, Political Science, Duke University
Religious Undercurrents of Muslim Economic Grievances"
Timur Kuran, Economics, University of Southern California
Hotspots: Challenges We Must Confront in the Post-September
Saskia Sassen, Sociology, University of Chicago
"Terrorism and Cosmopolitanism"
Scales of Terror"
of Informal Violence, Theories of World Politics, and "The
Liberalism of Fear"
O. Keohane, Professor of Political Science, Duke University
The attacks on the
United States on September 11, 2001, have incalculable consequences
for domestic politics and world affairs. Reliable predictions
about these consequences are impossible. However, it may be
worthwhile, even at this early point, to reflect on what these
acts of violence reveal about the adequacy of our theories of
world politics. In what respects have our assumptions and our
analytical models helped us to understand these events, and
responses to them? And in what ways have we been misled by our
In this short article, I will not attempt to be comprehensive.
Instead, I will focus instead on specific issues on which my
commentary may be of some value, without presuming that these
are the most important issues to address. For instance, the
attacks of September 11 reveal that all mainstream theories
of world politics are relentlessly secular with respect to motivation.
They ignore the impact of religion, despite the fact that world-shaking
political movements have so often been fueled by religious fervor.
None of them takes very seriously the human desire to dominate
or to hate - both so strong in history and in classical realist
thought. Most of them tend to assume that the world is run by
those whom Joseph Schumpeter (1950 : 137) called "rational
and unheroic" members of the bourgeoisie. After September 11
we need also to keep in mind another motivation: the belief,
as expressed by Osama bin Laden, that terrorism against "infidels"
will assure one "a supreme place in heaven."1 However,
since I have few insights into religious motivations in world
politics, I will leave this subject to whose who are more qualified
to address it.
In the next section of this article I define the phrase, "the
globalization of informal violence." In referring to a general
category of action, I substitute this phrase for "terrorism,"
since the latter concept has such negative connotations that
it is very difficult to define in an analytically neutral and
consistent way that commands general acceptance.2
Even as the United Nations Security Council has passed resolutions
against terrorism, it has been unable to define the term. Since
everyone is against terrorism, the debate shifts to its definition,
as each party seeks to define its enemy's acts, but not its
own, as terrorist. Nevertheless, deliberately targeted surprise
attacks on arbitrarily chosen civilians, designed to frighten
other people, are clearly acts of terror. The attacks on the
World Trade Center of September 11, 2001, were therefore terrorist
acts and I refer to them as such.
This paper has three themes. First, the events of September
11 illustrate starkly how our assumptions about security are
conceived in terms of increasingly obsolescent views of geographical
space. Secondly, the globalization of informal violence can
be analyzed by exploring patterns of asymmetrical interdependence
and their implications for power. Thirdly, United States responses
to the attacks tell us quite a bit about the role of multilateral
institutions in contemporary world politics.
My argument is that our theories provide important components
of an adequate post-September 11 conceptualization of world
politics, but that we need to alter some of our assumptions
in order to rearrange these components into a viable theoretical
framework. Effective wielding of large-scale violence by non-state
actors reflects new patterns of asymmetrical interdependence,
and calls into question some of our assumptions about geographical
space as a barrier. Responses to these actions reveal the significance
of international institutions as well as the continuing central
role of states. In thinking about these issues, students of
world politics can be usefully reminded of Judith N. Shklar's
concept of the "liberalism of fear," and her argument that the
most basic function of a liberal state is to protect its citizens
from the fear of cruelty.
1. The Globalization of Informal Violence
Reconceptualization of Space
The various definitions of globalization in social science all
converge on the notion that human activities across regions
and continents are being increasingly linked together, as a
result both of technological and social change (Held et al.:
15). Globalism as a state of affairs has been defined as "a
state of the world involving networks of interdependence at
multicontinental distances, linked through flows of capital
and goods, information and ideas, people and force, as well
as environmentally and biologically relevant substances" (Keohane
and Nye 2001: 229).
When globalism is characterized as multidimensional, as in these
definitions, the expansion of terrorism's global reach is an
instance of globalization (Held et al. 1999: 80; Keohane and
Nye 2001: 237). Often, globalism and globalization have been
defined narrowly as economic integration on a global scale;
but whatever appeal such a definition may have had, it has surely
disappeared after September 11. To adopt it would be to imply
that globalized informal violence, which takes advantage of
modern technologies of communication, transportation, explosives,
and potentially biology, somehow threatens to hinder
or reduce the level of globalism. But like military technology
between 1914 and 1945, globalized informal violence strengthens
one dimension of globalism - the networks through which means
of violence flow - while potentially weakening globalism along
other dimensions, such as economic and social exchange. As in
the past, not all aspects of globalization go together.
