Getting to grips with the post-Cold War security threat

November 6, 2009


-John Reid, formerly the UK Defence Secretary and Home Secretary, is MP for Airdrie and Shotts, and Chairman of the Institute for Security and Resilience Studies at University College, London. The opinions expressed are his own. –

The fall of the Berlin Wall, on November 9, 1989, was one of history’s truly epochal moments. During what became a revolutionary wave sweeping across the former Eastern Bloc countries, the announcement by the then-East German Government that its citizens could visit West Germany set in train a series of events that led, ultimately, to the demise of the Soviet Union itself.

Twenty years on, what is most striking to me are the massive, enduring ramifications of the events of November 1989. Only several decades ago, the Cold War meant that the borders of the Eastern Bloc were largely inviolate; extremist religious groups and ethnic tensions were suppressed, there was no internet (at least as we know it today) and travel between East and West was difficult. The two great Glaciers of the Cold War produced a frozen hinterland characterised by immobility.

Today’s world is a vastly different place. When one of the great Glaciers – the former Soviet Union – melted it helped unleash a potential torrent of security problems. We now live in an era characterised by huge mobility and instability, in which issues such as mass migration, international crime and international terrorism have a much higher prominence.

The end of the Cold War, together with subsequent conflicts across Africa, the Balkans and the Middle East, for instance, has led to many millions of people migrating the globe in hope or fear. In the West, this has given rise to pressure on jobs, healthcare, education, housing and cultural identity, causing local populations to feel threatened.

While international migration has generally been culturally enriching and beneficial, it has nonetheless also increased the range of threats to our societies. For instance, the 48 radical Islamicists implicated in terror plots in the United States between 1993 and 2001, including the 9/11 hijackers, all used legitimate immigration devices (e.g. “green cards”, student/tourism/business visas, and amnesty and asylum) to get into the country.

Getting to grips with this specific threat is a major challenge and the reason why, as UK Home Secretary, I placed so much emphasis on the need to overhaul our immigration system. Key elements of the changes I championed include a new points-based system — which represents the biggest reform of UK immigration procedures for more than half a century; electronic border controls (all UK entry visas, for instance, are now based on finger prints); and the National Identity Scheme which features compulsory fingerprint biometric identity cards for foreign nationals.

It is globalisation that lies at the heart of our transformational post-Cold War World. This inexorable process has extended the opportunities of world-wide interchange. Driven by technological advances in transport, communications, and electronic networks, globalisation has delivered massive opportunities in terms of mobility, movement and exchange of people, ideas, values, resources, commodities and finance.

But this same globalisation process and associated technology has also brought major new threats, or intensified existing ones, rendering everyone increasingly inter-dependent and vulnerable. The threat we face is seamless, running across the boundaries of defence, foreign affairs, domestic and social life. For instance, it has left nations and peoples ever more vulnerable to phenomena ranging from international crime and terrorism through to cyber-attack, health pandemics, energy-politics, resource shortage and financial crises.

The net result is that there are far more sources of insecurity than during the Cold War. The uncertainty this generates means that crises (defined as crucial turning points in events rather than as catastrophes) are more recurrent. Moreover, this bias towards instability is exacerbated by the fact that the nature of the potential crises we face is constantly evolving. In the context of international migration, for instance, terrorists and other international criminals are constantly trying to find new ways to evade our security safeguards.

Given the complexity of the threats we face, it is essential as a nation that we continually upgrade our capacity to deal with them by identifying, exposing and remedying our deficiencies. If we are to be able to keep up, and potentially be one step ahead of our adversaries, we will increasingly need to pool our ingenuity to innovate and deliver solutions.

This is a relatively uncontroversial ambition, shared by many. But I believe it requires nothing less than new thinking, new urgency and a new approach to studying tomorrow’s security problems today.

That’s partly why we are establishing the Institute for Security and Resilience Studies at University College, London. The new Centre will address projects of vital importance to national and international security arising from globalisation in the post-Cold War World. The goal is to assess and embed resilience as well as analysing threats; and to extend this analysis into action in outlining policy options to shape our preparation, response and recovery to crises.

