Friday, August 6, 2021

Silke Zoller's "To Deter and Punish"

Silke Zoller is an assistant professor of history at Kennesaw State University.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, To Deter and Punish: Global Collaboration Against Terrorism in the 1970s, and reported the following:
From page 99:
The Arab, African, and other [United Nations] delegates claimed that extremist violence was an aspect of national liberation organizations’ state-building efforts and needed to be handled in that context. So did states’ counter-measures. These delegates acknowledged that brutal acts of violence against “innocent” civilians were inexcusable. They insisted that true terrorists were rare outliers, however, and that overall, national liberation movements should not be delegitimized through the terrorism label. (…)

The contrasting Global North position maintained that international terrorism was a brutal crime without any political legitimacy. Representatives of this position included the United States and Canada, most Western European states, the Baltic states, Japan, and Australia. (…) Bennett and his allies insisted that extremists’ violence against civilians invalidated any sort of political context or grievances. Such attacks were not an act of armed conflict. They were an urgent threat to global safety. The international community needed to create certainty that states would duly punish and not support non-state attackers. (…) The Global North delegates also vehemently denounced the idea that the convention should cover only “innocent” civilians because that terminology implied that state officials or military and law enforcement officers could be legitimate targets.
The page 99 test highlights the key historical controversy at the heart of To Deter and Punish and represents its main argument well. In the early 1970s, political extremists from the Global South committed attacks on Global North targets – on citizens, territory, and property (like airplanes) of the wealthiest and most developed states in the world. Individual states instituted domestic responses, such as better aviation security practices. However, Global North diplomats and security bureaucrats realized that attackers often struck abroad or in international spaces. To react to border-crossing violence, Global North officials started talking to one another. Their goal was to figure out how the entire international community should respond, and to literally “deter and punish” attackers.

Page 99 is in the second chapter of the book, which describes the debates surrounding international terrorism at the United Nations after the tragic attack by Palestinian extremists on the Israeli team at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games. By this point, Global North officials had worked out an approach to internationally restrict extremist violence. They promoted new extradition agreements. These agreements required all states to pass criminal laws against extremist violence, to arrest offenders, and to either prosecute these offenders or to extradite them elsewhere. With this approach, Global North officials argued, the world could cut off safe havens and the maneuverability of international terrorists. Yet this approach was not so easily implemented. As page 99 shows, the debate around international terrorism soon took on much larger implications. Many recently independent states argued that such agreements would delegitimate not just violent extremists, but also national independence movements. They were unwilling to support what they saw as a blanket condemnation of political violence. These two positions, from the Global North and Global South, would continue to clash in anti-terrorism initiatives throughout the 1970s, as the rest of To Deter and Punish shows.
Visit Silke Zoller's webpage.

--Marshal Zeringue