The Topics


March 10, 2005

Pursuing Terror as an Open Society

Creative Policy Debate Question 3

Terrorism raises a series of questions about the state of Open Society. A crisis such as 9/11 can lead to extraordinary action from a democratic society - as seen by Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. While the War on Terror is often presented as a defense of Open Society, open debate leading up and during the Iraq has been weak and limited to a few peripheral issues. Democratic opponents to Bush seemed uncertain about how best to respond or propose alternatives to ongoing War on Terror. As George Soros stated in a speech to the National Press Club:

“Open Societies suffer from an innate weakness: uncertainty. Leaders who claim to be in possession of the ultimate truth offer an escape from uncertainty. But that is a snare, because those leaders are bound to be wrong.”

Is Soros right or wrong? How should an Open Society with an innate weakness, such as uncertainty, fight a war against terrorists with the will and potential capability of detonating a ‘dirty bomb?’

Participants in the Pursuing Terror as an Open Society Creative Debate

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My first communique from the workshop following a satisfying lunch. Sat between a professor and a performance artist.

Already have had some substantive discourse including remarks to the general audience by Kennth Roth of Human Rights Watch and by Robert Goldman of the UN.

More to come from this table ...

Posted by: AtochaWorkshop3 [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 11, 2005 03:48 PM

16:15: Following some moments of anomie, the workshop is getting underway. Nancy Bordier is reading the prefatory description of the topic including the quotation/challenge posed by George Soros.

[Nancy Bordier]

"How do we answer that?"

David Bachh asks what is an open society, what characterizes it.

Steve Gorelick doubts that the tension betwen the Open society and protecting the public is not as facile as Richard Ben Viniste has publicaly proclaimed. He presents the question to the floor.

Nancy Bordier rejoins that this postion shades into Bushthink that has been taken up by pols such as Sen. J. Lieberman.

Posted by: AtochaWorkshop3 [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 11, 2005 04:21 PM

David Bach suggests that US AG A. Gonzales has seized on a bogus distinction bewteen the "rule of law" and "human rights". Points to some historical antecedents.

Irune Aquirrezebal claims that Europe (except perhaps UK) would not approach civil libs as the US has. Claims the most obvious break on US executive authority has been the courts, however haltingly. She also notes, from her own exoerience as an exchange student, that the US schools don't examine the rest of the world.

Nancy Bordier argues that the Bushites have used 911 to change the political weather in the US. She also argues that 911 was highly preventable but has been subsequently used to advance the Project for the New American Century's bill of particulars.

David Bach rejoins whether an Open Society is a form of nostalgia for something that did not really exist.

Nancy Bordier re-orients toward the purpose of invading Iraq: securing petro resources. Open Society is a peripheral issue on this view, a distraction.

Posted by: AtochaWorkshop3 [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 11, 2005 04:30 PM

Nancy Bordier is now discussing forms of State surveillence. She claims that the problem is getting sufficiently complex that it is difficult to follow how far the all-seeing eye extends in its gaze.

Irune Aguirrezabal posits that what constitutes an Open Society is not some Platonic Ideal that is static and unchanging. We must constantly re-appraise the state of human rights and governance.

Nancy Bordier argues that the War on Terror is failing by the State's own criteria such as recruitment and terror acts comitted.

David Bach intervenes as he wants to place openess at the center of the discussion, having broadly agreed with Nancy's account.

Irene Aguirrezabal emphasizes that the policy question is what aspects of human rights and civil liberties are inviolable. In a counter to David, she observes that the US is also attemtping to recruit Europe into its regime of surveillance with similar standards for wire-tapping.

Steve Gorelick enters the discourse by noting that the US cosmology was one of safety and remove from the world in the contiguous 48 states. He traces a strong contrast with, e.g., Spain and its recent experience of dictatorship. Wiretaps have a different smell in such a case, he claims.

Chris Stout observes that surveillance was a material fact for US people of color long before 911. Moreover, he notes that Al Qaeda used tools furnished by the US for its attack (planes, training).

Posted by: AtochaWorkshop3 at March 11, 2005 04:42 PM

Nancy Bordier argues energetically that, in a global perspective, the East-West conflict has its origins across 75 years. The US public had largely been unaware of this although the State was alert to the rumblings and that, at some point in time, a spectacular attack was in the pipeline.

