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The Gorka Dissertation, Part II

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JDCIn my prior post, I tried to make clear that you don’t need to get very far—less than twenty pages, in fact—into Gorka’s dissertation to recognize its academic shoddiness. Something like 7% of it is a cut-and-paste job from an earlier article. In of itself, that’s not a problem. But the article came out 3-4 years before the dissertation, and Gorka couldn’t be bothered to change the text or update the data to reflect that gap. The first twenty pages also reveal a pattern that persists throughout the entire thesis: Gorka is not big on citations, especially scholarly ones. Moreover, the citation practices are, shall we say, lax. For example, here’s footnote 10:

The sarin gas attack executed on the Tokyo metro by Aum in 1995 was in fact preceded by several unsuccessful biological agent attacks prepared by the private laboratories the cult had established with millions of dollars of its funds. For a journalistic account of the history of the cult see David E. Kaplan and Andrew Marshal: “The Cult at the End of the World”, Arrow Books, London, 1996. For a scholarly and detailed analysis see the relevant section in Richard A. Falkenrath, Robert D. Newman and Bradley A. Thayer: “America’s Achilles’ Heel: nuclear, biological, and chemical terrorism and covert attack”, MIT Press, Cambridge, 1998 [emphasis added]

In fact the discussion of Aum Shinrikyo appears to be spread over multiple chapters. Along these lines, footnote 20 reads “CNN even showed footage of al Qaeda experimentation that involved the gassing of dogs.” That’s it. In fact, getting an appropriate citation isn’t that much of a challenge. But, at least, a reader can be thankful that he provides references at all. The section called “The New International Scene” runs from pages 19-23. It contains myriad empirical claims—such as the countries within which Al Qaeda had affiliates in 2001—and analytical ones—that Al Qaeda launched 9/11 against the United States to divide it from its allies,  or that “the Arab and Muslim world still has a perturbed relationship to the question of modernity” (21)—none of which are sourced in any manner. The only such reference, involving the number of CIA officers who spoke Pashto on September 11, is to “author’s discussion with Marine Colonel who had served in Afghanistan as a covert paramilitary operator within the CIA, Summer 2004” (2007, 22 fn18).

I stress this lack of citations not merely because it amounts to poor scholarly practice—if anything, the typical dissertation suffers from too many citations—but also because it reflects the bloviating tone that runs throughout. The lack of references creates the impression that Gorka is passing off every insight—from the shopworn, the clichéd, and the banal to the unoriginal but tendentious—as his own.

Some examples:

Here it may be too early to prove the existence of a large-scale trend, but with the second and successful attempt against the World Trade Centre (WTC), – following the earlier truck-bomb attempt in 1993 – al Qaeda at least, has demonstrated a determination to attack highly symbolic targets. This author believes the logic behind this tactic is clear. Terrorism is, like guerrilla warfare, always the tool of choice of weaker actors that cannot win a stand- up fight against their nation state adversary. As a result they will rarely, if ever, be in a position to exact lethal damage to the vital interests or functioning of the state they have pitted themselves against. This is why fear has to be the overarching goal, a fear which can be directed as a tool in applying greater and greater political pressure upon the targeted authorities until policies are changed. In this inculcation of fear, the attack of universally recognisable symbols – such as the Pentagon and WTC – is invaluable, especially in this age of live, global cable and satellite news services. Thanks to the likes of CNN, NBC, BBC, etc., Osama bin Laden was able to send his message of fear to as wide an audience at possible in the fastest time imaginable. Add to this last element of media exploitation, the recent rise of media outlets which challenge the ‘white man’s’ news monopoly, e.g. Al-Arabiya and al Jazeera Television, and we now have channels which in fact may be favourable to the terrorist and act as a force-multiplier in the globalisation of his message (2007, 18).

It is interesting to note that despite the beacon-like example that modern Turkey represents, here too there have been significant developments recently toward a revitalisation of a national identity that relies far more on religion than would otherwise even have been imaginable during recent decades. This resurgence can in part ironically be explained by the negative way in which the European Union has delayed talk of Turkish EU membership (2007, 22 fn17).

Globalisation as a process is not new. Many an ancient empire can be seen as a form of (limited) globalisation. Even so, the fact that globalisation is now occurring in an environment of interconnected market economies and the spread of one specific model of nation-state structuring, namely market democracy, means that an actor wishing to exploit the inherent weaknesses of the democratic model, such as a the religious terrorist, has a broader environment in which to operate. Additionally the attitude of many people nominally belonging to the faith community of Muslim fundamentalism may be swayed by interpretations of the current trends to globalisation that exacerbate the centuries old question of Islam’s relations to modernity and the West. Lastly, the fact that the pre-eminent exponent of globalised terrorism at this time has chosen to restrict his actions very much to attacks aimed against just a handful of Western nations (UK, US, Spain) results in the fact that existing alliance frameworks may be severely weakened by differing assessments as to whom has most to fear from “Transcendental Terror”. Within the previously united western world there is now no agreement on whether or not this is a significant new threat that applies to all of us. In part, the problem is that man has a propensity to judge others based upon himself. As a result it is very difficult to believe in, let alone comprehend, an adversary who thinks in a fashion so contrary to our own. We tend to posit our rationality, even our morality, onto the other. Additionally, many of America’s European allies are more inclined to resolve dispute and potential conflict through diplomatic and political means, rather than through the use of force (2007, 24).