I define informal violence as violence by non-state actors,
capitalizing on secrecy and surprise to inflict great harm with
small material capabilities. Such violence is "informal" because
it is not wielded by formal state institutions and it is typically
not announced in advance, as in a declaration of war. Such violence
becomes globalized when the networks of non-state actors operate
on an intercontinental basis, so that acts of force in one society
can be initiated and controlled from very distant points of
The implications of the globalization of formal violence
were profound for traditional conceptions of foreign policy
in an earlier generation, particularly in the United States,
which had so long been insulated by distance from invasion and
major direct attack. The great expositors of classical realist
theories of foreign policy in the United States, such as Walter
Lippmann, began with the premise that defense of the "continental
homeland" is "a universally recognized vital interest." Before
World War II, threats to the homeland could only stem from other
states that secured territory contiguous to that of the United
States or that controlled ocean approaches to it. Hence the
Monroe Doctrine of 1823 was the cornerstone of American national
security policy. As Lippmann recognized in 1943, changes in
the technologies of formal violence meant that security policy
needed to be more ambitious: the United States would have to
maintain coalitions with other great powers that would "form
a combination of indisputably preponderant power" (Lippmann
1943: 88, 101). Nevertheless, Lippmann was able to retain a
key traditional concept: that of a geographically defined defensive
perimeter, which can be thought of as a set of concentric circles.
If the United States were to control not only its own area but
the circle surrounding that area, comprising littoral regions
of Europe and Asia, its homeland would be secure.
The American strategists of the 1950s - led by Bernard Brodie,
Thomas Schelling, and Albert Wohlstetter - had to rethink the
concept of a defensive perimeter, as intercontinental ballistic
missiles reduced the significance of distance: that is, as formal
violence became globalized. John Herz (1959: 107-108) argued
that nuclear weapons forced students of international politics
to rethink sovereignty, territoriality, and the protective function
of the state:
the advent of the atomic weapon, whatever remained of the
impermeability of states seems to have gone for good.... Mencius,
in ancient China, when asked for guidance in matters of defense
and foreign policy by the ruler of a small state, is said
to have counseled: 'dig deeper your moats; build higher your
walls; guard them along with your people.' This remained the
classical posture up to our age, when a Western sage, Bertrand
Russell, could still, even in the interwar period, define
power as a force radiating from one center and diminishing
with the distance from that center until it finds an equilibrium
with that of similar geographically anchored units. Now that
power can destroy power from center to center everything is
11 signifies that informal violence has become globalized,
just as formal, state-controlled violence became globalized,
for the superpowers, during the 1950s. The globalization of
informal violence was not created by September 11.
Indeed, earlier examples, extending back to piracy in the
17th century, can be easily found. But the significance of
globalization - of violence as well as economically and socially
- is not its absolute newness but its increasing magnitude
as a result of sharp declines in the costs of global communications
and transportation (Keohane and Nye 2001: 243-45).
Contemporary theorists of world politics face a challenge
similar to that of this earlier generation: to understand
the nature of world politics, and its connections to domestic
politics, when what Herz called the "hard shell" of the state
(Herz 1959: 22) has been shattered. Geographical space, which
has been seen as a natural barrier and a locus for
human barriers, now must be seen as a carrier as well.
The corollary to the barrier conception of geographical space
was scorn for the geopolitical significance of weak countries,
without nuclear weapons, far from the defensive perimeter,
consigned to a "the obscurity that they justly deserve." One
of the finest hours of American realism was its opposition
to the war in Vietnam on just these grounds. Walter Lippmann
and Hans J. Morgenthau opposed the war not for moralistic
reasons, but because of Vietnam's unimportance to the national
interests of the United States. For Lippmann, the key to a
successful foreign policy is achieving a "balance, with a
comfortable surplus of power in reserve, [between] the nation's
commitment and the nation's power" (Lippmann 1943: 9). Going
abroad in search of monsters to destroy upset that balance.
