From Ethical Politics
Liddism was a term coined in the late 1990s to identify a post-Cold War trend by western states to control threats to international security by military means, rather than understanding the nature of the threats and countering them at source. The analogy is with a cooking pot in which every attempt is made to keep the lid on rather than turn down the heat, implying that liddism is ultimately self-defeating. Thus:
“Attempting to keep the lid on insecurity – liddism – without addressing the core reasons for dissent, will not work. It is more likely to make western elite societies more vulnerable.” 1
Liddism - before 9/11
Prior to the 9/11 attacks the liddism analysis identified four potential drivers of global insecurity:
- The widening socio-economic divide, with a transnational elite of one-fifth of the world’s population having around 85% of the wealth.
- Huge improvements in education, literacy and communications across the world, ensuring that the marginalised majority was increasingly aware of it own marginalisation.
- The prospect of environmental constraints, especially climate change, having a massive impact on the marginalised majority.
- A western security paradigm, largely shared by elites across the world, that the status quo must be maintained.
Liddism - after 9/11
Since 9/11, the war on terror is seen as a prime example of the old control paradigm or liddism in that it has concentrated on military control rather than countering the factors which have given the al-Qaida movement its support in many quarters. The failure of the war on terror to achieve its results gives scope to argue for a rethinking of approaches to international security. This may also be aided by two other factors. One, the severe economic downturn that evolved in 2007-08, is likely to have an impact for at least a decade and is recognised as having potential for social unrest. The other is the rapidly growing awareness of the security implications of climate change.
The idea of sustainable security, as developed by a UK think tank, Oxford Research Group, is therefore attracting interest. This is rooted in a common security approach focused primarily on individuals and communities, but with an emphasis on long-term sustainability. It thus requires recognition that any security policy must embrace an understanding of any negative long-term impacts and must seek to avoid those. In relation to global trends the main emphasis would therefore be on closing the socio-economic divide together with a radical response to climate change and other environmental constraints.
Note: The term liddism also gave rise to the liddite conversations, series of meetings in London that started shortly before 9/11, and are hosted by Gabrielle Rifkind to provide a forum for discussing global security issues from a liddite perspective.
1 Paul Rogers, Losing Control: Global Security in the 21st Century, Pluto Press, 2000 (3rd edition due in 2010)
- Peter Gill, "Securing the Globe: Intelligence and the Post-9/11 Shift from ‘Liddism’ to ‘Drainism’", 2003 (pdf)
Author: Paul Rogers