This insistence on “embedding” resilience throughout organisational structures and culture is essential given the nature of contemporary society. Where there is, for instance, now a global availability of information through the internet, satellite and mobile communications, resilience to threats must be embedded in a decentralised way (rather than top-down). To the degree that resilience can ever be said to have depended on an elite management at the top of organisations, this is no longer the case — hence the need to bring together practitioners from the public, private and third sectors with academics in order to combine theory and practice in targeted projects.

The goal must be nothing less that ensuring that government, business and society can not only cope with, but flourish, in the increasingly uncertain times in which we live. The fall of that wall symbolised the emergence of a world offering both unparalleled opportunities and unprecedented insecurities. The challenge of maximising the first and countering the latter is a legacy demanding an ingenuity and endurance from the next and subsequent generations to match that of their predecessors.


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I believe nations face the threat of terrorism largely from ‘blowback’ of their often disastrous (by that I mean the effect on the indigenous population) foreign policies. A nation cannot expect to drop bombs from the sky indiscriminately on combatants and civilians alike without it royally pissing someone off. The loss of a child or a wife, or the unending presence of foreign militaries in a sovereign country infuriate the natives. Just how would citizens feel if, let’s say, Saudi Arabia constructed a series of huge, permanent military bases across the U.S.? Outraged to the point of violence I can assure you. How about Brittish citizens?
International organized crime, which you somehow manage to lump together with terrorism in the same context of you article is a whole different animal. Crimes come from things being illegal. When a government thinks it knows best what is good for a person and wants to take away their own informed decision making powers, they pass a law, let’s say, to make cocaine illegal. Since their will always be a demand for cocaine and other drugs because their will be people that brave the dangers of it’s recreational use, organized crime is more than happy to step in to fill the market demand. As police powers and ever more laws expand the scope and reach of law enforcement, the criminals become more vicious and ruthless to compensate. Compare the Russian mafia or the Triads compared to the relatively docile Italian Mafia of the 60’s. As viscious as the Italians were, they pale unto the Russians and the Russians are even harder to cage.
So the erstewhile solution is to toughen laws. Create border checkpoints. Create a national DNA database. Fingerprint every citizen every year maybe? At some point the law will have the tools to turn a Democracy into a fascist police state overnight. And what does that get us? Did the East Germans under the ruthless policing of the Stasi still have access to drugs? Did they have no criminal gangs? Yes they did and the criminals actually became the government itself. These repressions of freedom ultimately became the drivers of the fall of the Berlin Wall. And no you want to create a new Berlin Wall. Only this time it will be an invisible electric eye with a genome of every honest person and criminal alike in the hands of secret police like some Orwellian Hitler-esque nightmare. Just when does control cross the line of protecting a Democracy from itself? As Franklin said most presciently centuries ago, ‘Those who sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither.’
A large dose of tolerance, a lot less imperialism, and mutual respect of all cultures and peoples would provide as much so-called ‘border security’ and The Great Wall of China.

Posted by J | Report as abusive

“Embedded resilience to threats” and “embedded security” could have been code for the world Saddam Husein, the former (and nearly forgotten) Shah of Iran, The KGB, and the secret police of North Korea or Rumania could have called their security systems had they had the gift for labels (and euphemisms) all governments seem to possess, if they actually talked about such behind the scenes precautions at all.

It is some comfort to hear that you prefer a grass roots kind of security and not the black hand of those organs of state security that I mentioned. But Saddam’s spies were apparently ubiguitous and very “grass roots”.

But only time can tell if that embedded security doesn’t also devolve into the black handed systems of the type we in the liberal democracies (is there any other kind?) say we despise.

What happens to human rights in the security apparatus you envision? The average automobile driver still has a far higher chance of being harmed or killed in an auto accident than he does of being harmed by a terrorist threat.

The rapid escalation of nuclear armaments during the cold war should suggest that state security could take a similar path of rapid development. Once an industry is begun, it tends to create it’s own appetites and desires to grow – with or without an external threat.

Wouldn’t it do us all a bit of good to talk as much about courage and character and the avoidance of unreasonable fear in daily life as it is to plan for protection against threats?

In spite of the fact that Iraqi’s still live with the threat of people exploding without warning, they still try to carry on with their daily business.

