FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Toward the Terrorist Anti-World

We have all watched in horror as hijackings, building implosions, and anthrax incidents have intruded into our comfortable world. These events have involved countless individual tragedies, including the victims themselves, their families, friends, and associates. We shall not easily recover from the physical and psychological trauma.

We are now searching for answers. Who did these things and why? What should we do now? One body of opinion suggests that World War III is upon us. According to this view, Western civilization itself is under attack. It is faced with radical evil and needs to use whatever force is required to eradicate it. The many people who die, innocent as well as guilty, civilians as well as soldiers, are the necessary cost of maintaining American freedom and Western civilization. The United States, to recall the words of earlier times, will pay any price, bear any burden, to make the world safe for democracy.

This vision is clear, but the path is uncertain. As United States military forces deploy for action across the globe, one wonders if vast military actions are likely to achieve their aims? Can all of the guilty be so easily located in the distant mountains and deserts of the world? Is bombing completely innocent civilians consistent with our values? Will we encourage our allies or repel them? Will we persuade the billions of people in other cultures that they want to be our partners? Do we wish to follow policies that risk escalating the already terrible losses toward the very much higher casualty levels of World War I, World War II, Korea, and Vietnam? Though one could ask the same questions of those who undertook the attacks, we can, for the moment, only try to answer them for ourselves.

Another path lies before us. Taking time to gather our breath, we should deliberately survey the terrain. What are our domestic resources to deal with the situation? The Hart-Rudman Commission on National Security for the 21st Century recently presented a report that suggested setting up a special agency to coordinate United States efforts against terrorism. The creation of an Office of Homeland Security is a step in this direction. We hope that this office will focus the considerable American resources in this area, while simultaneously maintaining our civil liberties.

Our allies have already committed themselves to work with us. Many of these allies are concerned that the strongest medicine might make the disease worse rather than eradicate or contain it. We need to take seriously their views, working with them both individually and within the global web of international institutions. French President Jacques Chirac has suggested creating a special United Nations agency that would focus on international terrorism. A special UN conference on terrorism would also be important. The United States has recently weakened the international community on which it depends by withholding its UN dues. It has expressed intentions to withdraw unilaterally from agreements on the environment, international war crimes, and anti-ballistic missile defense. We have just started to turn this policy around by finally paying our long-overdue UN bill. We should further realign ourself with the consensus of world opinion in other areas as well.

While the United States should use appropriate force, this force should be strictly limited to what is consistent with rational objectives. Prior American use of cruise missiles on innocent people in foreign countries has unsurprisingly enhanced the very enmity that underlies terrorism. We are currently using non-military means ? diplomatic consultations, economic incentives, and appeals to shared humane values ? to deal with the situation. These non-military avenues should be expanded. We should also place the highest priority on reevaluating our foreign policy in the light of recent events. We must take seriously the way that our international trade, aid, and debt policies increase popular frustrations and terrorist recruitment in poor countries. In consultation with the international community, we should ask see how legitimate opposition grievances in other countries might be addressed in a more democratic context.

We need to place all these efforts in the frame of a larger strategic question: How will our actions produce a world in which terrorism is less likely to grow, a terrorist anti-world? We now focus narrowly on our immediate response to the terrorist attack. We also need to remain true to ourselves and our long-term vision for our own society. How do we work to create a more democratic, just, and peaceful future for ourselves and for all the other people on this planet? CP

Francis Beer is a professor of political science at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He has just published a new book, Meanings of War and Peace.

 

More articles by:
April 26, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
As Trump Berates Iran, His Options are Limited
Daniel Warner
From May 1968 to May 2018: Politics and Student Strikes
Simone Chun – Kevin Martin
Diplomacy in Korea and the Hope It Inspires
George Wuerthner
The Attack on Wilderness From Environmentalists
CJ Hopkins
The League of Assad-Loving Conspiracy Theorists
Richard Schuberth
“MeToo” and the Liberation of Sex
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Sacred Assemblies in Baghdad
Dean Baker
Exonerating Bad Economic Policy for Trump’s Win
Vern Loomis
The 17 Gun Salute
Gary Leupp
What It Means When the U.S. President Conspicuously and Publicly Removes a Speck of Dandruff from the French President’s Lapel
Robby Sherwin
The Hat
April 25, 2018
Stanley L. Cohen
Selective Outrage
Dan Kovalik
The Empire Turns Its Sights on Nicaragua – Again!
Joseph Essertier
The Abductees of Japan and Korea
Ramzy Baroud
The Ghost of Herut: Einstein on Israel, 70 Years Ago
W. T. Whitney
Imprisoned FARC Leader Faces Extradition: Still No Peace in Colombia
Manuel E. Yepe
Washington’s Attack on Syria Was a Mockery of the World
John White
My Silent Pain for Toronto and the World
Dean Baker
Bad Projections: the Federal Reserve, the IMF and Unemployment
David Schultz
Why Donald Trump Should Not be Allowed to Pardon Michael Cohen, His Friends, or Family Members
Mel Gurtov
Will Abe Shinzo “Make Japan Great Again”?
Binoy Kampmark
Enoch Powell: Blood Speeches and Anniversaries
Frank Scott
Weapons and Walls
April 24, 2018
Carl Boggs
Russia and the War Party
William A. Cohn
Carnage Unleashed: the Pentagon and the AUMF
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
The Racist Culture of Canadian Hockey
María Julia Bertomeu
On Angers, Disgusts and Nauseas
Nick Pemberton
How To Buy A Seat In Congress 101
Ron Jacobs
Resisting the Military-Now More Than Ever
Paul Bentley
A Velvet Revolution Turns Bloody? Ten Dead in Toronto
Sonali Kolhatkar
The Left, Syria and Fake News
Manuel E. Yepe
The Confirmation of Democracy in Cuba
Peter Montgomery
Christian Nationalism: Good for Politicians, Bad for America and the World
Ted Rall
Bad Drones
Jill Richardson
The Latest Attack on Food Stamps
Andrew Stewart
What Kind of Unionism is This?
Ellen Brown
Fox in the Hen House: Why Interest Rates Are Rising
April 23, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
In Middle East Wars It Pays to be Skeptical
Thomas Knapp
Just When You Thought “Russiagate” Couldn’t Get Any Sillier …
Gregory Barrett
The Moral Mask
Robert Hunziker
Chemical Madness!
David Swanson
Senator Tim Kaine’s Brief Run-In With the Law
Dave Lindorff
Starbucks Has a Racism Problem
Uri Avnery
The Great Day
Nyla Ali Khan
Girls Reduced to Being Repositories of Communal and Religious Identities in Kashmir
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail