Global safety


The threat of terrorism is frequently popping up in all kinds of ways and in all kinds of places of the world. There is a broad demand for global safety. Policy makers and technological experts often have an easy and quick answer to these threats.

One of the answers to these threats is controlling the individual. The first step is the identification of an individual. This  assumes that they know where the danger comes from; form small groups of vaguely identified persons, who might be planning an attack or on their way to carry out an attack. To prevent an attack all kind of controlling is allowed. Laws are rapidly changing to make these acts legal. In order to prevent terrorist attacks from individuals or small groups of people politicians are beginning to develop total control over individuals by giving the government the right to follow the individual in all its travels, tracking him or her down with Geographic Information Systems (GIS); by following a person via his or her cell phone and credit cards and using millions of cameras; and when one crosses a border through the use of passports and X-rays of luggage, with travellers being stripped of his or her belt and shoes and enduring  eye scans and fingerprints for recognition.

Like in all complex societal problems some people benefit from a problem and some have to pay. All this controlling demands many (new) technological devices. That provides work for a whole sector of industry following enthusiastically all the new demands for control. But those controlling measures have a direct negative effect on the liberty of people and the democracy of the state.  It is striking that these freedom restricting acts of the government are being initiated by the country of liberty and democracy: the USA during the Bush junior administration. Instead of freedom we are moving towards to a society well-known under the former USSR and shown in East Germany in the period of 1945-1990, where almost every third civilian watched the two others.

Is this the price we have to pay for our safety? Can these highly technological devices in fact  prevent terrorist attacks? Looking at a huge attack like 9/11 New York, that was the start of many of the demonic measures, we see that all these procedures could not have prevented the attack. Some of the persons that persuaded the attack on 9/11 where partly trained in the USA, were there long before the attack in the USA, and some were actually citizens of the USA.  Looking at suicide bombers we see that these people are very hard to detect and even harder to prevent doing their terrible acts.

The legal governmental systems of control actually threaten the privacy of the civilians, and this itself threatens democracy. The civilian is under total surveillance, before he or she has even  thought of a illegal act. All this controlling demands a lot of money, government money which is, as is shown in the Bush administration, being diverted out of  healthcare and education.


In order to make the world a better place to live in and to increase global safety we should try to find out where the threats really come from. What provokes terrorists to do these acts? What and who stimulates them to do this? What are the causes? And when we know the causes what can we do to change this.

In this volume of the  Journal  of Methodology and Models of Complexity we focus on threats to global safety, from civil war and from terrorism. War and terrorism have in common that these are both ways to ‘solve’ a complex societal problem in a violent way, in case of differences in opinions how to rule a state,  or in differences of opinion of who is the owner of the land and resources like oil,  water, and buildings.

There is a difference between war and terrorism. The so-called wars are considered to be legal. In this perception the Second World War is easily accepted as a legal war. The war in Vietnam seemed to be a legal way to defend our freedom.  Civil wars are a class apart, but can be considered as a war between ‘states in decay and states in nascent’. That was the case in China in the war between the communists and the nationalists.  The struggle between the Irish and the English can also be framed in this context. In more recent times, the (civil) war between the Israelis and the Palestinians upsets the world. In all these cases the state seems to have the right to carry out violence and is allowed to send young boys into the killing fields. The state has a legal right to protect its country and soil when attacked by other states. Terrorism on the other hand often starts where people want to defend their property, soil and ideas. They do not have enough money, resources or people to stand up for it. Therefore these groups have recourse to terrorism. Terrorism uses violence to try to persuade a state. As such, terrorism can be  defined as a ‘war between a group of persons and a state’. The group can be small or even ‘a state in nascent’ that has no power or the means to start a legal war. Suicide bombing water, subway and Internet attacks are then means to put pressure to state. In Europe there are many example of terrorist attacks such in the Basque country in northern Spain, fighting for independence.


Neither war nor terrorism are good solutions for a complex societal problem. In this volume three authors, well known with the problems of (civilian) war and terrorism, take the concept of national identity as a starting point of their analysis of  the problems.

The renowned Harvard Professor Herbert Kelman has a long during experience with the psychological aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He wonders in what way the cores of the national identities of state in conflict, - as necessary elements of the integrity of those states -, can be preserved on one hand, and on the other hand how the less central elements of those identities can be used to come to compromises. His hopes comes from problem-solving workshops in which representatives of the Palestinian and Israeli nations (de)construct a private space in which mutual understanding is possible and the route to negotiations becomes feasible. In his intriguing article he describes the theoretical foundation of those enterprises and report about a decennium practice about the problem solving workshops.

The eminent Operational Researcher Professor Ken Bowen, with a military background, reflects about the British experiences in relation to the defending of national identity. His aim is to stimulate a debate “on what studies are worth putting in hand and how to avoid stereotyped views of defence as a purely military activity”.  For this he refers to the Falkland War of the British against Argentine. He presents a framework in which integrity and national identity of a state are better served by activities in the domain of  education, research and healthcare than by military activities.

The lessons from the practice of (civil) war and peace in Ireland comes from Cathal Brugha of the University of Dublin. He starts with a theoretical framework lent from reputed philosophers.  From this framework he generates “eight Principal Political Adjustment Activities along with corresponding Dilemmas: Unilateralism (Backlash), Negotiation (Recognition), Credibility (Awareness), Trust (Renege), Inducement (Rejection), Deterrence (Incitement), Positioning (Vulnerability), and Threat (Weakness)” that can be used to analyse and handle conflicts between nations. He illustrates that with example from the conflicts in Ireland, and “uses the model to suggest how the United States might move away from an unilateralist approach to dealing with international terrorism”. It is also clear from this discourse that an unilateral military intervention is not the way to solve the problem of global safety.


With these articles one can (re)think and (re)discus the topic of global safety in the world. We like to thank the authors and the reviewers for their very interesting contribution and we do hope that these article can give us some insights and knowledge to handle contemporary conflicts in a more peaceful and less damage causing way. We can imagine that there is an urge to discuss these issues with us and other scientist  after reading these articles.  In this case we would stimulate you to send us an email with the material you want us to put on the web. Please indicate if you would like us to put your comments on the discussion site of Volume 8: Global Safety and Terrorism.  




Dorien DeTombe

Cor van Dijkum