FP: The Cold War lasted about 40 years. Do you see this current struggle we are having with extremism, whatever you want to call it, the war on terror, do you see that lasting as long, or do you see that changing in some way over the next decade?
BC: How long it lasts depends on whether the places out of which really big, effective terrorist groups are operating remain essentially stateless. The territories in Pakistan and the border area with Afghanistan are not part of a centralized state. Robert Kaplan has written tons of books about what's going on in the modern world, and if you read The Ends of the Earth and these books that say we are de facto, no matter what the laws say, becoming nations of mega-city-states full of really poor, angry, uneducated, and highly vulnerable people, all over the world, we would have a lot of slumdog millionaires. If that's right, then terror -- meaning killing and robbery and coercion by people who do not have state authority and go beyond national borders -- could be around for a very long time. On the other hand, terrorism needs both anxiety and opportunity to flourish. So one of the things that the United States and others ought to be doing is trying to help the nation-state adjust to the realities of the 21st century and then succeed.
Resolving energy, ironically, could play a major role in reducing the appeal of terror because if we change the way we produce and consume energy all over the world, it would create opportunities for education, for entrepreneurs, for work, for involving women and girls in positive economic encounters, at every level of national income from the richest states to the poorest. Therefore, I think all of the creative energy thinkers need to be brought to bear on this because the world as it integrates has to have a source of new economic activity. In the poorer places just getting agriculture up to speed and putting all the kids in school, there is enough to keep going for a few years. But this energy thing could give us a decade of exhilarating self-discovery. Really smart energy thinkers, Amory Lovins, Paul Hawken, people who have been doing this for 30 years -- what they've always known, before this ever became a serious debate, is, you couldn't sell a clean green future unless you could prove it was good economics.
You should look at big thinkers on the question of identity. Samuel Huntington wrote the famous book The Clash of Civilizations. But we need an effort to explain and, if possible merge, theories of identity that are biological, psychological, social, and political, because it's obvious that in an age of interdependence, you want Wright's thesis, you want there to be more nonzero subsolutions. You want this thing to happen; you hope he is right that you can reconcile religion and science; you hope the president's speech in Cairo turns out to be right, that it's a walk in the park to reconcile religious differences. I gave a bunch of speeches on this after 9/11, saying that our religious and political differences could be reconciled. I think President Obama's word was that we had to respect doubt.
What I always said was that if you are religious it meant by definition there was such a thing as Truth, capital T. So to make it work in a world full of differences, you had to recognize that there was a big distinction between the existence of Truth, capital T, and the ability of any one human being to understand it completely and to translate it into political actions that were 100 percent consistent with it. That's what you had to do; all you had to do was accept human frailty. You can't tell people of faith to be relative about their faith. They believe there is a truth. But the question of whether they can know it and turn it into a political program is a very, very different thing. That is an act of arrogance.
I was influenced by Ken Wilber's book A Theory of Everything, because he tries to point out that throughout history we get connected to people who are different from us before our heads get around the implications of that, and then as soon as they do there is a parallel level of interconnectivity and we have to get our heads around that. All of the public intellectuals in the world need to be thinking quite a bit about this question of identity and need to recognize that in view of the findings of the human genome about the similarities of all of us, even the husband and wife who at the minimum are 99.5 percent the same -- it's pretty spooky, isn't it?