Seventeen years after the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington, the “war on terror” is still stumbling along. From the Sahel to the Philippines, governments and international coalitions continue to battle jihadi groups. In an era of mounting international competition, political leaders, generals and spies continue to agree that transnational terrorism is a common threat.
Global organizations like the United Nations cannot insulate themselves from this tendency. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has made consolidating the institution’s counterterrorist activities a priority. Last week, World Politics Review ran a trenchant piece by Larry Attree and Jordan Street of Saferworld, warning that the U.N. must avoid “buying further into the doctrine of counterterrorism” to the detriment of its roles in peacemaking and defending human rights.
The authors are friends of mine. I agree with most of their thesis, which is based on a fine report they wrote with Luca Venchiarutti. But I have some questions about where their argument leads.