Posted by Paul Rosa | Report as abusive

Let’s face it J – in the media age – a fascist state as you call, may already be there. Who would notice? The media is a whitewashed thing and just as it knew how to absorb the so called counter culture. It did it with the ideas and attitudes of the sixties. The music of the sixties is the musak of the present. But wasn’t it cute how CCR’s American son somehow forgot that he “wasn’t no senator’s son” when it was used for a car commercial a few years ago? It will learn how to absorb disaffection and even violent instincts.

That may in itself not be such a bad thing. A civil and democratic society is obligated to conform to the wishes of the majority of the population but it is very agreeable to live in a society that doesn’t make life hell on the minority opinions. Don’t Fascist states seem always to be founded by people who claim they know what is best and will defend to your death their right to preserve it. They also tend to be stuffed with very overblown egotists who could easily be convinced they walk “with the Gods” and have a sense of entitlement that would make a welfare queen blush (or maybe not?).

I applaud your connection between fascist leaning governments and the mob. The Italian Mafia was a variant on the old Roman system as much as Hitler was a throw back to them. Fascists like a population of abject slaves.

Just think what organized crime will look like in a few more years when all the new technology of the Iraq war starts to filter down to the mafiosi and the street gangs. I recall some warnings in this paper or some other, to that effect, a few years ago. Mr. Reid may well have his hands full dealing with them. Doesn’t every “medicine” have its side effects?

By the time that happens I may only have to worry about the staff of the nursing home and pray they aren’t nurse Ratchet. And I may live perhaps as long as it takes for the benefits to run out and the home has to make room for another paying customer (or in favor of one).

Posted by Paul Rosa | Report as abusive

The opinions of John Reid reflect exactly the side of globalization so many reject, and ignore not only massive opposition to these future plans for the world but a huge contention on the legitimacy of the ‘representatives’ who create them.

Before discussing globalization it’s imperative to take stock of the profound lack of democracy represented by those leading the charge in the west. Represented easily in microcosm by the way these powerful countries behave in collectives like the UN. NOT a democratic body. And by the way their election processes are heavily influenced by big business and anti-democratic corporate media.

Another obstacle to any meaningful or legitimate globalization process is the profound unilateralism demonstrated at every opportunity by western power.

Put simply, people don’t trust those in power, they don’t trust corporate anti-democratic media and they don’t trust the rich.

We are well aware of these things on an every day social level, though we simply don’t have the freedom of speech to make a big deal about it, neither would we need to as our quality of life in terms of wealth does not suffer from this known corruption thus, despite small activist groups, generally we are hardly compelled.

But now with the transition from “cold-war” era communism to post “cold-war” era socialism there is a new enemy of the west. Unfortunately this enemy is democratic in nature and cannot be demonized easily like the former Soviet Union.
It is a purer form of the ideals of communism founded on democracy not dictatorship, which if anything is a much greater threat to the west than the appeal of the former, heavily flawed implementation of communist/socialist ideals.

With socialism on the rise and growing exponentially in many parts of the world, the powers of capitalism in the west are under threat from democracy and slowly losing their legitimacy and grip on power. Especially with the spread and popularity of the internet.

I wonder, does democratic socialism, free from the influence of big business finance and democratic media have a place in this globalization agenda of the western powers? Or is it precisely the strategy needed to reign in the spread of anti-capitalist democracy and enshrine their grip on power.

One thing is certain, “globalization” will not be a democratic process. It wasn’t for the European union, and it hasn’t been for anyone else so far.

It is more likely to be a flagship, like terrorism, for new trends and changes in foreign and domestic policies around the world to justify unpopular politics, and will not be something any of us will ever vote on or be a part of..

Posted by brian | Report as abusive

If the power countries of the world are serious about democracy being a part of globalization the obvious first move would be to abolish the wrongly named ‘security-council’ and empower the general assembly.
To restore a little faith would be a great start, but it will not happen until the power countries themselves are truly democratic.

Posted by brian | Report as abusive

I’d be very interested to know what your “third sector” (second to last paragraph) refers to.
Apart from that it all sounds very Orwellian. Did all those soldiers who fought for our freedom fight in vain?