The globalization of informal violence, carried out by networks
of non-state actors, defined by commitments rather than by
territory, has profoundly changed these fundamental foreign
policy assumptions.3 On traditional grounds of
national interest, Afghanistan should be one of the least
important places in the world for American foreign policy
- and until the Soviet invasion of 1979, and again after the
collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 until September 11, the
United States all but ignored it. Yet in October 2001 it became
the theatre of war. Globalization means, among other things,
that threats of violence to our homeland can occur from anywhere.
The barrier conception of geographical space, already anachronistic
with respect to thermonuclear war and called into question
by earlier acts of globalized informal violence, was finally
shown to be thoroughly obsolete on September 11.4
2. Interdependence and Power
Another way to express the argument made above is that networks
of interdependence, involving transmission of informal violence,
have now taken a genuinely global form. Using this language
helps us to see the relevance for the globalization of informal
violence of the literature on interdependence and power, which
was originally developed to understand international political
economy. In that literature, interdependence is conceptualized
as mutual dependence, and power is conceptualized in terms
of asymmetrical interdependence.5 This literature
has also long been clear that "military power dominates economic
power in the sense that economic means alone are likely to
be ineffective against the serious use of military force"
(Keohane and Nye 2001: 14).
September 11 revealed how much the United States could be
hurt by informal violence, to an extent that had been anticipated
by some government reports but that had not been incorporated
into the plans of the government.6 The long-term
vulnerability of the United States is not entirely clear,
but the availability of means of mass destruction, the extent
of hatred for the United States, and the ease of entering
the United States from almost anywhere in the world, all suggest
that vulnerability may be quite high.
If the United States were facing a territorial state with
conventional objectives, this vulnerability might not be a
source of worry. After all, the United States has long been
much more vulnerable, in technological terms, to a nuclear
attack from Russia. But the United States was not asymmetrically
vulnerable. On the contrary, the United States either
had superior nuclear capability or "mutual assured destruction"
(MAD) kept vulnerability more or less symmetrical. Russia
has controlled great force, but has not acquired power
over the United States from its arsenal.
With respect to terrorism, however, two asymmetries, which
do not normally characterize relationships between states,
favored wielders of informal violence in September 2001. First,
there was an asymmetry of information. It seems paradoxical
that an "information society" such as that of the contemporary
United States would be at an informational disadvantage with
respect to networks of individuals whose communications seem
to occur largely through hand-written messages and face-to-face
contacts. But an information society is also an open society.
Potential terrorists had good information about their targets,
while before September 11 the United States had poor information
about the identity and location of terrorist networks within
the United States and other western societies. Perhaps equally
important, the United States was unable coherently to process
the information that its various agencies had gathered. Secondly,
there is an asymmetry in beliefs. Some of Osama bin
Laden's followers apparently believed that they would be rewarded
in the afterlife for committing suicidal attacks on civilians.
Others were duped into participating in the attacks without
being told of their suicidal purpose. Clearly, the suicidal
nature of the attacks made them more difficult to prevent
and magnified their potential destructive power. Neither volunteering
for suicide missions nor deliberately targeting civilians
is consistent with secular beliefs widely shared in the societies
attacked by al-Qaeda.
The United States and its allies have enormous advantages
in resources, including military power, economic resources,
political influence, and technological capabilities. Furthermore,
communications media, largely based in the West, give greater
weight to the voices of people in the wealthy democracies
than to those of the dispossessed in developing countries.
Hence the asymmetries in information and beliefs that I have
mentioned are, in a sense, exceptional. They do not confer
a permanent advantage on the wielders of informal violence.
Yet they were sufficient to give the terrorists at least a
short-term advantage, and they make terrorism a long-term
Our failure to anticipate the impact of terrorist attacks
does not derive from a fundamental conceptual failure in thinking
about power. On the contrary, the power of terrorists, like
that of states, derives from asymmetrical patterns of interdependence.
Our fault has rather been our failure to understand that the
most powerful state ever to exist on this planet could be
vulnerable to small bands of terrorists due to patterns of
asymmetrical interdependence. We have overemphasized states
and we have over-aggregated power.
Power comes not simply out of the barrel of a gun, but from
asymmetries in vulnerability interdependence - some of which,
it turns, out, favor certain non-state actors more than most
observers anticipated. The networks of interdependence along
which power can travel are multiple, and they do not cancel
one another out. Even a state that is overwhelmingly powerful
on many dimensions can be highly vulnerable on others. We
learned this lesson in the 1970s with respect to oil power;
we are re-learning it now with respect to terrorism.
