This paper is intended to stimulate discussion of how international actors respond to conflict. The paper begins from the assumption that counter-terrorism, stabilisation and statebuilding approaches – while distinct from each other, and different in different contexts – are also linked in important ways, and have followed a discernible pattern in recent decades.
It draws attention to the profound continuity between current approaches and those of the past, and calls for the lessons of the past to prompt a more innovative search for peaceful solutions in the face of contemporary threats.
While acknowledging the dilemmas faced by policymakers, it critically examines the lessons from counter-terrorism, stabilisation and statebuilding efforts in countries around the world. It thus makes a convincing case for questioning many of the routine assumptions underlying Western policy approaches to ‘terror’ and instability.
This paper suggests that the lessons of the past remain relevant today and necessitate a re-evaluation of current approaches. It calls for an understanding of the profound continuity that underlies apparently ‘new’ policy thinking – such as the use of development assistance to further national security objectives, or the funding of proxy governments to combat terrorists as an alternative to direct military action.