Posted by Peter H | Report as abusive

This article seems not only 15 years old, but even behind scholastically for that time. It seems to have both the prescription and cause of disconnect inherent within its thought: realism. Realism was not able to explain the end of the Soviet threat, nor is it able to explain non-state threats such as terrorism. Assuming that this synergy between civil society, government, and business is feasible in the first place, what does it hope to accomplish? Vigilance regarding terrorism has its limits – they are designed to be unpredictable events for a reason. Additionally, there is a limit to the amount of security one can have against these threats, overlooking the Orwellian references. Amassing data can only help in identifying the perpetrators after the fact and not do much to deter attacks. It is the lack of fear that makes terrorist un-deterable – cataloging threats is a handy tool for policy makers, but it overlooks big picture questions of practicality. If there was another event comparable in magnitude to 9/11, there is a question which was never addressed at that time either: what is a credible way to counteract the threat? The military acts more like a hammer than a scalpel and a criminal investigation seems almost facetious after the fact.
The other problem with elevating international crime, terrorism, and migration to the level of threat skews both the view of alternatives and the manner in which they are conceivable carried out. A massive influx of refugees, as happened in the horn of Africa after years of civil unrest, that I could see as an issue – where to house and feed hundreds of thousands of people fleeing a war, crossing the borders en masse. Classifying immigration as a threat is a thinly veiled excuse for xenophobia at best.
Finally, the nature of threats may have changed, but the potential scale has drastically reduced as well. Compared to a constant threat of annihilation over minor provocation, a spattering of crime, immigration and largely ineffectual terrorism is a much safer security landscape. The US is currently overextended in a two theater war, but the lack of a rising power to check its hegemony begs the question of “what security threat?” Either realism falls flat on its face to explain the current climate of security, or there is no credible threat the established order. He can’t have his cake and eat it too.

Posted by Matt G | Report as abusive

Paul, I never said the U.S. and Blighty weren’t perilously close to being fascist police states. In fact I think it was at least one corollary deduction that could be made from my comment. The media as it’s willing concubine? I guess I just assumed such without mentioning it.

Posted by J | Report as abusive

The United States and other so called democracies became fascist along time ago. The working and middle classes allowed their say in government to be usurped in exchange for the promise of economic security. Now we watch someone else’s kids go to war and our children struggle to find work. It wasn’t even done behind our backs, but right out in the open. We voted in politician after politician who supported globalization and free trade(outsourced labor and no prohibitions against dumping cheap foreign goods). The rich business men became richer and lavished more generous campaign contributions to the politicians in support of globalization.

65% of the American people support the creation of a public health care system. Approximately half of the members of congress do not. 70% of the people are opposed to further escalation in the Afghanistan war and want to see it ended. The president and congress are going to increase troop strength and funding in spite of warnings by national security adviser General Jim Jones.

A newly elected government that continues to fight an unpopular war and neglects the health and prosperity of it’s people is not carrying out the will of the people. Clearly this is not how democratic governments work. I would submit that the policies of the previous administration are still in effect for the benefit of wealthy elite industrialists.

The founding fathers of this nation, however flawed, sought to throw off the English Monarchy and succeeded. Long ago the Oligarchs filled in the void left by the Monarch and an apathetic citizenry. It is time for American citizens to put their petty differences aside and unite in order to make our government better provide for the “Health, Welfare, Security and the Tranquility of the People”.

Posted by Anubis | Report as abusive

Hi Jay – I didn’t mean to suggest or lead your comment. But my first comment originally appeared in the US addition at about 11 am and then yours appeared a few hours later and it made me think to reply. For some reason my first comment was given a new later time and it looks like I sent two comments back to back. I wrote because Mr. Reid’s article looked neglected and I decided to spout off. I had nothing to do that morning and his page looked like virgin territory.

But – you know – these pages say “be the first to comment” and I thought “why not?”. I tend to agree with you. The rest of the comments seem bleaker than anything I had to say.

Another point that I’d like to make – now that I’m awake -is that empowerment of the general assembly may not be such a good idea. Somehow that should give people the cold shivers. Both President Chavez and Mr. Qaddafi would love that idea. Would you agree that both men have a very strong fascist streak in them? The name “demagogues” is very suitable for both of them.

