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Risk analysis 2010 / Risikoanalyse nach dem "Krieg gegen den Terrorismus"

by Cornelia Beyer

Abstract (Zusammenfassung deutsch)

In der vergangenen Dekade hat die Welt einen wahrlich globalen Krieg erfahren: den Krieg gegen den Terrorismus. Direkt darauf folgend sind wir in eine globale Rezession eingetreten, die ihresgleichen nur in der Great Depression der 1930er Jahre findet. Aus der historischen Erfahrung wissen wir, dass solche Down-Phasen in der Geschichte haeufig von weiterer Gewalt begleitet werden. Nun stellt sich die Frage, wird der jetzige Downturn zu weiteren kriegerischen Auseinandersetzungen fuehren oder wird sich in Folge der Konflikt, beschrieben mit "Terrorismus versus die westlichen Staaten" weiter verschaerfen? Und was koennte man dagegen tun? Waehrend dieser Artikel nicht in der Lage sein wird, diese grossen Fragen zu beanworten, will er zeigen, dass Symptome von gesellschaftlichem, wirtschaftlichem, und international politischem Wandel seit 2008 auffindbar sind. Die hier angesprochenen Prozesse beziehen sich auf einen wahrscheinlichen Rueckgang in Kommunikation (gesellschaftlich und wirtschaftlich) und Kooperation (politisch), ebenfalls wahrscheinlich temporaer. Waere ein solcher Rueckgang wirklich feststellbar, so koennte dies – kurz- bis mittelfristig - negative Auswirkungen auf die Moeglichkeit einer friedlichen Loesung der jetzigen Krise haben.

The assumption of this article is that ‘politics’ proper is back after the ‘end’ of the so-called Global War on Terrorism. This can be interpreted positively, as it involves a reduction of the discourse on securitization, a reduction in the need of militarization of society (sadly not necessarily a reduction of militarization as such), and the possibility for increased harmonious and interdependent interaction on a global level, not only between nations, but also societally, between groups and individuals. On the other hand, due to direct replacement of one crisis (the terrorism-crisis) with another one (the economic crisis), new problems have emerged that might pose security risks also, some similar to the preceding period of ‘globalization’, some different. The phase of so-called ‘globalisation’ occurred after the end of the Cold War. Globalisation involved the spread of economic activity, supported by new technologies of communication and transport, over the globe. This not only led to increasing liberalisation, also societal changes increased in speed, the need for flexibility and adaptability increased as well, and while some people gained a lot from this new openness, others felt left out or behind and could not cope with the speed of change and the instabilities involved. An ‘overheating’ of these processes around 2000 led to the emergence of the so-called dot-com crisis. This affected mainly the Western nations and also those that had tried to jump on the bandwagon of technology economy (the ‘new economy’). Also, of course, others were affected negatively who were not even close to be able to participate en masse in this new economy or who felt the increasing gap and oftentimes contradiction between the new and the old.

Around 2001, the argument was sometimes promoted that these inherent tensions in the phase and processes of globalisation contributed to the terrorist attacks of 9/11. With the following Global War on Terrorism, the Western societies re-militarized, put an immense effort in securing their societies (oftentimes taking a top-down approach), and spreading this new form of global security governance throughout the world. Therefore, while after 2001 the processes of preceding globalisation came partly to a standstill or at least slowed down; basic elements of these processes remained active, but were used to spread different policies of security, instead of liberal market practices. These nonetheless can be understood as a form of globalisation, and as an attempt to spread global governance, even if in a new political dimension.

When the Global War on Terrorism was essentially coming to its own ‘end’ (this is debatable, but many understand the election of US president Obama as a marker for this, even though the military activities in Iraq and Afghanistan are still ongoing), it was quickly followed by a global recession and a financial crisis. This new crisis in essence called for the need to spread even more global governance, and reform the existing institutions and regulations, in yet another sphere of global activity, the financial and banking sector.

The societal and political global responses in the meantime cannot be fully understood yet, but some indicators are present to support the argument, that politics of ‘withdrawal’, rather than proactive problem-resolution, were oftentimes pursued. This might have been caused by anxiety stemming from the economic risks from this crisis, as well as possibly from the incapability of political leaders to find fast and effective solutions to this crisis. However, in just this reaction to the new risk-setting lies an inherent risk itself. While discourse and cooperation, both on the societal as well as the political-international level are needed to remedy the crisis and find solutions to the current problematiques, indications can be seen that instead a reduction in both of these on different levels might have occurred in the past two years. The below will present some possible indicators for a reduction of discourse, communication and cooperation as described above.

The Radicati Group is measuring and analyzing IT communication. One of its recent reports claimed that internet-based communication (private and business) has declined significantly since 2008, hence the start of the recession. For business emails, for example, the reduction factor since 2008 is around 50%. For private emails, it is around 20%. If this would indeed indicate a reduction in societal communication, this potentially could have had an effect of rather continuing the crisis, and worsening the feared problems of insecurity, mistrust, societal tensions and exclusions, and international tensions, instead of providing with tools to counterbalance these processes and help remedy them. The data of the Radicati Group are not yet confirmed by other statistics, so the empirical background would need to be strengthened here. The responding figures are to be found here.

Also, as the Security Council Report had analysed, and as the graphs below illustrate, on the international/ global level political decision-making and discourse apparently have been reduced since the beginning of the era of recession (see figure "Grafik3").

All of the above indicates an at least partially counter-productive reaction to the current crisis, a reaction which includes a decrease of interaction, communication, and possibly cooperation on several levels. While this reaction seems to have some tradition and might even have some yet unknown but plausible causes, it is known to potentially enable more crises and entail the risks of future conflict in the medium term.

In times of economic crises, following a major international warfare (the Global War on Terrorism), cooperation and communication on different levels and in the trans-level dimension are needed to prevent a continuation of these crises, to remedy the underlying problems, and to help prevent resulting conflicts or deteriorations of societal and political achievements made in the past. While countermeasures and political and societal practices to remedy these processes and counterbalance the risks inherent in them are theoretically known, they are not always practically realized.

If currently or recently we have responded to recession in cooperating and communicating less than before, that would have implied less social resources for solving the problems inherent in such an economic situation. It also would have meant that the political, democratic resources to counter the recession on a global level, and to prevent new conflicts emerging from this situation on that level, would have been weak. Luckily, as yet no new major conflicts have arisen. Sadly, the global crisis is not solved. Democracies and functioning democracies in particular, are essentially dependent on the public sphere. If discussion and deliberation here are not sufficiently taking place, democratic problem solving capacities will suffer. Political will formation - at least ideally, but also in practice – depends on a vibrant public sphere where new ideas and demands are discussed which then are transported via parties and the media into politics proper where they – depending on their success in the political game – will be transformed into policies. Of course, for changes on a global level many other mechanism apply and interfere, power politics and diplomacy being here more important and democratic processes less present.

Therefore, we might not be able to directly influence great politics on a global level easily. But maybe, a possible way forward is nonetheless to try and communicate and cooperate more, even if for many this is only on their small scale day to day level, overall it might have beneficent political effects. Or to say it differently: For the sake of overcoming our current crisis, let’s talk more!

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