Paul Wilkinson memorial service
Address given by Professor Louise Richardson, Principal and Vice-Chancellor - I come to autumn
For many of us around the world interested in terrorism, the name Paul Wilkinson was synonymous with St Andrews. He put St Andrews on the map in the world of terrorism studies, and he put terrorism studies on the map in the academic world, long before it was discovered by politicians and security specialists the world over.
His constant mantra that we must never lose sight of our liberal principles when combatting terrorism was as relevant and as important and as compelling, when he first started saying it 40 years ago, as it is today. And it never tires of repetition.
For someone interested in such a brutal subject, and who never shied away from its more violent and grotesque implications, Paul was a very gentle man. He was fond of Spenser who has told us that nothing so well betrays a man than his manners. In his manners Paul was a gentleman, soft-spoken and unfailingly courteous to whoever he met.
He was not, however, a pushover, as is evident in the courage with which he faced threats against himself, or the clarity with which he voiced opposition to policies he opposed, or indeed in personal relations. He cared deeply about the CSTPV and its future. He was quite anxious that I find a worthy successor to lead the Centre, and, in truth, I think a little concerned that I was taking so long about doing so. I remember a lovely dinner with Paul and Sue in Crail, when I sat down to my appetizer and found a letter gently prodding me to act. Of course once I identified a candidate, Paul characteristically went to work quietly in the background helping to recruit him.
My own relations with Paul changed from being an admiring young junior faculty member, to a member of his advisory board, to Principal of his university. Yet there was never a hint of difference in the way he interacted with me in all three roles, always with warmth, generosity of spirit, wit and wisdom.
I believe Paul remained so grounded because of the enduring relationship with his wife, Sue, and his loving family, and because of his many enthusiasms outside of work: crabbing, Crail, the arts, The Times crossword, and quoting Burke.
He also enjoyed Chesterton and I would like to end by reading a short poem that Paul was reading shortly before he died which captures his spirit in the latter part of his life;
Lo! I am come to autumn,
When all the leaves are gold;
Grey hairs and golden years cry out
The year and I are old.
In youth I sought the prince of men,
Captain in cosmic wars,
Our titan, even the weeds would show
Defiant, to the stars.
But now a great thing in the street
Seems any human nod,
Where shift in strange democracy
The million masks of God.
In youth I sought the golden flower
Hidden in wood or wold,
But I am come to autumn,
When all the leaves are gold.
G K Chesterton
Address given by Professor Bruce Hoffman, Director of the Center for Peace and Security Studies, Georgetown University – Grace and gravitas
Six months after the fact, it is still difficult to imagine the field of terrorism studies without Paul Wilkinson. Paul is rightly remembered for his voluminous scholarly and popular publications and for his commanding presence as one of the field’s leading scholars and pioneering figures. But beyond this statement of the obvious, Paul’s signal contribution was as its pre-eminent ambassador and foremost visionary: exemplified by the centre devoted to the study of terrorism and political violence that he and I founded at this university in 1994.
The centre represented the crystallization of Paul’s tireless efforts to bridge the gap between both theory and policy and the academy and government. Throughout a career spanning nearly half a century, Paul championed the study of terrorism as a bona fide scholarly pursuit. For this alone, successive generations of terrorism scholars are profoundly in his debt.
But equally significant was his unerring conviction in the relevance of academic research to the formulation of sound government policy——ineluctably and indisputably predicated on core Western liberal and democratic values. “It has never been my view,” Paul famously declared in the preface to Terrorism And The Liberal State, first published in 1977,
that it is improper or demeaning for academics to interest themselves in the urgent practical problems of the day. Indeed in discussing the problem of terrorism with members of the public, politicians, officials, members of the security forces and fellow academics, one is impressed by the widespread desire for serious analysis and long-term thinking concerning the nature of the terrorist phenomena, their causes, effects and policy implications for Western Governments and societies. (Paul Wilkinson, Terrorism And The Liberal State (London & Basingstoke, Macmillan, 1977), p. ix.)