Rather than an empowered General Assembly – wouldn’t an enlarged Security Council (as is currently being discussed) with expanded veto power to all members and/or the requirement of an absolute majority (aka simple majority as it is called in the states)- or even a two thirds majority, be preferable? It would make the Security Council more like an upper house (a Senate or House of Lords). Many smaller states do not have their acts together.

I think it would be death to the UN if the General Assembly were too powerful. If the organization was ever open to a popular vote – I think it would die almost overnight. The larger states would simply abandon it. It’s budget is smaller than that of the school system of New York City. It could simply be bought by one or more of the richer states. It is a fine institution but it is very weak already. A politicized UN would rapidly devolve into chaos I am sure. As an institution it is not as powerful as the EU. One of the things I admire about it is that is seems to be an organization that is something like a supreme court as well as a legislature. It offers the member states a way to air their opinions without being dragged along by an easily lead popular will. The issues it discuses are also somewhat over most of our heads. I also can’t imagine a world where voters must deal with four to five levels of government. Local, State Federal and UN for countries like the US and local, State, National, EU and UN for the European countries. Chinese voters would have two or three levels (I think): local, national and UN. Now that I look at national issues I hardly look at anything in the local papers (but that is a very small paper with a lot of local gossip). And yet the local level is the one closest to my sorry affairs and the one most likely to impact my life in daily terms.

I can’t imagine a UN that had the ability to levy taxation at a popular level. I think the world would explode.

Posted by Paul Rosa | Report as abusive

The UN is already as effectual as it can be. Any attempt to give it more power will just make things worse.

The Security Council doesn’t need much changing either. It suits its purpose perfectly:
-To allow a forum for the discussion of mutual issues between security council members.
-To delay and impede wars for as long as possible, before the conflict inevitably erupts.
-To secure a ceasefire in a conflict as soon as possible, even if this requires insincere commitments by the UN which they have no intention of keeping.

I think the moment the security council is capable of passing majority votes, it will step on the toes of at least one veto power. And if that veto is not respected, the council will cease to exist that same day.

Likewise, if each member of the council gets a veto then nothing will ever be passed. Because it is inevitable that an issue will have two sides.

Posted by Anon | Report as abusive

paul rosa, the reuters blogs are definitely a bit funny like that sometimes, I’ve personally experienced it and other glitches many times before..

Your thoughts on the UN being a restricted democracy are interesting. I guess it depends where one is sitting when making the judgment.
No doubt the lucky few in the world and obviously the rich and powerful countries would have much to lose from making the UN a democratic body, thus why they insist on controlling it at present. And though to actually empower the general assembly (unlikely to ever eventuate) would completely turn the world upside down, the vast majority of people on earth would benefit from this.
Now it’s common in the west to write off such an idea as impractical, but we all know for a fact that the only reason it’s impractical is because we would never let ourselves be disadvantaged by something like global democracy despite the improvement to the majority. Though we never have to actually admit it, we all know that these people are not considered as equals.

There’s an arrogance also that we somehow work harder than the poor so we have earned our luxuries…
Absolutely false to anyone who has been to a poor country. We live off the backs of these people who supply all the goods and cheap labor needed to support our ‘advanced’ economies, given a head start in the first place through a history vicious imperialism and slavery.

I agree with you that democracy in the UN would be an absolute tragedy for the wealthy. But without it we’re just the dictators and have no right to speak of democracy as something we have any respect for..
See the funny thing about REAL democracy is that it’s inherently socialist because the majority decide on what is best for the majority which is inevitably what is NOT best for the rich minority, unless they control the ‘democratic’ process.

Regarding Chavez and Qaddafi, I wouldn’t even think to put them in the same category. Qaddafi doesn’t even deserve my attention, a corrupt and primitive man in an insignificant country.
Chavez is a national hero and nothing less than a warrior for democracy, equality, justice and independence. The US historically HATES a nationalist, especially if they have important resources. Chavez commands the respect of the entire subcontinent (minus 1 or 2 enormously corrupt regimes like Columbia) which he has done much for of late.