3. Institutions and Legitimacy
Institutionalist theory implies that multilateral institutions
should play significant roles wherever interstate cooperation
is extensive in world politics Yet a reader of the American
press immediately after the September 11, 2001, attack on
the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, might well have thought
this claim weirdly divorced from reality. Immediate reactions
centered on domestic security, military responses, and the
creation of a broad international coalition against terrorism.
Although the United Nations Security Council did act on September
12, passing resolution 1368, its response attracted relatively
little attention. Indeed, President Bush's speech to Congress
of September 20 did not mention the United Nations, although
the President did praise NATO and made a generic reference
to international organizations. And coverage of the United
Nations was virtually nonexistent in the New York Times.
But theory is not tested by the immediate reactions of policymakers,
much less by those of the press. Social science theory purports
to elucidate underlying structures of social reality, which
generate incentives for action. Kenneth Waltz rightly looks
for confirmation of his theory of the balance of power "through
observation of difficult cases." The theory is confirmed,
he claims, where states ally with each other, "in accordance
with the expectations the theory gives rise to, even though
they have strong reasons not to cooperate with one another"
(Waltz 1979: 125). Realists rightly argue that if leaders
seem to be compelled toward actions that theory suggests -
as, for instance, Winston Churchill was when Britain allied
with the Soviet Union in 1941 and American leaders when they
built NATO after World War II - this counts for their theory.
Indeed, the most demanding test of theory comes when policymakers
are initially unreceptive to the arguments on which the theory
is based. If they nevertheless turn to the policy measures
that the theory anticipates, it gains support.
The terrorist attacks of September 11 therefore pose a fruitful
test for institutionalist theory. Before September 11, the
Bush Administration had been pursuing a notably unilateralist
policy with respect to several issues, including global warming,
trade in small arms, money laundering, and tax evasion. Its
leading policymakers all had realist proclivities: they emphasized
the decisive use of force and had not been public supporters
of international institutions. Their initial inclinations,
if their public statements and those of the President are
any guide, did not lead them to emphasize the role of the
Nevertheless, the United States returned to the Security Council.
On September 28, 2001, the Security Council unanimously adopted
Resolution 1373, on the motion of the United States. This
resolution used the mandatory provisions of Chapter VII of
the United Nations Charter to require all states to "deny
safe haven" both to terrorists and to those who "provide safe
haven" to terrorists. Resolution 1373 also demanded that states
prevent potential terrorists from using their territories,
and "prevent and suppress the financing of terrorist acts."
It did not, as noted above, define terrorism. Furthermore,
the United States continued to engage the United Nations,
indeed delegating to it the task of bringing Afghan factions
together in Germany in a meeting that culminated in an agreement
in December 2001.
Why should the United States have relied so extensively on
the United Nations? The UN, in Stalin's famous phrase, has
no divisions. The United States, not the UN, carried out the
significant military actions. Transnational banks, central
banks, and states in their capacities as bank regulators,
froze funds allegedly belonging to terrorists. Even before
the September 28 Security Council resolution, allies of the
United States had already invoked Article 5 of NATO's Charter.
Inis L. Claude proposed one answer almost 35 years ago (Claude
1967). States seek "collective legitimation" for their policies
in the United Nations. Only the UN can provide the breadth
of support for an action that can elevate it from the policy
of one country or a limited set of countries, to a policy
endorsed on a global basis. In contemporary jargon, the "transaction
costs" of seeking support from over 150 countries around the
world are higher than those of going to the Security Council,
ready to meet at a moment's notice. But more important than
these costs is the fact that the institution of the United
Nations can confer a certain degree of legitimacy on a policy
favored by the United States.
What does legitimacy mean in this context? Legally, decisions
of the United Nations Security Council on issues of involving
the use of violence are legitimate since members of the United
Nations, through the Charter, have authorized such decisions.
In a broader popular and normative sense, decisions are legitimate
for a given public insofar as members of that public believe
that they should be obeyed. As Weber pointed out, the sources
of such legitimacy may include tradition, charisma or rational-legal
authority (Weber 1978: 954); they may also include appeal
to widely accepted norms. People in various parts of the world
may believe that their governments should obey decisions of
the Security Council because they were made through a process
that is normatively as well as legally acceptable. Or they
may regard its decisions as legitimate insofar as they are
justified on the basis of principles - such as collective
opposition to aggression - that they regard as valid.
