The article has three parts. In the first, Jacques Lesourne makes it clear that the terrorist attacks in September 2001 and their consequences unfortunately merely confirm what was foreseen by futures studies in earlier years. "September 11th was not unthinkable", he writes, and goes on to remind us that terrorism has existed for centuries, it is not linked uniquely to Islamic fundamentalism, and it is probably hopeless to try to eradicate it...
He also points out that since the United States has become the only Great Power in the world, it is the natural scapegoat. Furthermore, as he has often insisted, the Arab-Turkish-Iranian region is particularly dangerous, and this fact is not sufficiently clearly recognized by the democracies, which have tended to emphasize freedom at the expense of their security.
In the second part, Lesourne ponders the trends that might develop out of the September 11th attacks. He argues that Western countries will probably need to review their security policies and reevaluate their systems of defence. But he also foresees some shifts in the alliances, especially among the six main elements: the United States, European Union, Russia, Japan, China and India. Finally, he stresses that these events threaten to deepen the downturn in the world economy which had already begun, and to encourage governments to adopt coordinated regulatory policies.
Despite the hazards involved, Jacques Lesourne ends by sketching three scenarios with particular emphasis on what he takes to be the key variables: the nature of the American retaliation and its outcome, the movements of public opinion in Western countries, the degree to which the United States accepts great multilateralism, and the progress towards European unification.
Choosing from among 32 theoretically possible scenarios, he describes three that cover widely differing variations: the "minor event", "improvements in world governance" and "generalized disorder".