A short while back I mentioned the Ministry of Defence’s latest 30-year trends snapshot. Since then, I’ve come across a recently published small book that takes a rather different perspective on the trends which will affect defence and security. Beyond Terror, by Chris Abbott, Paul Rogers, and John Sloboda is an update of a report last year from the Oxford Research Group, now published by Rider at £4.99. It argues that terrorism is broadly a product of some rather larger global trends. From a futures point of view, it’s also interesting for the way it reframes the security discussion by suggesting a competing discourse from the conventional military view.

The four significant trends they identify and review are:

  • competition over resources – energy, water and others
  • climate change – their evidence includes an assessment by the US Pentagon that abrupt climate change risks should be “elevated beyond a scientific debate to a US national security concern
  • marginalisation of the ‘majority world’ -through income differentials, poverty, and pandemics such as HIV/AIDS
  • global militarisation – including the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

The most interesting part of the book is where they suggest that if we’re going to make progress we need to evolve a different worldview: a shift from the current military “control discourse” to a new “sustainability discourse”. And they suggest what this might mean for each of the trends.

Trend -> Control discourse -> Sustainability discourse

Resource shortage -> Control of Persian Gulf -> Consumption reduction

Climate change -> Nuclear power -> Renewable energy

Marginalisation -> Societal control -> Poverty reduction

Militarisation -> Counter-proliferation -> Non-proliferation

Terrorism -> Counter-terorism -> Political dialogue.

For those readers familiar with causal layered analysis [CLA], this type of re-framing is akin to the third layer of CLA, where the underlying ‘worldviews’ or ‘discourses’ are identified. (The linked article requires some concentration, by the way).

Paul Rogers, one of the authors of Beyond Terror, wrote a recent article in Open Democracy in which he discussed the control vs sustainability models in the context of the current US strategy in Iraq.