Paul Rogers, 'Losing Control: Global Security in the Twenty-First Century, 3rd Edition'

IssueMarch 2011
Review by Chris Cole

The basic argument of this book, originally written 18 months before 9/11, was that the “traditional” method of political control through the projection of military power, which Rogers dubbed “the control paradigm” would not work in an increasingly fragile and unpredictable world. He argued that a model of security based on a military security would simply fail as it did not address the growing socio-economic divide nor the rising environmental crisis, but merely attempted to keep a lid on the problem: “liddism” as he dubbed it. The hope was that the world would quickly realise the futility of this approach and begin to address the underlying problems which created insecurity.

Unfortunately, as we now know, huge resources were committed to the liddism option and the war on terror was born, bringing death, disaster and injury to hundreds of thousands. This third edition contains two new chapters developing the original theme in the light of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and also updates the original analysis with important new data.

A change of leadership in the US, has not changed the “direction of passage” in any significant way. Rogers argues that the first decade of the 21st Century has been “a lost decade” in terms of addressing “the task of moving towards a more emancipated, sustainable and peaceful world.” In terms of the environmental crisis, however, he suggests that although a decade has been lost here too, there has been a significant “change of mood”.

While a decade ago a tiny minority were concerned with the issue, today that has changed significantly. The danger is, as Rogers writes, there is “a tendency to ‘securitise’ climate change, seeing it as a matter for action that will preserve the security of the richer and more powerful states.”

Whilst Paul Rogers is a highly respected academic, he is – as this reviewer can personally testify – also absolutely committed to supporting grassroots change. He ends the new edition of his book by arguing that the process of transformation depends less on politicians and more on “civil society in its most innovative and prophetic modes.”

All I can say is Amen to that.