David Bach observes that he was in the US for 911 and in Spain for 11 Marzo (11M). Other discussants comment that they don't want to be where he is! He claims that the two national responses were markedly different as Spaniards headed to the streets, millions the following day to re-appropriate them fearlessly. He characterizes the US response as DE-MOBILIZATION: Stay home and buy duct tape.

Steve Gorelick notes that he thought the US response from the public was very energetic, but it was channelled mainly into the question of, "Who's @$$ do we kick?". Anger and rage predominated.

Some crosstalk about cultures that go to the street vs. a culture that goes into the cocoon of televison in the private home.

Nancy Bordier re-orients to policy recommendations. She says the Truth firstly must be established. This criteria does not apply in the US, she argues, since it is not widely known what the CIA is known to have done (in contrast with post WWII reconstruction). She cites the overthrow of Mossadegh in Iran as an example with its incubution of fundmentalism across decades. Hence, she argues forecefully for an internationalized Truth Commission.

Posted by: AtochaWorkshop3 at March 11, 2005 04:56 PM

Nancy Bordier proposes online comic books to bring the story across as it is difficult to follow.

David Bach points again toward what policies need to be hammered out.

Nancy Bordier posits that dialogue has to occur between enemies who can otherwise destroy each other, through intermediaries if necessary. Some crosstalk to the effect of ¿talk to whom? David claims that, in some quarters, terror is an end in itself and not a political gesture. Martín Varsavsky, the sponsor of this event, has come to the table and he wants to insure that policy ideas are being hatched here. There is now an interrogation of what this actully means and whether we are in the right postal code for this discussion.

[Audience] Accusations of tautology and devil-advocating.

John Gage wonders about getting info across. Is there a channel for voices to be heard?

Steve Gorelick takes note of the extent to which secrecy proliferates when terror is part of the political mood music. He notes that even documents from WWII are still classified as a symptom of State impulses toward secrecy. Given this, Steve argues that governments should be monitored with regard to their degree of secrecy.

Nancy Bordier observes that at the Summit on Democracy, Terrorism, and Security that just finished, she and others in the audience were pontificated by brigades of sundry former heads of State. So, she dovetails with other comments by arguing for wider dissemination of info. She nominates blogs for this role.

David Bach affirms this judgement and nascent policy recommendation with a robust defense of blogs.

Adriaan van Rooijen takes this idea and underscores it and particularly with regard to minorities in Europe and taking the pulse of what people are saying. An as yet un-addressed question is who monitors such fora?

Chris Stout makes the incisive comments that many people who may be of interest are not literate and/or not likely to trust something that has a dimension of open surveillance.

Posted by: AtochaWorkshop3 at March 11, 2005 05:16 PM

Adriaan van Rooijen argues forcefully for education as a solution to the problems previously identified.

Nancy Bordier corroborates this view from a life of experience as a citizen and educator.

Chris Stout remains skeptical that technology will "take" so easily because "we" think it is a good idea. There needs to be trust and even intermediaries to induce people to use the technology for the desired purpose. Indeed, it could be taken as a further extension of Western/Northern/G8 infiltration of life of a piece with McDonalds and other emissaries.

17:20. The huge garden of tropical plants get sprayed all day at Atocha Station, I am discovering.

Chris Stout continues, noting earlier testimony from NGOs such as Medicines sans Frontières are seeing erosion in trust where they work where they are now seen at times as shills for the government.

Adriaan van Rooijen essays to integrate the suggestions emanating from the table. Namely, communication is the answer to problems BUT air-dropping some high tech devices onto Others out there is not the means by which to do this.

Nancy Bordier claims that teaching skills and enabling livelihoods is the route to take.

David Bach suggests that blogs are in no way sufficient as a solution to global disorder. He prioritizes more material matters, starting with global hunger. In agreement with Nancy, he also endorses entrepreneurship albeit not the predatory capitalism that sucks the oxygen out of small entreprenuership.

Nancy Bordier endorses entrepereunership that can stand tall against the global tide of monopolization, which is part and parcel to cultivating civil society and its institutions in which people have an enduring stake.

There is cross-talk presently about the role of the State and whether it is being left in the dust. My role as blogger is briefly on the agenda when I could think of a word with a plainly non-plussed expression on my face.

David Bach observes that we all seem to be liberals here (he leaves out leftists!) and that solutuions to terror will have to extend deeply into the structure of societies; no easy, magic bullet solutions, in other words.

