Center for Strategic Decision Research


Introductory Remarks

Mr. Marc Perrin de Brichambaut
Director for Strategic Affairs, Ministry of Defense of France

I would like to set some key questions for our debates and suggest three areas that we might want to address: First, what risks and threats do we envisage for the coming period? Second, which international security organization is emerging following the end of the bipolar world? Third, are the responses that are emerging to this complex security environment appropriate and sufficient? 


One year ago, we were basically concerned with rogue states armed with weapons of mass destruction, and the debate focused on the adequacy of Missile Defense to address that perceived threat. The handful of states that we had in mind at that time have not gone away. 

However, the attacks of September 11 and the promulgation of mass terrorism have refocused our attention on the potential for attacks that have no regard for borders and that occur without warning. This new threat increasingly presents itself in conjunction with rogue states' ability to use weapons of mass destruction in an attack. We are only beginning to grasp the sophistication and resilience of those who resort to mass terrorism and how they are organized. 

Perhaps one key element of terrorist threats that we should not forget is surprise. The forms these threats can take are as many and as varied as the vulnerabilities of our modern societies: our information systems, energy systems, and transportation systems can be attacked by tools that are not truly weapons but can become weapons when used to disrupt and destroy. 

We also have to think about the tools through which the threats can be delivered and about the underlying causes and motivations for their use. These are often legacy problems with strong regional roots: problems linked to the process of modernization in Middle Eastern societies, particularly Israel, but also in Kashmir and the Balkans, where preventive action clearly has not been sufficient to create long-term stability. Poverty and resentment are not the only factors that encourage individuals to choose the route of terrorism. 


We tend to describe the events of September 11 as a watershed; we are good at defining watersheds after we have fallen over them, but we are very poor at predicting them in advance. We also tend to cling to elements of continuity rather than assimilate discontinuities in the military and political dimensions of power. 

The pre-eminence of the United States as a global power with multifaceted capabilities is obvious. But is it appropriate to define the nature of the security environment by referencing the powers that have most influence? Whether we live in a unipolar or in a multipolar world may be of less relevance than the variety of relationships that exist in different fields and that are relevant to our individual and collective security. The list of issues that affect security in a modern society is long: global economics, religious and political extremism, demographics and migrations, illegal trafficking of different substances, inequality of incomes, access to resources, and governance and state failure. It is a potent list. But the fragmentation of our security environment may be its most salient and intractable feature. However, interconnections among regions are also obvious, so small unexpected developments can have very widespread impact. 


Perceptions of the threat environment by the U.S. and its allies are different, as are the perceptions of other regions. The U.S. feels it is at war, and is ready to face the consequences. Europeans clearly feel less directly threatened, although they probably are just as threatened. 

Responses to the latest threat of mass terrorism are also varied, from retaliatory or pre-emptive use of force to massive improvements in homeland defense to protect the civilian population. But these responses will probably not be successful unless there is very strong international cooperation in such delicate areas as intelligence, policing, and the law. Successful responses also require the strong mobilization of public opinion and a willingness to make certain sacrifices in the area of civil liberties. 

We therefore call upon all international organizations-the U.N., EU, NATO, OSCE, Arab League, ASEAN, and the Scharping group-to assimilate these new requirements. But as yet these organizations have not been called upon by the U.S. to participate in a variable geometry coalition. 




















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