Why is legitimacy important? In part, because people will
voluntarily support a legitimacy policy, without requiring
material inducements.7 But it would be naive to
believe that leaders of most countries will be persuaded,
by Security Council action, of the wisdom or righteousness
of the policy and will therefore support it for normative
reasons. To explain the impact of Security Council resolutions,
we need also to look for self-interested benefits for leaders.
Even if the leaders are entirely cynical, the adoption of
a legitimate UN resolution will change their calculations.
If they lead democratic societies in which publics accept
the legitimacy of UN action, they will benefit more politically
from supporting policies endorsed by the United Nations, than
from supporting policies not so endorsed. If they exercise
rule over people who are unsympathetic to the policies and
who do not accept them merely due to UN endorsement, the legal
status of Security Council resolutions may change their calculations.
Chapter VII decisions are mandatory, which means that states
defying the Security Council run the risk of facing sanctions
themselves, as in the Gulf War. Leaders of countries with
unsympathetic populations can point out that, however distasteful
it may be to take action against Osama bin Laden and his network,
it could be more costly to be cut off from essential supplies
and markets, to suffer disruption of transportation and banking
services, or even to become a target of military action.
The general point is one that has often been made by institutional
theory: international institutions work largely by altering
the costs of state strategies. Of course, there is no guarantee
that institutions will be sufficiently important to ensure
that strategies change: they are only one element in a mixture
of calculations. Yet as the use of the United Nations by the
United States indicates, they are an element that should not
The general issue of whether the United States should secure
multilateral endorsement of its policies takes us back to
issues of interdependence and power. The focused terrorist
attacks on the United States have made the United States more
dependent on other states for assistance in its struggle.
Reciprocity requires that in return for such assistance, the
United States provide benefits to its partners. Some of these
benefits are bilateral, but others are more efficiently provided
through multilateral institutions. Using these institutions,
the United States can send stronger signals and make more
credible commitments. Hence terrorism directed against the
United States is likely to make the United States more responsive
to its partners - both partners in crucial regions, such as
Pakistan, and the most important entities on a global basis,
such as China, Russia and the European Union. Terrorism may
also make the United States more receptive to the use of multilateral
institutions even when they limit American freedom of action.
In the short run, multilateralism may be a beneficiary of
the globalization of informal violence. A major reason for
a government to commit itself to a multilateral policy is
that it can thereby induce other governments to make valuable
reciprocal commitments. The United States has greater need
for commitments from other states now than it had before September
11, and is therefore more inclined to make reciprocal commitments
of its own. Greater multilateralism with respect to security
issues is the direct result. Indirectly, due to issue-linkage,
more American concessions on other issues can also be expected.
These concessions will surely entail, as an indirect result,
more multilateralism on these issues, as a way of improving
relations with states whose help the United States needs to
fight terrorism, and the support of whose people the United
Yet at this point a note of caution is necessary. The United
States has been notably reluctant to permit the United Nations,
or its own allies, to restrict its military freedom of action
in Afghanistan. In fact, requests by Great Britain to send
in troops to protect relief operations were rebuffed by the
United States on the advice of its military commanders. Another
interpretation of the delegation of inter-factional negotiations
to the United Nations is that the United States seeks to be
able to leave Afghanistan promptly after the defeat of the
Taliban and the capture or killing of Bin Laden and al-Qaeda
fighters. Even more cynically, it can be feared that American
policymakers wish to be able to lay the blame for inevitable
political difficulties as the door of the UN.
One can easily imagine a more pessimistic scenario for the
next few years. The United States government could decide
that its security required radical measures that would not
be supported even by many of its NATO allies, such as an attack
on Iraq without strong evidence of Iraqi complicity in prior
attacks on the United States. In such an eventuality, American
actions would not be legitimated either by the United Nations
or by NATO. Having acted unilaterally, the United States would
not be moved to rely more heavily on international institutions,
and multilateralism could suffer a serious blow.
Even if the multilateral path is chosen, it is hardly likely
to be sufficient. It is unlikely that multilateral organizations
will be the key operating agencies in dealing with
the globalization of informal violence: they are too cumbersome
for that. The state, with its capacity for decisive, forceful
action and the loyalty it commands from citizens, will remain
a necessary part of the solution to threats of informal violence.