If by using him as an example you simply meant that socialism would benefit from UN democracy, I would completely agree but don’t understand why you would mention Qaddafi..
Undoubtedly the prime benefactors would be the two largest and poorest countries in the world, India and China.

Posted by brian | Report as abusive

Anon, I think we should finally put our money where our mouth is and say NO security council, or at the very least NO veto power, to start the democratic ball rolling..

Posted by brian | Report as abusive

Brian I think you will find that the Institute for Security and Resilience Studies and their like is more about restricting democratic rights of citizens.
You will still be allowed to vote no doubt for insincere commitments which the politicians will have no intention of keeping in order to keep up a pretence of democratic process, but the citizens will be little more than an inconvenience to the masters of the world, and their rights will be eroded eventually making even the worst tyrants look like enlightened leaders.

Posted by Peter H | Report as abusive

I cry uncle on the discussion of the future UN – but I’m still reading the nightly news digests and anything deeper I have the energy to find or think about.

None of those who comment can really afford to despise the wealthy. Everyone wants to get there and if it is a despised state of affairs – what is the point of trying? It also appears that communism is dead. Perhaps we are seeing the death of the antipode – the death of capitalism? That just leaves socialism (or the life of a Franciscan).

But any form of economic system can be fascist. There are two gilded bronze fasces on the US House of Representative walls on either side of the speakers platform.That is a political tendency that seems to appear mostly in times of crisis. They are not by themselves an ugly symbol of the brute force of “the people”. The decorators used them to represent the idea that “divided we stand united we fall”. But there is some thing about the past eight years that is disgusting. The war(s) were too automatic, too easy – no conscription. That would have upset far too many people with far too few children to sacrifice for the “cause”, and too much a product of televised information.

But to return to Mr. Reid’s article. If I understand him, he wants “grass roots security”. I think it is impossible in a world that is very urban and mobile to really get that.

I really can’t vouch for how many people in urban areas know their neighbors – let alone their neighborhood. In my life I have lived in about 15 different houses or apartments, seven different states and two countries. I never knew more than the street signs- a few streets and a few neighbors. It was actually easier to comprehend the structure and composition of an entire urban area than it was to know much about the life of a single street. I now live in a small town and actually see people that I can recognize for more than a few years at a time – and realize – I’m no good at it. The irony is – that if I’m not moving – they are. And if the neighbors aren’t moving away – they die off. And my moves were mostly voluntary and served as a good exposure to the country. But they were not conducive to establishing a sense of identification with any of those places. But Mr. Reid points out the terrible insecurity of hundreds of thousands of refugees in various places of the world who are ripped from their established communities and can spend years – even decades in temporary settlements. Some are no longer temporary, like the urbanized “camps” that characterize the West Bank or the refugee camps for the Darfur refugees in states bordering Sudan. Those people don’t control their own lives- they are managed by international authorities like the UN. What possible concern can they really have for places that mean little or nothing to them?

After 9/11 President Bush made a speech that suggested people be alert to threats or suspicious activities in their neighborhoods or places of work. I took it as a cruel joke. Doesn’t it take years to even begin to recognize what is normal activity in a neighborhood?

I don’t think Mr. Reid will ever get the localized security he thinks we needs.

About 250,000 people in Sri Lanka are now imprisoned by their own government because they were unfortunate enough to live in an area dominated by the Tamil rebels. I don’t know if the government ever let them out. This is the horror of the modern world. Their government doesn’t trust them to go home and resume their lives. Too many of them might be related to the “enemy”.

The media is also disingenuous about the war crimes of Gaza – both sides. The biggest crime of all – was that the Gazan civilians were not permitted to flee the fighting. Israel and Egypt did not trust them and essentially forced them into the role of being human shields. The Israeli’s were shooting fish in a barrel. In Lebanon the civilians were able to get out of harms way.

That movie – “Children of Men” wasn’t really about the future at all.

