Make Sense, Not
by Lloyd Axworthy*, September 17, 2001
Originally Published in Globe
As rescue workers
continue their painful search through the debris, as families
of victims move from shock to private grief, as the media resumes
regular coverage and sporting events return, the shock waves from
the surprise terrorist attacks against the United States continue
to reverberate around the world.
The foundations that are being shaken are not those
of cement and steel. They are the assumptions, practices and policies
upon which our international security system has been based: inviolate
borders, sovereignty, defence of the nation state. Now, it is
human security that is at stake.
Risks today are borne by innocent civilians who
catch an early morning commercial flight at a Boston airport only
to become passengers on a deadly projectile, by young children
who have the misfortune to be playing in the streets of Freetown,
Sierra Leone, when a crazed rebel army wields its machetes, by
families who face expulsion in Kosova for no other reason than
they are Muslim; by aid workers in Afghanistan who face execution
for the crime of helping those in need. Security, once measured
by the size of a nation's army, is now a matter of protecting
individuals against the risks of living in a global community
where no one is immune, where targets are those most vulnerable
and governments, even the most powerful, are rendered impotent.
Security threats today come less from military
forces and increasingly from the international criminal, drug
trafficker, political extremist, small arms vendor, warlord, or
petty tyrant. These people are adept at using the modem tools
of organization and intelligence gathering and know how to exploit
global communications technology. They are well funded, often
with superior resources to the enforcement agencies they confront.
They are skilled at the techniques of infiltration and sabotage.
And, they prey upon ordinary people. They are the underworld,
the dark side of our global system.
This changing global character of the security
threat is not a recent discovery. it has been on the agenda at
international gatherings for several years. The G8 has had annual
discussions on a global response to terrorism, and several major
treaties have been negotiated and ratified under UN auspices.
But the rhetoric has far outweighed the commitment to collaborative
international action. The prevailing attitude has been that the
human security challenge could and should be managed primarily
by domestic measures such as tighter controls at borders, or through
conventional military responses such as surgical bombing strikes.
Multilateralism of an effective kind was simply not a priority.
The aftermath of Tuesday's attack may change this.
There are three promising signs: First is the recognition that
existing defences don't work and that even the United States,
with all its military might and far reaching intelligence network,
was penetrated by a disciplined ring of zealots. Second, is the
rallying of support by friends and allies conveying the message
that we are all in this together. Third, is the initiative put
forward by the Bush Administration for an international coalition
to fight terrorism, a clear departure from its previous postures
eschewing collective responses to global issues. NATO's decision
to invoke Article Five, the collective security clause that considers
attack against one member as an attack against all, reinforces
One could see such "coalition building"
as a ploy to gather support for a military strike. But, Prime
Minister Chrétien got it right when he indicated that this
solidarity was not a blank cheque for quick military intervention.
His prudence should prevail. Only if there is a bona fide international
mandate and a clear, culpable target, should Canada join in any
What is also in the offing is the opportunity for
a number of nations to work together to apprehend the guilty parties.
While it may not serve the same visceral urges for revenge that
a military action provides, the coalition would better serve the
battle against terrorism by using due process under international
law to bring the culprits to justice. We have the mechanisms,
we need only the will to use them, as we have in Rwanda and the
More than that, this international coalition is
in a position to begin constructing a highly integrated world
wide system of intelligence sharing, police coordination, passport
control, travel surveillance and judicial enforcement against
terrorists and their supporters.
This must be based on a new framework of international
agreements setting out responsibilities of governments and individuals
on such issues as harbouring suspected terrorists, financing their
activities, and cooperating on arrest and trial. Those countries
found to have aided and abetted terrorists will be named, shamed
and sanctioned. And even our closest allies must understand the
need to have no truck nor trade with those who feed terror.
Canada can play an active role in shaping this
agenda. I suggest we promote the idea that the Statute of Rome
establishing the International Criminal Court be amended to include
terrorist attacks against civilians to be a crime against humanity.
We have been a leading advocate of human security and can impart
some valuable lessons. Most germane is the need to make this an
inclusive process, to widen the participation beyond NATO and
a few other big players.
The Human Security Centre in Amman, Jordan, funded
by Canada, could be the place to start a major dialogue within
the Middle East on how these countries might contribute to a new
anti-terrorist frame work But to that end, a fair and equitable
resolution of the 53-year-old Arab-Israeli conflict must be found,
so that all parties in the region will feel encouraged to contribute
to the greater good of us all. indeed, if an anti-terror initiative
is to work, less-developed nations all over the world must be
persuaded that we in the industrialized world view them as fellow
victims of terror and not suspect them unreasonably as perpetrators.
Canada must also look seriously to security issues
at home. We have been lax in getting anti-terrorist financing
legislation passed; there are still unsettled issues in our negotiations
with the United States over the regulation of international arms
trade, and the reform of the procedures for passport application
is still pending discussions with the provinces. As well, the
U.S. ambassador has raised the matter of synchronizing immigration
These issues need tending if we are to be credible.
However, there should not be a rush to judgement, with hasty decisions
being propelled by the mood of the moment. There needs to be reasoned
and open public debate.
The issue of Canada's human security policy, must
be the subject of a major parliamentary study. These are issues
crucial to Canadians and crucial to our position in the world.
Canadians care. They should be given the chance to be heard.
Since Tuesday's attack, commentators have agreed
that the world will never be the same. The question is will it
be a better world, or will this tragic event plunge us into a
world of division and holy war? I expect that whoever was behind
attacks would welcome the latter. We must do everything in our
power to resist.
*Lloyd Axworthy, foreign affairs minister from
1996 to 2000, is director and CEO of the Liu Centre for the Study
of Global Issues at the UBC.