Losing Control

Paul Rogers Losing Control - Global Security in the 21st Century (Pluto Press, £12)



After the Gulf War President George Bush (senior) announced the 'New World Order'. This was more a comment on the unique position of America as the sole world super power  than on the action of the forces that came together to defeat Saddam Hussein.




Following the declaration by the new President Bush that he intends to go forward with the development of missile defence, the United States will be the major player in world affairs, able to take military action when and where it wishes. But the latest book by Professor Paul Rogers, Losing Control - Global Security in the 21st Century shows that there is an arguably greater force that even the US will have to come to terms with; this is the changing environment, and the effects of the over-use of world resources. The author, enjoying wide contacts in the peace and defence fields as professor of Peace Studies at Bradford University, knows that there are no simple answers to the question of global security.


The book begins with a description of international affairs during and following the cold war. Rogers says that there are two opinions on the result of the cold war. One is that 'we' won, the other that we all lost. These two views tend to colour thinking by their advocates, leading to different ideas about how international affairs should be conducted in future.


In a chapter 'The New Security Paradigm' he has sought to discern current and future trends. In spite of military implications it is the world economy that he seems to believe poses as great a threat to peace.

"The current economic system is not delivering economic justice, and there are now firm indications that it is not environmentally sustainable. This combination of wealth disparities and limits to current forms of economic growth is likely to lead to a crisis of unsatisfied expectations within an increasingly informed global majority of the disempowered".



 Back in 1972, at the UN conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm, we are reminded that Palmer Newbould said "...however successful population policies are, the world population is likely to treble before it reaches stability. If the expectation of this increased population were, for example, to emulate the present (1972) life-style of the USA, the demand on world resources would be increased approximately 15-fold".





Environmental degradation would be likely to show a similar increase, he believed, and global carrying capacity would be seriously exceeded. Global restraints on development and resources could not be avoided and would require "a reduction in the per capita resource use and environmental abuse of developed nations ...a levelling down as well as up".


The implications of this statement in 2001, after the new US administration has announced that it will not support the Kyoto agreement and is planning a major new development of nuclear energy, underlines the current dilemma. It also explains why Rogers has placed so much emphasis on the environmental dangers facing us compared to the dangers of accidental or pre-meditated wars. He quotes Wolfgang Sachs in 1993;-


"The North now glowers at the South from behind fortress walls. It no longer talks of the South as a cluster of young nations with a bright future, but views it as a breeding ground for crises". "...having enjoyed the fruits of development, that same small portion of the world is now trying to contain the explosion of demands on the global environment. To manage the planet has become a matter of security to the North".

 Rogers describes what he sees as two kinds of conflict. First are the 'epilogue wars', mainly the development of past trends and the residue of de-colonisation. Second he calls the 'prologue' wars, of which the Gulf war (1991) and the 'Zapatista' revolt in Mexico (1994) are two examples. Both are resource wars, in the case of Mexico due to the growing 'wealth-poverty divide.


The Gulf and Kosovo wars were examples which concerned a single territory and a war which it was possible to win. But in a chapter on 'Losing Control' the author draws together a number of instances where relatively small forces have been able to tweak the tiger's tail, causing considerable damage in the process without actually going to war. He cites the last IRA bombing campaigns in London, mounted with relatively small resources, which began to threaten Britain's supremacy in European finance. He also describes the attacks on US embassies abroad and the World Trade Center in New York. These show that all the might of the United States is unable to prevent a determined attack from an anonymous source.


Paul Rogers believes that military analysts are finding it difficult to explain the new trends of paramilitary action and 'asymmetric warfare'. He writes that most senior military and students of international

security "have yet to escape from an almost quaint reliance on military superiority". He asks how, for example, would the authorities deal with a group which introduced anthrax into the ventilation system

of the New York Stock Exchange (or the Subway).




In the final chapter on 'Shifting the Paradigm' he suggests ways in which the pattern of current events and future dangers can be modified. It surely requires recognition by those in power that the dangers we face are not just military and that the economic and environmental changes require just as dynamic a response. Arms control, closing the wealth-poverty divide, responding to environmental constraints, all have a part to play. In an echo of the peace movement's call in the 1980's for Britain to take the lead Rogers ends with suggestions how a middle power can still positively influence future events.


The reviewer, Jim Addington, is Chair of Action for UN Renewal, a UK group which was formed by the merger last year of Renew UN and the Forum for UN Renewal. Among its aims is the conversion of the British government and parliamentarians to a proper respect and support for the United Nations.