Terrorism in Russia

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At Least 36 Dead in Russian Train Explosion
Another 150 or More Reported Hurt in Blast

This Wash Post headline and story about an apparent terrorist act calls to mind part of Jean-Marie Guehenno's under-known book, The End of the Nation-State, in which one of the future scenarios is a sort of "Lebanonization" of the world–that is, a planet in which terrorism doesn't actually threaten to truly undermine political and economic stability but remains an inescapable fact of life.

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  1. Doby writes:

    End of the nation-state? Sounds like an anarhcists wet dream.

    Not so much. The general idea is that international organizations and norms will weaken the nation-state, such that citizens will have effectively no control over the forces that affect their lives. It will be like living in Gaul under Rome.

    For example, if the WTO is open to just about any country, and currencies are increasingly international — think not only the euro, but also the number of countries that have pegged their domestic currency to the dollar — then why shouldn’t Quebec leave Canada? It’ll just join up with the WTO, sign on to a couple of treaties, and use the US$ or the ? instead of the Cn$. But at the same time, why would it matter if they did? Nothing would change, because international institutions have more impact on the lives of citizens than the nation-state. That’s a radical simplification of the argument, which is in the nature of a prediction, not a recommendation.

    The upshot is that Guehenno’s prediction was not an anarchist’s wet dream by any means: the French version of the Guehenno book was called La fin de la d?mocratie.

    The Guehenno book is one of the best books on politics I have ever read. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

  2. Follow up: Apparently Guehenno has written a book more recently (1999) called L’avenir de la liberte (The Future Of Liberty), which appears to continue developing similar themes. Alas, no English translation is available.

    Guehenno now serves as UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations.

  3. I was never in Lebanon before or during the war, so I’m in no position to say what it was like at that time. I’d suggest a Helena Cobbam’s The Making of Modern Lebanon, not because it’s particularly great but because it’s particularly short and more or less neutral, and was written at 1985, a time when terrorism was at its height and the society was still functioning. This book gives a good rundown of how the central features of Lebanon’s society remained intact despite all efforts to remake them. (The period after this book was written was the period of Syrian consolidation, not terrorism, and that’s when Lebanon really fell apart.)

    As always in this type of conversation, I think you’re interpreting me as saying “terrorism isn’t bad” or “Lebanon was a great place in eighties,” which obviously I’m not. But terrorism had no bearing on anybody’s interventions into Lebanon-not Syria’s, not America’s, not France’s, and not Israel’s. The Syrians came in in 1976 to put down Kamal Jumblatt and bail out the Maronites, the French came in because they had invented the country, the Israelis came in to install Bashir Gemayel, the U.S. came in to oversee the withdrawal of the PLO. Nick’s original statement, that Lebanon continued to function despite terrorism, is correct. That Lebanon stopped functioning for other reasons is another issue.

    By the way, I didn’t mean to sound harsh in my original post, which reading back over I see may have sounded that way.

  4. In addition to the international bodies and their “growing” power over nation states, doesn’t it seem like the issue of int’l terrorism is one of the greater threats to the nationstate. The simply fact is that the nation-state hinges on sovereignty over a particular mass of land and people. With int’l terrorists moving in and out of various friendly, non-friendly, or neutral states, the pursuing nation state is presented with a dilemna. To defend its sovereignty does it violate all other nation states with its police forces? And then what is the response of the affected nation state(s)? I don’t think this issue has begun to play itself out to the extent that it can become a major issue.

  5. yelowd writes:

    In addition to the international bodies and their “growing” power over nation states, doesn’t it seem like the issue of int’l terrorism is one of the greater threats to the nationstate.

    Just to be clear, Guehenno does not see international organizations as independently asserting their will against nation-states; what’s going on is that there are economic and cultural forces which empower those organizations. I like the WTO because I don’t think there should be tariffs. I like convertible currency. I like no-visa-for-short-stay rules. I like the internet. All those things take power away from the nation-state.

    Getting to your point, Guehenno’s discussion of terrorism echoes the post-9/11 discussions of the irony that terrorism uses the facilities of the international order — open borders, air travel, the internet — against that order. I have no idea what his views are on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and would be interested to hear them.

  6. alkali says
    “terrorism uses the facilities of the international order — open borders, air travel, the internet — against that order.”

    True, but the key to defeating terrorism is to help them defeat order and borders.
    If borders were WIDE open, as in the sense of nonexistent, refugees could be a safety valve to the world’s hot spots.

  7. End of the nation-state? Sounds like an anarhcists wet dream. “Lebanonization” wouldn’t be very pleasent (or libertarian).

