Losing Control

In The Breaking of Nations, Robert Cooper observes that “the spread of the technology of mass destruction represents a potentially massive redistribution of power away from the advanced industrial (and democratic) states towards smaller states that may be less stable and have less of a stake in an orderly world” (viii-ix).

More frighteningly, “it may represent a redistribution of power away from the state itself and towards individuals, that is to say terrorists and criminals. If proliferation were to take place in this fashion it would not only be Western governments that would be losing control, but all those people who have an interest in an orderly world” (ix). Which is most of us.

Today and in the future “comparatively small groups will be able to do the sort of damage which before only state armies or major revolutionary movements cold achieve. A few fanatics with a ‘dirty bomb’ . . . or biological weapons will be able to cause death on a scale not previously envisaged.” Sixty people could carry out a terrorist attack “provided they were sufficiently committed, courageous and competent (or, alternatively, fanatical, foolhardy and fortunate.” Such a plot could take out 0.000001% of the world’s population, enough to cause massive destabilization (ix).

Cooper concludes, “Emancipation, diversity, global communication – all the things that promise an age of riches and creativity – could also bring a nightmare in which states lose control of the means of violence and people lost control of their futures. Civilization and order rest on the control of violence: if it becomes uncontrollable, there will be no order and no civilization” (ix).

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