Nancy Bordier re-orients to the policies that we are supposed to fashion around this table with its handsome yellow table clothes. She claims that failed states must be avoided at all costs and solutions to such are multi-national. Europe is way ahead on this score with study centers that can anticipate problems before they occur. Problem: They do not wield much in the way of authority despite considerable knowledge.

Steve Gorelick observes that moves toward more transparent forms of governance are vexed by the extent to which "civil society" is MALE civil society across large sweeps of the globe. This must be addressed. He also observes that even in poor nations are awash in tech --- mobile phones & cyber cafes, even though these may be used at some risk given heavy-handed statism. This is grounded in reports from a family member at work abroad.

Posted by: AtochaWorkshop3 at March 11, 2005 05:41 PM

David Bach speaks toward fashioning policy. How is it to be done in a manner that protects/affirms classically liberal concepts without reproducing culturallly imperialist constructs?

Steve Gorelick addresses the unfathomable difficulty of giving voice to people who are overlooked. This problem is not faced by the speakers at the Forum who are from the most privileged sliver of civil society, he notes in aside.

Adriaan van Rooijen argues forcefully and eloquently that, conceptually, we have to dispose of ideas of inferiority/superiority if we are to get anywhere. This may be in itself an almost unfathomable problem, ashe is aware.

After some crosstalk on eradicating poverty, David Bach states that this is not always the problem since the 911 cabal were well-educated and privileged not the sub-altern.

Crosstalk on withdrawal from Iraq follows and David claims that when the banks refused to subsidize the Vietnam invasion, that was the end game. A few moments later, he notes that he almost feels bad for the US Government not having an opporunity to defend itself in this week's fora.

Nancy Bordier claims that the US is always the assumed part of the equation and that Europe should move from a posture of accomodation toward materially offering a new paradigm.

Discussion shifts to the performance of US media. It is poor,e.g., most Usonians believe Saddam was behind 911 which is a dark fanatasy. Blogs have been a slight counterwieght.

Nancy Bordier observes that the US government functions now as to win over the few remaining geographical areas that are in play electorally. Who cares about the rest, on this view?

David Bach has the air of a man who believes that he is part of the converted but is nonetheless being preached to when he wants to open the toolbox and nail together policies.

17:55 now.

Adriaan van Rooijen valorizes face-to-face communication over blogged mediation. This triggers ripples of agreement.

Steve Gorelick wonders whether people in Europe grasp how divided the US is ideologically and with regard to counter-institutions. He cites the affluent NJ suburb that exploded with indignation at GWBush's recent visit; his teen daughter tried to get arrested to register her displeasure, disappointed she was not taken away in cuffs.

David Bach respectfully departs from this and observes that if the election had been in Europe, Bush would have lost 80-20 except for maybe in Poland. How could people have forgotten the past 4 years? is his question.

Nancy Bordier locates this in what she calls a 30 year campaign, post-Goldwater, to use marketing techniques and fear to implement their right-wing blueprint.

Nancy Bordier argues that the Ohio voting machines could easily have been corrupted. But David Bach reiterates that for Europeans the question was how could the election have even have been close in the first instance?

We are now having a Mertonian moment on reference groups. Then, gerrymandering districts.

We are moving onto voting on policy proposals. My usefulness to this table is now almost exhausted.

But let me power-grab this moment to observe that I thought the discussion went into the ditch to some extent; while arresting as a discourse (it passed in what felt like 20 minutes for me), my understanding of what was to be discussed was what norms & laws should govern just societies that protect citizens and respect essential rights of the population.

The UK government's recent efforts to impliment house arrest strikes me as the kind of issue that we should have been examining. Irune Aguirrezabal oriented toward this issue early on but departed from the table (these tables in this "pijo" (Spanish for "posh") restaurant presented a permeable membrane for comings and goings). Correct policies on this score are not obvious. While everyone agrees that personal liberties & privacy must be protected to the optimal degree, how this works in practice to optimize collective interests is not immediately obvious; nor is it obvious how to apply a transparent legal authority that is fully within the orbit of human rights over such. Should have unpacked this matter further.

The table has begun to make the move toward the next room where proposals will be aired in the full --- synthetic, but invariably disinfecting --- light of the grand room ...

I have been the only correspondent and rapporteur that you may have needed from this table and it has been my priviloege/pleasure.

Best Regards,

Brian Miguel

Posted by: AtochaWorkshop3 at March 11, 2005 06:24 PM

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