Moderated by Lyse Doucet of BBC World News, this panel considered how the war on terror could be reconfigured for the future. Sir David Omand started off the panel by pointing out that the present era was the first time that the threat cannot be named and that no agreement existed on the threat. That said, while the threat of terrorism is serious, it is perhaps not the biggest threat facing us; that may be global climate change, the global economy, and global governance challenges also await us.
Although at a technical level cooperation between the U.S. and Europe has never been better, at the moment we are not on the same strategic page. The U.S. was attacked from without, but the UK was attacked from within. This is a significant difference, and the responses to these very different kinds of threats will also vary. Sir Omand also argued that the response to terrorism hinges on the level of analysis that you use to understand terrorism: that of the citizen, which worries about the consequences to them, irrespective of its origin; that of risk-management, which is about lowering the risks; this means a lot of things about lowering, but it also means the prospect of intervening early. The final way to think about the threat is to consider it in the context of the interconnectedness of nations, and think of finding ways to enhance international cooperation around the problem of terrorism.
Baronness Pauline Neville-Jones concurred with the previous speakers, and noted that it is still true that the machinery of government is not yet fully equipped to deal with the threat. But within our concept of national security, there is a growing convergence across Europe that we need to focus on internal or domestic threats of terrorism. Though the threat of terrorism is perhaps not the most serious global risk, it is the most urgent and the one most likely to bring a government down. In Britain, Neville-Jones pointed out that policymakers do not talk in the language of the war on terror any longer. However, they do take the view that jihadism, while it is incapable of being defeated, is at very least capable of being disrupted. Terrorism is a tactic and attempts to deal with it can be handled in a way which does not lend support to your ideological opponents. If you treat it as some kind of terrorist conspiracy, you are left with one choice: you can apply the law fairly and rigorously. Yet you begin to abridge rights like freedom of speech and assembly, you run the risk of giving away the laws that make you a democracy. On the issue of radicalization, however, Neville-Jones suggested that this is something that the U.S. with its tradition of integration and multiculturalism has a lot to teach Europe. The UK does not think enough about nation-building, and our policies have multiculturalism have perversely increased the tendency towards separation. So we have a great deal to do is in social welfare for our own alienated communities, which is a long range task involving many policy instruments and national will.
All of the panellists agreed that the war on terror has reached a crucial turning point and that significant differences between the U.S. and Europe remain. Bridging these differences, and reconfiguring the war on terror to deal with a wider range of policy issues (including most especially Afghanistan, development, government and public diplomacy) is an essential first step for the next president.