Jejeune declarations of the "death of the state" are
surely among the casualties of the terrorist offensive But
multilateral organizations will be an essential part of the
process of legitimizing action by states.
It should be evident that these arguments about multilateral
institutions and networks are not "anti-realist." On the contrary,
they rest on an appreciation of the role of power, and of
state action, in world politics; on an understanding that
new threats create new alliances; and on a belief that structures
matter. Analysts who are sensitive to the role of multilateral
institutions need not regard them as operating independently
from states, nor should they see such institutions as a panacea
for our new ills. But sensitivity to the role of multilateral
institutions helps us see how these institutions can play
a role: not only by reducing transaction costs but also by
generating opportunities for signalling commitments and providing
collective legitimacy for effective action.
4. The "Liberalism of Fear"
Judith N. Shklar's "liberalism of fear" envisages liberal
democracy as "more a recipe for survival than a project for
the perfectibility of mankind." It seeks to avoid the worst
outcomes, and therefore declares that "the first right is
to be protected against the fear of cruelty" (Shklar 1984:
4; 237). The liberalism of fear certainly speaks to our condition
today, as it did to that of victims of the Nazis such as Judith
Shklar. It raises both an analytical and a normative issue.
Analytically, it leads us to ask about the protective role
of the state, facing the globalization of informal violence.
Normatively, it should make us think about our own role as
students of world politics.
The erosion of the concept of a protected homeland within
a defensive perimeter, discussed above, makes the "liberalism
of fear" more relevant to Americans than it has been in almost
two centuries. Suddenly, the task of protecting citizens from
the fear of cruelty has become a demanding project for the
state, not one that a superpower can take for granted.
Judith Shklar looked to the state as the chief threat. "No
liberal," she declared, "ever forgets that governments are
coercive" (Shklar 1984: 244). In this respect, the "liberalism
of fear" shares a blind spot with the most popular theories
of world politics, including realism, institutionalism and
some forms of constructivism . All of these views share a
common fault: they do not sufficiently take account of how
globalization facilitates the agency of non-state entities
and networks. After September 11 no liberal should be able
to forget that non-state actors, operating within the borders
of liberal states, can be as coercive and fear-inducing as
Recognition of the dangers of informal violence may lead the
United States toward a broader vision of its global interests.
As we have seen, classical realist thinking drew a bright
line between geographical areas important to the national
interest and those parts of the world that were insignificant
from the standpoint of interests. Now that attacks against
the United States can be planned and fostered within countries
formerly viewed as insignificant, this bright line has been
One of the implications of this blurring of lines is that
the distinction between self-defense and humanitarian intervention
may become less clear. Future military actions in failed states,
or attempts to bolster states that are in danger of failing,
may be more likely to be described both as self-defense
and as humanitarian or public-spirited. When the only arguments
for such policies were essentially altruistic ones, they commanded
little support, so the human and material price that American
leaders were willing to pay to attain them was low. Now, however,
such policies can be framed in terms of American self-interest,
properly understood. Sound arguments from self-interest are
more persuasive than arguments from responsibility or altruism.
More generally, recognition of the dangers of informal violence
will force a redefinition of American national interests,
which could take different forms. Such a redefinition could
lead Americans to support measures to reduce poverty, inequality
and injustice in poor countries. The Marshall Plan is a useful
if imperfect analogy. In 1947 the United States redefined
its self-interest, taking responsibility for helping to build
a democratic and capitalist Europe, open to other capitalist
democracies. The United States invested very large resources
in this project, with great success. The task now in the less
developed countries is much more daunting, both in sheer magnitude
and since the political systems of most of these countries
are weaker than those of European countries in 1947.8
But the resources available to the United States and other
democratic countries are also much greater than they were
Any widely appealing vision of American interests will need
to be based on core values that can be generalized. Individual
freedom, economic opportunity, and representative democracy
constitute such values. The ability to derive gas-guzzling
sports utility vehicles (SUVs) does not. In the end, "soft
power" (Nye 1990) depends not merely on the desire of people
in one country to imitate the institutions and practices prevailing
in another, but also their ability to do so. Exhibiting a
glamorous lifestyle that others have no possibility of attaining
is more likely to generate hostility and a feeling of "sour
grapes" than support. To relate successfully to people in
poor countries during the 21st century, Americans will have
to distinguish between their values and their privileges.