Posted by Paul Rosa | Report as abusive

Yes Peter, it looks like this new institute Reid is drumming up publicity for at the moment is part of a wider initiative called ‘London First’, and after looking at their membership it seems to be the same old story.
Huge corporate giants influencing public policy.
Here’s the list of members for the mother organization to which UCL and the institute of security and resilience studies are just a small piece. Security_Resilience_Network_members.pdf

Posted by brian | Report as abusive

Probably also worth mentioning that Reuters itself is owned by the ‘3rd Baron of Fleet’, British Lord and richest man in Canada, 31st richest in the world.

Posted by brian | Report as abusive

Yes, it’s interesting to try to keep up with who’s who and who owns what, although I’ve just about given up having seen just about every company of any size in the industry I’ve worked in since leaving school hoovered up by a handful of “majors” over the last couple of decades, especially since about 1997+-.
It’s easy to see how politicians could be led to believe that they only need to service this increasingly decreasing number of players.

Posted by Peter H | Report as abusive

To Peter – The present is looking very like the distant past. Octavian came to power as the first bona fide Roman Emperor because the Senate was comprised of men who owned everything – or nearly everything. Roman society was basically two tiered. A small number or knights and senators and a great mass of slaves and freemen totally dependent on the upper orders.

An empire is death to democratic traditions.

But the modern world moves so fast it may not take us two or three hundred years to watch the annihilation of all the senatorial class – several times in the history of those people – and we can head straight to , pass Constantine and Diocletian, do not collect the next stimulus check and head straight to the dark ages.

Caligula is supposed to have said – “if only Rome had a single neck, I could cut off it’s head” or words to that effect. The Senate made it easy for him. They provided him theirs. By the end of the reign of Nero – none of the great houses who supported Augustus were in existence.

But modern fascism seems to have read it’s history books. Hitler’s regime had read the ancients and the more recent European history. They knew how a modern state can be terrorized into submission to the degree that most of the little people didn’t see what was going on around them.

My Father – a world War II vet – recalls that while in college he was exposed to some of the global thinking of the Third Reich. They thought of Eurasia as the center of the planet and the North and South American continents as the fringe. In terms of population – we still are.

It makes me wonder what might have been on the reading lists of Osama and Company – or by now – companies?

But it is obvious that none of our comments think Mr. Reid is sincere and we are all suspicious of who he expects to work for. Is his concern for our protection democratic at all? Business are not usually democracies and the way Congress drags its heals over share holder rights, financial regulation and the protection of the small investor, suggests that they have nothing but contempt for them.

If this comment does not appear – I’ll know the answer.

Posted by Paul Rosa | Report as abusive

Personally I see no difference between the two, they are all like minded aristocrats who move between the two sectors making it almost impossible to distinguish a line between the two. Not to mention that political parties themselves are funded and staffed by the corporate giants.

It cannot be understated how important control of the undemocratic corporate news media is to maintaining this monopoly over our political process.
If we were to liberate news from entertainment media and make it democratic it would be the end of this stranglehold over democracy.

Posted by brian | Report as abusive

Brian – What can’t you see the difference between? The small investor and the corporate giants?

If you own a plot of land or a small business, have an IRA or even a house. You are a small investor.

If that makes one an aristocrat you are sounding very like a sans Coulotte.

Somehow I suspect Robespierre is trotting along right behind you.

Are you hoping for a total leveling of the masses ala Mao?

To answer an earlier comment – I think men like Chavez, Mugabe, and the dear leader know how to sing a populist song but really want power and can’t separate their own sense of personal self importance from the damage they cause. Mugabe is an old man who is afraid to step down because he probably fears he will be killed when he is back in the “masses” again. Or if he does, he fears the loss of power and prestige will kill him because he has grown to love the position and can no longer live without it. Dear leader is a dynast and autocrat who only knows how to sing the socialist tune. The voters of Venezuela were suspicious of Chavez attempt to lengthen his terms. And the man doesn’t have the slightest appreciation of the art of diplomacy. How much they may despise each other those men and women in the UN have to be able to talk to one anther without throwing the furniture around.

I’m quite sure our own corporate heads are no less susceptible to the thrill of big money and big influence – but I lost several better attempts at writing this reply.

There is a legitimate need for police forces in the world. The trouble with Mr. Reid’s article is – it is so damned obscure. What is he proposing that isn’t there already?

Is his concern external threats – internal threats – or perhaps both?