The basics needs of a human being are quite easy to identify: shelter, sustenance and community. The importance of the first two is also simple to explain. As a biological entity, without protection from the elements and food and water, we will not function and quickly die. The relevance of the third requirement is superficially obvious, but on closer examination more complex. There are, of course, the economies of scale that come from living in a cooperative group. As our ancestors who did not have the use of firearms well knew, it is quite difficult to hunt and kill a large animal by oneself. Likewise to fish the seas in an efficient fashion or even to build a sizeable home is a faster and easier a task when done in the company of others. But there are also the psychological and societal benefits of not living the life of a hermit or recluse. Man craves friendship and companionship and finds fulfilment in living within community. If this were not the case, given all the benefits of technology, we could in fact choose to live in total isolation from one another today, but we do not. Then there is the more practical profit that accrues with regard to safety in numbers.

It has been said more than enough times that the history of Mankind is the history of conflict. Respect for one’s territory, one’s chattels and even one’s right to life was never a given. There have always been, and will always be, those that threaten our very existence or livelihood. As a result, the need to be able to defend oneself and one’s family has always been apparent. Such defence is easier when done in numbers than individually or just by family unit. In modern terms, this is the function of providing security (2007, 27).

This last bit of banality opens a section entitled “The Evolution of National Security.” Gorka presents one of the diagrams for which, if nothing else, he deserves all the credit due to him.

It-hurts
Gorka (2007, 28) did not think this through.

In conventional language, shifts in scale from “micro” to “macro” are shifts in size: smaller to larger. As best I can tell, Gorka is trying to tell a temporal story here: the evolution of security is a story about the increasing scale of the object that needs to be secured. The result is a mess. As he writes:

It is not the purpose of this dissertation to provide a lengthy discussion of this evolution, to enumerate the dates when one macro level gave way to another.  In gross terms we can speak, however, of a chain of security being tied first to the tribe or clan, then to a village and, or, religious community, and further to the local landowner unit, followed by a kingdom or empire, or a city-state until we arrive at the modern object of macro-security, the nation-state’ (Gorka 2007, 28).

There are a bunch of problems with this, but the most obvious goes something like this.

Here is the Neo-Assyrian Empire:

640px-Map_of_Assyria

Here are some empires in around 750 AD:

height_of_omayyad_caliphate_cropped

Over the past three millennia, there have been many empires that are much larger in scale than national-states. Indeed, empires—along with federative and confederative polities—constitute some of the most time-honored ways of organizing large, heterogeneous political communities. It makes no sense to call “nation states” a more “macro” stage in security evolution than these forms.

Regardless, Gorka next briefly discusses Philip Bobbitt’s The Shield of Achilles—for just long enough to tell us that “while there is much to commend the work… it does have its distinct flaws, flaws that it shares with a majority of recent treatise that have proclaimed the death of the nation-state, somewhat prematurely” (2007, 30). This allows him to open his next section (“The Westphalian Inheritance”) with a paragraph that gives me hives.

It is often far too easy to take for granted the system of governance and administration in which we today live. If one does not professionally study modern history or the evolution of international law, one could be forgiven for thinking that the current system of independent nation-states has existed for much longer than it has in fact existed. The truth is that as a concept we can describe its evolution as being quite recent in historic terms. The Peace of Westphalia in 1648 is taken by most commentators as introducing the foundations for the creation in the West of a system in which the objects were states, bodies that were independent of each others – although which could ally with one another – and into whose internal affairs it was not allowed to become involved, a system in which sovereignty would eventually become paramount26. Later, as this concept evolved and as the individual allegiances of the people would shift from local landowner or royal house, to a professional political elite defined around a national identity, the state would evolve further into the nation-state, with is fundamental aspects of citizenship and nationality.

26In fact it was the sacrosanct nature of sovereignty that would later lie behind the creation of the ‘balance-of-power’ system that would be so important to Europe in following centuries.

Again, no sources. None. Zero. And while “most commentators” may have once believed this, it’s wrong. Westphalia had nothing to do with the foundations of the state system. At least if Gorka had been troubled to cite some of the (very smart) people who argue that it did—even if erroneously—he would come across as less of a pretentious blowhard. The footnote is just the icing on the cake. The balance-of-power system did not render sovereign sacrosanct, because it was premised on moving territory around to maintain the balance of power. The inhabitants of what would later be called “Belgium” certainly did not appreciate being placed under the rule of the United Netherlands for the sake of blocking future French expansion.

All of this amounts to a belabored way of making a rather simple argument: almost all states are organized to defend themselves against military aggression, to police their territory, to engage in espionage, and to protect themselves against espionage. Moreover, Gorka contends, the western allies oriented those capabilities against the Soviet Union and its clients. With the end of the Cold War, things are so much more complex and uncertain, what with the cyber, and the environment, and the terrorism. Add a few footnotes, and we’d have pretty much all we need to move forward.

Thus Gorka returns us to terrorism. Or, more accurately, he summarizes a very few sources to tell us nothing original about conceptual issues related to the study of terrorism. But he does supply us with this wonder of a passage: “One more avenue that takes us out of the abstraction of mere words is a pictographic representation of the mechanics of terrorism. By resorting to a Venn diagram-like approach, it may be easier to understand the dynamics at work between the various subjects and objects of political violence [emphasis added].”

A Venn Diagram-Like Approach (Gorka 2007. 47)
A Venn Diagram-Like Diagram

Now, to the uninitiated, this may look merely like a simple flow chart. So I’ve created a diagram to help make sense of it:

WTF
Locating Venn Diagram-Like Diagrams: a Venn Diagram

 

That’s the end of Part II. I still haven’t gotten to the ‘good stuff’. 150 or so pages to go.

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