The attachment of Americans to a privileged lifestyle raises
the prospect of a defensive and reactionary broadening of
American national interests. Recall that a virtue of classical
realism was to link commitments to a relatively limited set
of interests, defined partly by geography. Ideology and a
self-serving attempt to preserve privileges could define a
different set of interests. Opponents - not merely those who
have attacked the United States - would be demonized. Deals
would continue to be cut with corrupt and repressive regimes
to keep cheap oil flowing to the United States. The United
States would rely exclusively on military power and bilateral
deals rather than also on economic assistance, trade benefits,
and efforts at cultural understanding. The costs would include
estrangement from our democratic allies and hatred of the
United States in much of the world. Ultimately, such a vision
of national interest is a recipe for isolation and continual
conflict - an environment in which liberal democracy could
be threatened by the emergence of a garrison state at home.
Normatively, thinking about the "liberalism of fear" reminds
our generation that in a globalized world, we cannot take
liberal societies for granted. People such as Judith Shklar,
who experienced Nazism, understood the fear of cruelty in
their bones. Those of us who grew up in the United States
during the Cold War experienced such fear only in our imaginations,
although nuclear threats and wars such as those in Korea and
Vietnam gave our imaginations plenty to work with. The generations
that have come of age in the United States since the mid-to-late
1980s - essentially, those people under 35 - have been able
to take the basics of liberalism for granted, as if the United
States were insulated from the despair of much of the world's
population. The globalization of informal violence means that
we are not so insulated. We are linked with hateful killers
by real physical connections, not merely those of cyberspace.
Neither isolationism nor unilateralism is a viable option.
Hence, the liberalism of fear means that we who study international
interdependence and multilateral institutions will need to
redouble our efforts. We should pay less attention to differentiating
our views from those of other schools of international relations;
more to both synthesis and disaggregation. We need to synthesize
insights from classical realism, institutionalism, and constructivism,
but we also need to take alternative worldviews - including
religious worldviews - more seriously. We need to examine
how purposes are shaped by ideas and how calculations of power
interact with institutions, to produce outcomes in world politics.
We need, at the same time, to disaggregate strands of asymmetrical
interdependence, with their different implications for power;
and to differentiate international institutions and networks
from one another, in their effects and their potential for
good or ill.
The terrorist attacks on New York and Washington force us
to rethink our theories of world politics. Globalism should
not be equated with economic integration. The agents of globalization
are not simply the high-tech creators of the internet, or
multinational corporations, but also small bands of fanatics,
travelling on jet aircraft and inspired by fundamentalist
religion. The globalization of informal violence has rendered
problematic our conventional assumptions about security threats.
It should also lead us to question the classical realist distinction
between important parts of the world, in which great powers
have interests, and insignificant places, which were thought
to present no security threats although they may raise moral
dilemmas. Indeed, we need to reconceptualize the significance
for homeland security of geographical space, which can be
as much a carrier of malign informal violence as a barrier
Most problematic are the assumptions in international relations
theory about the roles played by states. There has been too
much "international relations," and too little "world politics,"
not only in work on security but also in much work on international
institutions. States no longer have a monopoly on the means
of mass destruction: more people died in the attacks on the
World Trade Center and the Pentagon than in the Japanese attack
on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Indeed, it would be salutary for
us to change the name of our field, from "international relations"
to "world politics."9 The language of "international"
relations enables us to slip back into state-centric assumptions
too easily. Asymmetrical interdependence is not merely an
Yet as the state loses its monopoly on means of mass destruction,
the response to terrorism is strengthening the powers of states,
and the reliance of people on government. Even as states acquire
more authority, they are likely to cooperate more extensively
with each other on security issues, using international institutions
to do so. Ironically, as states acquire more authority, they
will be forced to learn better how to relate to networks -
both hostile networks and networks that they may use instrumentally
- and to rely more heavily on multilateral institutions. These
institutions, in turn, will have to define their tasks in
ways that emphasize their advantages - in conferring collective
legitimacy on actions - while minimizing the impact of their
liabilities, as cumbersome organizations without unity of
One result of these apparently paradoxical changes is closer
linkages between traditional security issues and other issues.