In everything that Paul did, this conviction was at the forefront of his aims and ambitions.
This was never clearer than in the monumental three-day conference titled, “Contemporary Research on Terrorism” that Paul organized and chaired at the University of Aberdeen in April 1986. To this day, the conference is unique in the annals of terrorism studies. It was the largest, longest, grandest, and certainly the most successful international conference on the subject ever held. The conference attracted several hundred delegates from around the world. It resulted in a 634 page collection of nearly forty papers co-edited by Paul that represented only a sample of the extraordinarily rich and diverse presentations heard at both the plenary and individual panels held throughout the conference.
It was also an event where the reality of terrorism and the challenges of counterterrorism were stunningly demonstrated. Ten days before, Libyan agents of the Qaddafi regime had bombed a Berlin discotheque frequented by American servicemen. On the morning that the conference began, eighteen U.S. bombers flying from airbases in the United Kingdom struck Libyan targets in Tripoli and Benghazi. Later that same day the many U.S. government and military personnel attending the conference received orders to return home. A U.S. Air Force cargo plane was dispatched to Aberdeen airport to collect the group, who departed the following morning. In the conference’s closing oration, Paul seized the opportunity to remind the attendees that our field was not a purely theoretical one and could never be divorced from the realities of a world menaced by this particular form of political violence.
However, what I remember best from the conference were the myriad close friendships and lasting professional associations that were established among the delegates. This was also very much Paul’s life-long ambition and intention: to build a community of scholars in the field that would contribute to the identification of practical measures to counter terrorism. For many, these friendships and associations continue to this day. Indeed, it was at this same conference that I first met Paul.
It is not a cliché in Paul’s case to note that he put his life on the line for both his beliefs and the attainment of these aims. Four years later, at a conference on “Terrorism and Democracy,” held at the Royal Overseas League in London, that Paul also organized, he and I were nearly blown up by a time bomb that an IRA agent had placed beneath the speaker’s lectern. A sound technician laying cables to broadcast the event just minutes before it was to begin discovered the explosives concealed in a plastic lunch box and alerted the authorities. It was entirely in keeping with Paul’s character that, in comments to the press afterward, he calmly observed how delighted the police must surely be “to have an intact device to study.”
The apotheosis of Paul’s efforts to forge an intellectual community for the study of terrorism; to build bridges in the struggle against it; and, to ensure the field an academic base from which rigorous, objective analysis of the phenomenon could be conducted, was without doubt the establishment of the Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence. Its importance to him reflected Paul’s strong and immutable commitment to educating successive generations of terrorism scholars and his belief in the need to provide them with both the intellectual tools and the data and information sources necessary to conduct their research. There is without doubt no one in the field responsible for interesting more students in terrorism studies and indeed for producing more scholars of terrorism and practitioners of counterterrorism than Paul.
In closing, permit me to quote from Terrorism And The Liberal State one of Paul’s most important—and singularly memorable—arguments. “Contemporary terrorism in its severe forms,” he wrote,
constitutes what is arguably the most testing and immediate challenge to the will and courage of liberal democracies. It would, I believe, be disastrous if we failed to meet that test. Courage and a determined will to uphold liberal values and institutions, far from being irrelevant qualities more suited to the heroic past, are now more than ever needed if liberty is to survive, and contemporary barbarisms are to be vanquished. (Paul Wilkinson, Terrorism And The Liberal State (London & Basingstoke, Macmillan, 1977), p. 234.)
That statement of principle in the struggle against terrorism could easily have been written at any time during the past decade. That Paul wrote it thirty-five years ago—at the dawn of a new era of violence that until he came on the scene, was poorly understood and largely dismissed, bereft of scholarly rigour and academic standing—tells us who exactly Paul was and what he stood for. It also reminds us how much we all miss him and how much we all benefitted from his powerful intellect, his skills and passion as a teacher, and—most of all—his friendship.
