Why security depends on poverty and development
The fight against terrorism must not break the process of development, argues RALF DAHRENDORF. Here he outlines his vision of a smart development policy
The attempt to explain dramatic, specific events, in general terms, may be tempting. It is also difficult, and, in some ways it is always dubious. At a conference in Germany there were at least two dozen explanations of what happened in that school, when a boy ran amok and killed many pupils and teachers in 2002. In Erfurt I disappointed a large audience by saying that little can be said about such an event by way of explanation. It is in the first instance, horrible, but is also an event for which there may be no particular explanation beyond the motives of the individuals involved. It may be very misleading to argue that saying this is all about relations between parents and children, or about changes in the curriculum and about schools or about the anxieties of a whole generation. Even the term ‘running amok’ is, after all, rather older than this particular event.
Now terrorism, as a rule, is not about the actions of one individual. Terrorism is a more organised form of violence, and it involves groups. A degree of caution is needed as we try to explain the 1 1th of September 2001, or indeed, terrorism in a more general sense. For one thing there are many different kinds of terrorism. Consider for example the Red Army Faction or Baader-Meinhof terrorism in Germany in the 1870s. It was intended to shake the institutions of the country. But it was most definitely not intended to lead the terrorists themselves into the Government of the time. The intent was to shake the institutions without actually taking them over. For that reason it was intrinsically hopeless, and intrinsically suicidal, in the sense that for those who perpetrated the acts of terrorism, the end result could only be their own end.
There are other examples. In the dreadful years in Northern Ireland, there was a different kind of terrorism- almost rational, if that word is permissible in connection with such acts of violence. Quite clearly, the Irish Republican Army intended, and still intends, for Northern Ireland to join the south in a state, which in the end, comprises the whole island of Ireland. And so as Ulster, was left out of the initial terrorism-based independence of the Republic of Ireland, they are trying to destabilise the region, to make it non-viable, and then to create a new unified country.
Palestine, in a curious way, is somewhere in between. Most Palestinian terrorists know full well that whatever they do they are not likely to gain control of the whole region. There are not only the suicide bombings, but there is a general kind of terrorism which again is intrinsically suicidal. The objective is to mobilise the world community to support the creation of a state of Palestine. At the same time, they will destabilise Israel. It is an interesting and still unresolved question where this kind of picture belongs in relation to the 11th of September. Certainly the actual acts of terrorism belong to the intrinsically suicidal side of terrorism, rather than a category of clear, definable, objectives.
Now I mention all this not to dwell on it, much less to offer some general explanation of all these types of terrorism. We must reflect on the set of conditions which exists in many places, that gives rise to active resentment and lends itself to the ruthless mobilisation of people by leaders whose main interest may well be their own power. Following September 1 1th, the brilliant journalist and author, Michael Ignatieff said:
"One of the unacknowledged underlying causes of the September 11 events was the coincidence of globalised prosperity in the Imperial world with distant aggression in the states that achieved independence from the colonial empires of Europe in the 1960s. The collapse of state institutions has been exacerbated by urbanisation, by the relentless growth of lawless shanty towns, that collect populations of unemployed or underemployed men who can see the promise of globalised prosperity on the TV and in every café, but cannot enjoy it themselves. In states like Pakistan, where the state no longer provides basic services to the poorest people, Islamic parties, funded from Saudi Arabia, step into the breach, providing clinics, schools, and orphanages, where the poor receive protection at the price of indoctrination in hatred.""
This is a very thoughtful and complex statement with strong implications. The phenomenon which Ignatieff describes, is, of course, not confined to Pakistan. There is the extraordinary story of the British so-called ""shoe bomber"", Richard Reid, a story which is very close to what Ignatieff describes in more general terms. The young man born in South London to poor parents who split up, the mother remarrying, and the father spending more time in prison than out. The young man grew up on the streets of London and therefore grew almost automatically into a career of petty crime, and on to serious crime. Initially, he is sent to youth institutions until he ends up for longer terms in prisons, where nobody cares about him. In prison there is a Muslim cleric who looks after some of these lost criminal souls, and persuades many of them that the particular religious faith which he has to offer will be inclusive. He does this not just by words, but also by looking after their physical needs and their well-being generally. It is very interesting that in the prisons of London, the priests of other denominations are virtually absent. It is only the Muslims who look after prisoners, and so it is perhaps not surprising that many of them come out feeling that they have at last found a community. This was the case of Richard Reid. For a while he was a regular attendee at a particular Mosque, had many friends, and seemed to be going straight. But when that world appeared insufficiently radical, he drifted to the violent end of the group which he had joined, and from that violent end, into the organisation of which we now know that he was a minor, but potentially quite effective, member. In the life of one individual, it is the story which Ignatieff describes as characteristic of people in quite a number of countries. Behind this, is, in my view, a systematic social phenomenon to which we have not paid enough attention.