The artificial but convenient separation of the field into
security and political economy may be one of the casualties
of the struggle against terrorism. Areas formerly seen as
"non-security areas," such as air transport, transnational
finance, and migration, have become more important to security,
and more tightly subject therefore to state regulation.
Finally, the globalization of informal violence indicates
how parochial have been some of the disputes among various
schools of international relations theory. Analysis of the
ramifications of the attacks on the United States must come
to grips not only with structures of power, but also with
changing subjective ideas and their impact on strategies.
It must be concerned with international institutions, and
with non-state actors and networks -- elements of world politics
emphasized by different schools of thought. And it must probe
the connections between domestic politics and world politics.
We do not face a choice between these perspectives,
but rather the task of synthesizing them into a comprehensive,
yet coherent, view.
Our understanding of world politics has often advanced under
the pressure of events, such as those of World War II, the
Nuclear Revolution, and the growth of economic interdependence
over the last fifty years. Perhaps the globalization of informal
violence will refocus our attention for a new period of intellectual
creativity, as sober thinking about global governance and
classic political realism converge on problems identified
so well by the "liberalism of fear."
This essay was prepared for Dialog IO, the online
version of International Organization, and scheduled
to be posted February, 2002.
I am grateful for comments on earlier versions of this
paper to Carol Atkinson, Hein Goemans, Peter Gourevitch, Nannerl
O. Keohane, Lisa L. Martin, Joseph S. Nye, John Gerard Ruggie,
and Anne-Marie Slaughter, as well as to participants at seminars
at the University of Pennsylvania, October 18, 2001; at the
University of Amsterdam, November 2, 2001; at Duke University,
November 16, 2001; and at the University of Tokyo, December
10, 2001. At the Amsterdam colloquium I benefited particularly
from the comments of Gerd Junne and at the Tokyo colloquium
from the comments of Yasuaki Osuma.
by Osama bin Laden, New York Times, October 8, 2001,
2 The best definitional discussion of terrorism
that I know of us by Alex Schmid, who defines it as "an anxiety-inspiring
method of repeated violent action, employed by (semi)clandestine
individual, group or state actors, for idiosyncratic, criminal
or political reasons, whereby - in contrast to assassination
- the direct targets of violence are not the main targets"
(Schmid 1993: 8, 12).
3 A few pessimistic and prescient observers understood
that terrorism could pose a threat to the United States homeland
despite our dominance in military power. See Carter and Perry
1999, and the Hart-Rudman Report, Phase I, September 15, 1999,
4 Another implication of this change is that the
bright line between humanitarian intervention - to save others
from human rights abuses - and self-defense - to protect ourselves
- has become blurred.
5 In 1977 Keohane and Nye distinguished between
two types of dependence, which they labelled (following the
contemporary literature on economic interdependence) sensitivity
and vulnerability dependence. Sensitivity dependence refers
to "liability to costly effects imposed from outside before
policies are altered to try to change the situation." Vulnerability
dependence, in contrast, refers to "an actor's liability to
suffer costs imposed by external events even after policies
have been altered. This language seems inappropriate in the
contemporary situation, since in ordinary language, the attacks
on an unprepared United States on September 11 demonstrated
how vulnerable the country was. But the distinction between
levels of dependence before and after policy change remains
important. See Keohane and Nye 2001: 11; the text is unchanged
from the 1st edition, 1977.
6 My colleague Ole Holsti has pointed out to me
that in surveys conducted by the Chicago Council on Foreign
Relations in 1994 and 1998, the public more often regarded
international terrorism as a "critical" foreign policy issue
than did leaders. Indeed, 69% and 84%, respectively, of the
public regarded terrorism as a critical issue in those years,
compared to 33% and 61% of the elites. See Holsti 2000: 21.
7 Douglas North links legitimacy to the costs of
enforcing rules. "The costs of maintenance of an existing
order are inversely related to the perceived legitimacy of
the existing system. To the extent that the participants believe
the system fair, the costs of enforcing the rules and property
rights are enormously reduced." North 1981: 53.
8 It is tempting in hindsight to forget that the
political systems of European countries were not terribly
strong in 1947. Germany was still under occupation, Italy
had recently been Fascist, and France and Italy had very large,
pro-Soviet communist parties. Nevertheless, these countries
had relatively highly-educated populations, they had some
history of democratic or at least liberal politics, and their
administrative bureaucracies were quite effective.
9 This is a point that the late Susan Strange repeatedly
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