Address given by Professor John Anderson, School of International Relations – A generous man
It is my task to say something about Paul’s contribution to the School of International Relations, and I feel privileged to do this as someone who came here just eighteen months after Paul and benefitted from his support over many years.
IR was taught at St Andrews from the late 1970s within the context of the Economics programme, but it was the recruitment of Paul from Aberdeen University that sparked the rapid expansion of the subject at St Andrews and the creation of a separate department. Paul was the fifth member of staff but from the beginning it was clear he didn’t intend to sit still – though occasionally we wished he would. He set about persuading Principal Arnott that the study of International Relations, not just terrorism, was something that should be developed further at St Andrews. For Paul it was clear that the international dimension was to be the growth area in the study politics over the coming decades – something that has been subsequently been borne out here and elsewhere.
With university backing (and occasional jibes from other academics who referred to us as ‘News at Ten’) he set about creating more positions, and during the 1990s staff numbers doubled. I was the first of those staff and remember my first encounter with Paul very clearly. I was last to give a presentation, and during my talk the vice principal on the interview panel started to doze off – after the talk Paul escorted me out, he whispered to me, ‘don’t take it personally – he’s a chemist’ (as if that somehow explained everything). Later that night he rang me and in his own unusual style which sought to make one feel wanted, he said ‘we’d like to offer you the job and would be very grateful if you said yes’.
What was Paul like as a colleague and as Head of Department (in the early 1990s). What was he like… Enthusiastic certainly sums him. He seemed to have boundless energy, an ability to work long hours (possibly to the family’s occasional dismay), and a willingness to listen to ideas about new ways of doing things even if privately he thought them daft. In many ways he was a traditionalist, sceptical of some of the latest intellectual fashions (though also curious about them) but equally more than willing to let staff follow where their interests took them – I remember one former colleague, a scholar who disagreed intellectually on a range of issues, saying that what she remembered his best for was his courtesy and kindness. Above all he was generous, especially with his time. As Professor Watson said at the funeral, if a student came with a query it often developed into a much longer conversation as Paul quizzed them about their studies, interests, or even family. Students appreciated this and it is one of the reasons that he has so many devoted alumni, many of whom are here today.
The more observant will notice I have avoided the word organisation. In a sense all of the other qualities played a degree of havoc with the last, and it is probably not unfair, and is certainly meant affectionately, to say that the real Paul had what might be called an interesting organisational sense. His generosity with time, meant that the next class often started late. On one occasion I found him running down the stairs saying, ‘I know I am teaching at 3pm but which room is beyond me’. He was rescued more than once and steered in the right direction or onto the right plane by Gina Wilson, and then Gillian Duncan. Some of the stories are probably apocryphal, though they contributed to making him an almost legendary figure amongst students in the 1990s. One of my favourites comes from a trip to the Burn with a group of students at the time of the Tokyo subway bombing. This, of course, was in the days before mobiles were commonplace, and all through the night media calls from Asian journalists unaware of the time difference were being directed to the Burn. Unfortunately they went via the bedroom of the crusty military bursar who didn’t take kindly to having his sleep disturbed. Indeed, he was so furious that at the end he is reported to have said ‘I’m not having that man here again’.
So Paul was energetic, traditional, courteous, sometimes disorganised, and above all open and available to students and colleagues. What is his legacy to the School. Obviously, above all as the person who got us up and running, as someone who recruited a new generation of staff and, as already described by Professor Hoffman and Principal Richardson, as someone who put terrorism studies on the map before it became fashionable. But for all that, I like to think that his true legacy has more to do with a certain style and academic approach that is generous, accepting of disagreement, open to new ideas (even if incomprehensible) and unwilling to impose a single approach to the study of international relations – a stance all his successors have tried to emulate. So I can only end by expressing by gratitude for that legacy, and sum up by reiterating the words Ali Watson used at the funeral – Paul was indeed both a gentleman and a gentle man, as well as a generous man.