When Kenneth Galbraith had ended his time as Ambassador to India, he gave a brilliant series of lectures about the nature of poverty. In these he presented an argument which is as valid today as it was then. He said the traditional cycle of poverty (among people who have less than one dollar a day to spend) was also viable in India. People have grown used to living in this way - they do live in it. It may not have been much of a life, but it has become viable for a very long time. And then he describes, very impressively, a dramatic change. Suddenly, a few youngsters decide not to drink or use the goat’s milk but to take it to the nearest market place and sell it. Suddenly people begin to sell some of the food which they were traditionally eating, and two things happen: the food balance in the village is disturbed with quite considerable effects; and the money they get, though it isn’t much, is used in Galbraith’s case- to buy a transistor radio. In other words, they become part of the modern world where images and words of hope are introduced into what seemed an eternal cycle of poverty. The next step is somehow to be a part of this American world, whether it is Coca Cola or McDonalds.
What happens at this stage is a terrible process of dislocation. If traditional roots are cut, and there are no new structures yet in place, people no longer have the relationships which Galbraith described as the traditional cycle of poverty, nor do they have the relationships which, over time, have developed in American or British cities, or elsewhere in the developed world. They are in a horrible in-between position.
We talk too easily about development because in fact it leads through a phase of extreme vulnerability: the vulnerability of individuals who have lost a traditional way of life and not gained a new one, the vulnerability of societies, and the vulnerability of the entire environment.
Suddenly one remembers, in the case of Britain, the economic history books about the early 19th Century, in what two great Economic historians called ‘the bleak age’, one remembers Dickens, and the description of England at the time of extreme vulnerability. The villages were no longer there and the cities did not have the sustaining character, nor structures which last and which one can live with over a long period. In this phase of extreme vulnerability, people are psychologically exposed. It is a phase in which it is very tempting for ruthless leaders to come and mobilise those who are lost. It is a specific modern phenomenon. That is also an important point to underline: Ernest Gellner always emphasised that if you look at violence in the world today, do not fall for the story that it is the return of some deep historical antagonism. He always insisted it was a specifically modern form of mobilisation of vulnerable people by ruthless leaders. What we are faced with now, in this new type of security problem, is not the return of history. It is our own world at a point of development at which people have very little resistance to the Muslim priest in Richard Reid’s prison, or to others who mobilise the vulnerable.
Explanations are not excuses. Nor would I ever claim that what I am describing here is inevitable. I am a Liberal and therefore not a Hegelian. There is no historical necessity which must lead to a period of terrorism. That is perhaps the central issue in connection with the subject of Third World poverty, terrorism, and sustainable development. How do we get people through the valley of tears without their running the risk, and the rest of us running the risk, of being mobilised by evil leaders?
This was also the problem in the transition from Communism to a more viable form of socio-economic development in East-Central Europe. Even there, the transition has had many consequences which those who first went in and recommended Western institutions had not really bargained for, i.e. dislocation without new structures.
In order to create conditions in which the vulnerability is minimised, we have to rethink our attitude to development. It is clear that terrorism has to be fought. But as a second line of action, it is necessary not to aggravate the risks that are involved in the process of development, and if possible, to create conditions which make terrorism unlikely. Security nowadays requires a new combination of military action and socioeconomic action, and this new combination may well be one of the great themes of our time. In this case, we need social and economic development if we are to be able to cope with this period of extreme vulnerability. Chris Patten, the European Commissioner, recently described this with an analogy to ‘smart bombs’ by saying we need a ‘smart development’ policy. We need an approach to the socio-economic development in the poorer countries of the world which is more thoughtful than it has often been in the past, and which above all, does not believe that once you have dislocated people, everything else will happen by itself.
What is a smart development policy? Let me make five points here. The first of these is that a Smart Development Policy is most definitely not just about money, and it is therefore never enough to pour money into situations in which we want to see effective development. We should really stop talking about Marshall plans for the poor countries which are at the threshold of development. The Marshall Plan was a very special plan, achieved with an effort after the Second World War, and it was most successful in countries in which you had a combination of a widespread and an unchallenged motivation to make the effort oneself to move forward, the memory of an infrastructure that had been destroyed by the war, and some sort of model which one was aspiring to achieve. The Marshall Plan in Europe was only a modest success - and of course one extreme example of the modesty of the success was post-war Britain, and all the problems which contemporary Britain in the 1960s and 70s had inherited from the class system. The infrastructure was old but not destroyed, and there was no strong motivation to achieve a particular model. So pouring money into these situations, let alone calling it the Marshall Plan, does not solve the problem of motivating and training people to move forward to a modern economy and society. Much more careful targeting is necessary.