  8. Well, given that there has one form of “terrorism” or another since the time of Hammurabi, I would suspect predictions of future terrorist activity aren’t all that prescient.

    BTW, the “nation-state” is an anomaly in human history, one which which has often had more costs than benefits, so its demise may not be so horrible.

  9. I would hardly regard Lebanon as a society “in which terrorism doesn’t actually threaten to truly undermine political and economic stability.” When terrorism was “an inescapable fact of life” in Lebanon, I don’t think anyone would say it didn’t threaten political and economic stability.

    True, there is political stability and a measure of peace these days, but it is the peace of the defeated and the stability of the occupied. The Lebanese are occupied by Syria now largely because of terrorism, when it was a fact of life, destroyed economic and political stability.

  10. BTW, on the history of the nation-state, see Anthony Giddens, “The Nation-State and Violence.” Amongst other things, he mounts a fairly convincing attack against Weber and Marx for ignoring nationalism in their analysis of social, etc. development, in favor of economics (i.e., materialism). He thinks that the development of the nation-state is the most important aspect of modernity, and that despite what the left and the right might of the importance of economics, capitalist entities, that it is the nation-state which really pulls the strings (this is tied into his thoughts concerning the monopolization of sanctioned violence by a centralized government authority, as opposed to sanctioned violence being parceled out to various local, independent holders of power).

  11. “a planet in which terrorism doesn’t actually threaten to truly undermine political and economic stability but remains an inescapable fact of life”

    Heck, if it don’t undermine political stability, what’s it good for?

  12. R.C., you’re wrong for more reasons than can be gone into here, but the defining characteristic of the Lebanon war was the stability of the government and the continued function of the economy-neither of which were brought down by terrorism, and both of which survived until relatively late in the war, despite the split of the army, countless assassinations, the demise of tourism, etc. The lira didn’t collapse until the late eighties, elections continued to be held, even when they were stage managed by the Israelis and the Syrians, and the government didn’t really fall apart until after the Taif agreement, when Michel Aoun’s administration tried to resist the Syrian occupation (which was supposed to end with the agreement anyway), and Syria, under cover of the Gulf War buildup and with the tacit approval of the United States, destroyed his government. Terrorism had very little to do with that, nor even did the militias. Lebanon’s neighbors destroyed and continue to destroy Lebanon.

  13. Maybe so, Tim, but I seem to recall a drastic contraction of the Lebanese economy during the civil wars/terrorism, in no small part because there was so much terrorism around. Tourism, foreign capital flight, etc.

    I’m not sure how anyone can say that a country that went from being an independent nation to an occupied one hasn’t had its political stability affected is beyond me. The intermediate stage of having its elections stage-managed by hostile foreign powers does not strike me as a stable situation. The terrorist stage of Lebanon’s descent was critical to all the foreign interventions that happened later, and I attribute these interventions to the weakening of Lebanon by internal strife and terrorism.

    Really, to claim that Lebanon as a functional society was largely unaffected by a civil war marked by rampant terrorism strikes me as bizarre. It went from being one of the best places in the Mideast to being, if not exactly a cesspit, much less than it was. Even if it resisted corrosion by terrorism for years, there can be little doubt that, at the end of the day, Lebanon was brought down by it and its immediate and predictable consequences.

    Israel strikes me as a much better example of a society that has resisted corrosion by terrorism, for all the impact that terror has had on Israeli society. At least they still have their own government and one of the most productive economies in the Mideast.

    I haven’t really thought much about Lebanon in years, though. Any suggestions on articles that might advance my education would be appreciated.

  14. Hmmmmm. Nobody seems to be much of a Russia-watcher. If anything about this undermines the Russian state it will be the accusations of FSB involvement.
    In fact, after the apartment bombings, I’m willing to believe that Putin set this whole thing up. We’ll know for sure it’s a frame-up if the Unity Party uses this as an excuse to intervene in Georgia and maybe occupy the Pankisi Gorge.
    Quite an interesting game of chess we’ve been playing with Russia over that pipeline; it looks like the stakes have just been raised again.
    BTW, I wouldn’t put this past the Chechen either. I’m just saying that Putin (and Russia) stand to benefit most from this.

  15. The movie Brazil seems more on the mark every year. Watch it and see the future.

  16. Neat comment, evilcor.

    I think alkali nails it: global terrorism isn’t the cause of the decline of the nation state, but one of the symptoms.

  17. Wow, Russia must be *really* free and prosperous if the Chechens hate it so much…

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