Terror and Consent: The Wars for the Twenty-First Century by Philip Bobbitt - review by Michael Burleigh

Michael Burleigh

Be Prepared

Terror and Consent: The Wars for the Twenty-First Century


Allen Lane / The Penguin Press 672pp £25 order from our bookshop

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, is a devotee of Philip Bobbitt, the Anglophile constitutional lawyer turned global strategist and patrician prophet. Judging from the following sentence, which boils down to the need for emergency constitutional provision for the eventuality that the top levels of US federal government are wiped out, one sees why:

The automaticity that [Bruce] Ackerman builds into his Doomsday Machine is not its greatest virtue, allowing the Constitution to prevail despite panicky pressures to compromise it; rather, this is the greatest vice of the supermajoritarian escalator because it inflexibly assumes (and indeed relies entirely on this inflexibility) that the future will not confound us by frustrating a legislative quorum, by threats of extortion that prey on individual congressmen, by providing an excuse for a dictatorial president to dispense with legislative government altogether.

Bobbitt’s use of ‘claviger’, ‘compellance’, ‘counterindicated’, ‘indicia’, ‘fractionated’, and ‘preclusive’, of epithets from Hardy, Hobbes and Shakespeare, and a leavening of lawyer’s Latin, compound the portentous stylistic ‘unclarity’. This, and a coda that concludes, ‘In Heaven there will be no terror, and the lion will lie down with the lamb’,

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