Secondly, the major task of any smart development policy is institution building. This is not a new idea any more. The World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and other international organisations, are well aware of this. Recent papers on strategic planning often include actions to deal with the social and economic causes of problems as part of the plan. This is not yet realised everywhere, but it is in quite a few places. A favourite blueprint for institution building is the book by Amartya Sen, ‘Development as Freedom’. The Nobel Laureate in Economics actually spells out the conditions which have to be guaranteed if we want to make progress and minimise vulnerability. Sen emphasises particularly the importance of political freedoms for a sustainable process of development. He has become famous for his thesis that it is very rare for there to be a true and long-term famine in areas in which there is full freedom of the press, which seemed a sort of strange thesis to us, and yet, it’s confirmed wherever one goes. If you look at Mali and the Kongo today there is no reporting of what goes on. In countries where people are literally starving or dying of diseases following on hunger, there is often a significant export of foodstuffs which benefits a small number in the ruling elite. Political freedoms are part of this institution-building process. They are what Sen calls economic facilities, infrastructure, social opportunities, education and transparency guarantees. Particular emphasis should be placed on a rule of law. I now believe that of all the institutions that have to be built, a non-corrupt, trusted legal system is possibly the most important, and it is one of the necessary conditions of smart development. Educating judges and giving them a position in which they command respect is certainly perhaps one of our first tasks. It occurs to me how important the contributions of Alexander Hamilton to the Federalist Papers of America were. He asked, not how many divisions has the Pope but how many divisions do the judges have? What is their power? Why should anybody do what they say? How can we create good judges?
Thirdly, also following Sen, a smart social policy is needed for development. Sen calls it ‘protective security’ but he means ‘social security’. It is necessary, he says, to provide a social safety net for preventing the affected population from being reduced to abject misery, and in some cases even starvation and death. Now that is easier said than done, and it is little less than the demand for a welfare state in developing countries which, in all probability, they cannot afford. But an element of protective security, of not letting people fall through all nets, could quite easily become one of the key concerns of international organisations whether governmental or non-governmental. Certainly fixed institutional arrangements which achieve this and which build the care for the vulnerable into the system itself from an early point is part of the Smart Development Policy.
The fourth point is in some ways the simplest. We need examples of success, so that we can gain support, both at home and abroad, both among the rich and the poor, for a Smart Development Policy. Where do these examples of success come from? I have been involved in intensive discussions with Paddy Ashdown, now Lord Ashdown, who has taken on the job of High Representative for Bosnia, with very careful thought about how and whether Bosnia can be turned into a success story. The answer is, by establishing the rule of law. In my view, the critical country, if one looks at this from the European angle, is Turkey. If Turkey can become a success story, that will have a signal effect on many others in the region and beyond. Of course, Turkey and its history, over the last century, had a few good starts: it did have, precisely, the insistence on the rule of law in the Attaturk days, but we have left Turkey out of our European home. It is the most important single country in our vicinity if we want to show where it is possible to move forward to a sustainable, developed state, and move forward for a country with a large active Muslim element.
The fifth element of a smart development policy has to do with Europe. The record of the European Union in its development policy is mixed. It is, in some cases, a success story; it is, in other cases, a continuation of traditional relationships of member states with countries in the Third World. I believe the Europaeum Commissioner for External Relations Chris Patten has the right attitude to things, for I am one of those who believes that there will not be a European military capability to hold its own with the United States forquite a long time to come. The relationship with the US and, indeed, the whole notion of the West is crucial for both the present and the future of freedom. A certain amount of division of labour is emerging. We all know that many leading Americans are impatient when it gets to the other side of the process of guaranteeing security, impatient, where we come to nation building, and perhaps even more impatient when we get to the socio-economic structures of institutions which have been talked about.
It would be quite helpful for many, and quite appropriate, if we in Europe consciously developed the ability to have and practise the Smart Development Policy, particularly addressed to the period of vulnerability. Will this do the trick? I started with a few sceptical comments about explanations, and I am bound to end with a sceptical comment about our ability to solve problems. There may be success stories and I hope there will be. There will also be other answers to the periods of vulnerability where we have a very special responsibility. One consequence of a period of vulnerability has always been migration. That is to say, people decide it takes too long for me to wait until my own country offers me the life chances which, if I go somewhere else, I can have, immediately or tomorrow. We must take migration seriously as a great compliment to us - as it was a great compliment to the United States when so many Europeans went in the nineteenth century. We would therefore make a dreadful mistake if we tried to stop it. We need an attitude to development which is conscious of the strains, of the frustrations, and of the possible consequences of this process.
Without such an attitude, we will simply not get the international security which we need, and want, and so it is worth much more thought, and much more hard work than we have given it: a Smart Development Policy that influences international security.