Memorandum from Dr OHG Sparrow (20 November
The Committee has to hand two papers which were
submitted from the web.
1 One of these is concerned with an analysis of the users of terror,
and of their management. The second paper takes a wider view,
looking at the security environment in which we may find ourselves
over the next 20 years. I hope that these have proved to be of
This is, therefore, a short text. It tries to
answer the fundamental question which was posed in the letter
which your clerk sent to me: what are the threats, and what should
we do about them?
It is self-evident that social, political and
economic entities that make up our world is becoming more closely
coupled together. Environmental and resource issues respect no
boundaries, and their solutions may often be innately trans-national.
At present, however, only economic forces exist in order to bridge
gaps, heal distinctions and provide motivation.
Economic forces are frequently driving change
faster that existing social and institutional structures can adapt.
Indeed, reactionary forces often set out to slow adaptation. National
political structures in the developing world are often the chief
obstacle to an adaptive response, rather than its engine. In addition,
international political constructs are developing very much more
slowly than the problems which they are designed to solve.
It is, therefore, most unlikely that these complex
institutions will develop at a pace that meets world realities.
As a nation, we must expect to deal with the largely-unmanaged
overspill of ungoverned interests. We shall see rapidly-propagating
economic disturbances. We shall have to deal with issues of public
health, with the consequences of poorly contained dangerous technologies,
with crime and agitation. We shall see more use of terror on our
Terror is a commonly-used tool in much of the
poor world. The increased economic, social andthrough IT
and aviationeffective physical propinquity of these countries
to Britain will inevitably increase in its use in our domain.
The UK is a very "international" country and London
is one of the four or so truly world cities. Britain will, therefore,
face more of this than most.
This trend will be exacerbated through three
First, the rich pickings in the industrial
world will attract criminal elements, and with them the use of
terror to police their supporters and enforce their will.
Second, political groups which have
axes to grind elsewhere in the world will use the industrial countries
as operating bases, and the protagonists of this will act as conduits
for crime ( to raise funds) and for terror (through which to wage
proxy war, or raise the profile of their cause).
Third, and the immediate cause of our
current concern, traditionalist groups who reject the pace of
social and economic change may set out to attack symbols of that
change: corporate brand, aeroplanes, science, finance. The means
by which they do this may become increasingly sophisticated and
indirectconsider, for example, the introduction of agricultural
disease such as foot and mouth as a potential act of terror.
This will (continue to) present the UK with
a major management task. However, I believe that it is a mistake
to focus our management efforts on "international terrorism".
Contrary to a somewhat comic book view of the world, it is in
fact the case that where there are networks of terror, these tend
to fight each other as much as they collaborate. Skilled individuals
are, of course, parcelled around under assorted flags of convenience.
Where there are resource providers, then the master of the purse
controls something of what is done. Recent funding of anti-globalisation
protest by two wealthy British citizens gives a sense of how integrated
(and how self-destructive) such command structures can be.
It is of course true that if a force is led
from the top, then decapitating it has a major impact. Attempting
to do the same thing in an amorphous sprawl of mixed ambitious
and complex goals has no such affect. If we place emphasis on
"catching the master criminals", therefore, we shall
have only a limited impact on the use of terror.
The sole exception to this occurs where one
is dealing with an explicitly command-and-control structure, such
as the Sendero Luminoso, where catching the elite (and decoupling
it from the Peruvian cocaine traffic) led to its downfall. Breaking
the confidence of the followers in the probity of their leadership
has also proved effective, but once again, only in restricted
circumstances and after immense effort. Most terrorist affiliations
do not have intensely hierarchical structures, and ten would-be
war lords sit around every drug baron or "ethnic entrepreneur".
What is needed, therefore, is a long game which
is based on intelligence, collective analysis of the issues and
an adequate foundation of law. That is, we need to be clear that
we have the powers that will be needed to manage "new"
threats, including proactive intervention where this is appropriate.
Such intervention will use all means by which Britain and its
allies can project power, subject to clearly-understood limits
and to firm governance of the agencies which are involved.
The term "all means" needs to be considered
carefully. If we are attempting to improve overseas institutions,
and to change the expectations that citizens have of their governmentwhich
is innate to resolving the issues of tighter coupling, not to
say the occupation of territories such as Kosovo, Sierra Leone,
Afghanistanthen these measures will not look like conventional
force. In this light, an examination of how the Swiss, Danes or
French use their commerce overseas is instructive. The importance
of cultural vehicles such as the BBC world service needs to be
re-evaluated. It is striking how the image of the US overseas
is shaped by the output of its entertainment media. Many of the
less educated people that I meet from the third world imagine
life in the US as a continual series of gun fights and explosions.
All of this is. Of course, a very long game,
best pursued with allies. An immediate issue is, however, that
of defining strategic rather than tactical targets for our own
Assets take a long time to put into place in
intelligence, staff need to learn a culture and a language if
they are to analyse it effectively and we need, therefore, to
systematise our approach to picking our targets. In particular,
we need long-term, continual debate amongst the relevant agencies
as to how the world is to be considered. Such debate prepares
minds, sets goals that carry a well-understood but flexible boundary
and provides a framework in which set ideas can be challenged.
The attachment is a letter written to the Rt
Hon G Hoon, MP in March of this year. It calls for just such an
(inexpensive, unobtrusive) agency to be put in place. I am aware
that the Cabinet Office has the germ of such a structure, but
this is focused on unexpected events, rather than on the systematic
assessment of world trends and our security response to them.
I here repeat the offer of personal assistance which I make in
1 1 http://www.chforum.org. Back