If there is no middle money – that leaves only the mega wealthy and the destitute or those enslaved to their mortgages and personal debt.

But I whole hearted agree with you that infotainment is somehow neither entertainment nor information. But that is what most people suck up. But if it comes to a choice between a person who thinks the National Enquirer is good reading or a person who can read whole libraries with comprehension and balance, I (who am not wealthy enough to join even the bigger middle shots), will listen to the aristocrat, as long as he knows his place and is not determined to enslave me.

Fascist states don’t just grow from the top down. They grow because the great majority or people are selfish, domineering and want simple and easy answers to everything. Strong men are always popular because they look like they can “get things done” and know how to kill off their smarter critics. And , oh my, how it seems the ladies love them.

Posted by Paul Rosa | Report as abusive

Dear author,
Very interesting and very expanded writings from you.
In my life, I have not dreamed or imagined even iota level, The Berlin Wall will be dismantled and will be opened to Germans.
But that man made history was buried.
Generally viewing on this great real occasions, freedom lovers, open minded thinkers, world leaders, and champions for freedom and for free trades are rejoicing and talking of this new freedom running by East Germans to West Germans for their intellectual chatting only.
Now, all are Germans, Some economic and social changes, prosperities on many fields are in.
Because of ex and new cold war between super nations with some self own interests, dominations towards weaker nations, weaker minds had created some cries, economic and social disparities had happened.
What the world bodies had done to some monopoly political systems rulers till to this hour.
Strong man with self ,controlled publicities will hold the keys of power and influences to others are common in any history.
Now, the time has come to bury their differences and work, build for greater green pastures to entire human kind.
We are all citizens of this world.
Unity in Diversity should be the slogan for every body!s day today living and for continuous growth in all vital fields for restoring real democracy,real economic and social assistance to needy nations, to needy persons are hours of today.
No new schools or no new philosophy are needed to this juncture.
We have very solid experiences of the past and present economic, agriculture, education, productivity, banking, bookish and practical knowledges are enormous.
Now a days, younger generations wants good education, good income, freedom from the unknown and freedom from the known and good standard of living by carrot and stick policies are acceptable.
Who creates,allows Fascism,racial misgivings, wrong branding, war crimes, war creation phobias etc.,etc.,
If we correct,our past and present mistakes, then , we will be in heaven,and experience peace ,co-existence,love,togetherness and all good qualities,good thoughts ,tolerance are be enjoyable with pleasant memories and pleasure thoughts from this world.
Need not to imagine what Heaven! will be.

Posted by krishnamurthi ramachandran | Report as abusive

Between politicians and corporate giants.
I don’t know where you came up with ‘small investors’, that wasn’t part of the conversation.

You’ve made your point that you’re anti-chavez despite his enormous popularity.
It’s important to recognize the difference between reporting and a demonizing which is routine practice when dealing with enemies of ‘the state’ and easily distinguishable when information is available that contradicts the standard line which is not being published.

What place has an aristocrat ever had in defense of freedom of speech and transparency?
Have you ever heard the rich standing up corporate control of the state??

Posted by brian | Report as abusive

The other side of the coin:-
The CIS and Russia were very weak after the fall of the erstwhile USSR.The USA,UK and Israel have been always aggressive,but more so after the so called,Cold War.The trio has also become the most feared terrorist(which includes bio- and nuke-) with false flags and what not.

Posted by sadasivan | Report as abusive

The world is a cake.

The West have the big slice. The East have a smaller slice.

The rest of the nations are smart enough to realise they want a slice of the cake, but not smart enough to realise they *are* the cake.

And the terrorists? They are the chocolate sprinkles. At worst they will get between the teeth and annoy. At best, they provide the excuse to take bigger mouthfuls.

Posted by Hmmm | Report as abusive

Well, after this weekend, what could have been a Lukewarm War, we now have a Warm War, because my bomb is bigger than yours. Security should be a homeland initiative, because there is too much infighting amongst agencies. The Security Council doesn’t seem to have achieved much lately, I am not sure what another Institute would achieve. Terrorism is easy to anticipate:- expect the most obscure and unexpected, the Day of the Floating Papers taught us that much.

Posted by Casper | Report as abusive