An urgent reconceptualization of the Wars on Terror from the author of The Shield of Achilles (“magisterial”— The New York Times, “a classic for future generations”—The New York Review of Books). In this book Philip Bobbitt brings together historical, legal, and strategic analyses to understand the idea of a “war on terror.” Does it make sense? What are its historical antecedents? How would such a war be “won”? What are the appropriate doctrines of constitutional and international law for democracies in such a struggle?
He provocatively declares that the United States is the chief cause of global networked terrorism because of overwhelming American strategic dominance. This is not a matter for blame, he insists, but grounds for reflection on basic issues. We have defined the problem of winning the fight against terror in a way that makes the situation virtually impossible to resolve. We need to change our ideas about terrorism, war, and even victory itself.
Bobbitt argues that the United States has ignored the role of law in devising its strategy, with fateful consequences, and has failed to reform law in light of the changed strategic context. Along the way he introduces new ideas and concepts—Parmenides’ Fallacy, the Connectivity Paradox, the market state, and the function of terror as a by-product of globalization—to help us prepare for what may be a decades-long conflict of which the battle against al Qaeda is only the first instance.
At stake is whether we can maintain states of consent in the twenty-first century or whether the dominant constitutional order will be that of states of terror. Challenging, provocative, and insightful, Terror and Consent addresses the deepest themes of governance, liberty, and violence. It will change the way we think about confronting terror—and it will change the way we evaluate public policies in that struggle.
About the Author
Philip Bobbitt is the Herbert Wechsler Professor of Federal Jurisprudence and the Director of the Center for National Security at Columbia University. He is also Senior Fellow at the Robert Strauss Center for International Security and Law at the University of Texas. He has served as Associate Counsel to the President, Legal Counsel to the Senate Select Committee on the Iran-Contra Affair, the Counselor on International Law for the Department of State, and Director for Intelligence Programs, Senior Director for Critical Infrastructure, and Senior Director for Strategic Planning at the National Security Council. Formerly Senior Research Fellow at Nuffield College, Oxford, where he was a member of the Modern History faculty, he was subsequently Senior Fellow in War Studies at Kings College, London. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He lives in New York, London, and Austin.
"Brilliant . . . This is quite simply the most profound book to have been written on the subject of American foreign policy since the attacks of 9/11--indeed, since the end of the cold war . . . It should be read, marked and inwardly digested by all three of the remaining candidates to succeed George W. Bush as president of the United States."
--Niall Ferguson, The New York Times Book Review
"Philip Bobbitt is perhaps the outstanding political philosopher of our time. Terror and Consent is simply indispensable for our understanding, yet it is as readable as it is profound."
“Philip Bobbitt has long been one of the most thoughtful and wise commentators on the state of the modern world and the challenge that it faces. But in this book, he sets out with clarity and courage the first really comprehensive analysis of the struggle against terror and what we can do to win it. Above all, he understands that this war is new in every aspect of its nature — how it has come about, the profound threat that it poses, how it has to be fought and the revolution in traditional thinking necessary to achieve victory. It may be written by an academic but it is actually required reading for political leaders.”
"In this thrilling book, Philip Bobbitt bravely confronts the myths that confound our understanding of terrorism and provides a new way of understanding this phenomenon. He does us the favor of not only describing the traps we've fallen into, but also the ways of escape."
--Lawrence Wright, author of The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11
"Powerful . . . Brilliant . . . There is so much to think about in this book that the disagreements it inspires are part of its value."--Edward Rothstein, The New York Times
"[A] remarkable effort to make sense of our post-9/11 world. Better than anyone I have read, Bobbitt has thought through both the nature of the danger and how we should defend ourselves from it."--Mark Bowden, The Philadelphia Inquirer
"Nothing less than a philosophical route-map for the war on terror and the geopolitical crisis of the early 21st century."--Matthew d'Ancona, The Spectator (UK)
"Courageous . . . One of the most important works you are likely to read this year."
--Rowan Williams, Telegraph (UK)
"Brilliant, provocative and critically important . . . Terror and Consent should be mandatory reading for all residents of the United States."--Ian Graham, New York Sun
"In this original, provocative, and deeply researched book, a superb scholar addresses some of the most basic and vital issues of our time. Philip Bobbitt's Terror and Consent deserves to be widely read, debated and absorbed."
-- Michael Beschloss, author of Presidential Courage
“Philip Bobbitt has taken our understanding of terrorism -- and of how to defeat it -- to a deeper level. This brave book confronts us with the knowledge that the worst is yet to come, and it points the way for America and its allies to counter the new breed of shadowy, ultra-violent adversaries. More importantly, Terror and Consent wisely shows how governments can do this without sacrificing their legitimacy as guarantors of human rights. This is truly the book for our times.”
--Steven Simon, Senior Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations and co-author of Age of Sacred Terror
“Terror and Consent is the most profound analysis of the wars against terror. Bobbitt puts the threat in its proper historical and theoretical context, explains its relationship to globalization, international law and the domestic constitutional structure and offers tough-minded but humane prescriptions. No one understands the challenge of the terror threat in all its dimensions as well as Philip Bobbitt.”
--Jack Goldsmith, Shattuck Professor of Law, Harvard Law School and author of The Terror Presidency
"Magisterial . . . 'important' barely begins to characterize this book."
--Craig Seligman, Bloomberg News
"Bobbitt may well be a prophet . . . Terror and Consent is the product not only of immense erudition but also of broad practical experience."
--Ben Martin, The Advocate (Baton Rouge)
"[A] complex and provocative analysis of the West's ongoing struggle against terrorism. Terror and Consent merits wide circulation and serious consideration."
"A distinguished scholar proposes an entirely new way of understanding and combating modern terrorism. Bobbitt keeps his feet on the ground, boldly offering detailed real-world proposals to combat the problems he outlines."
"Bobbitt aims for the big picture and succeeds . . . Not just another book about terrorism, this is a complete theory of constitutional evolution and a sophisticated set of far-reaching policy prescriptions."--Booklist