As Americans and citizens throughout the world brace for expected US military retaliation to the Sept. 11 terrorist strikes on Washington and New York, feelings of grief and anger have slowly turned to somber reflection. President Bush's call to action in a newly declared "war against terrorism" has met with near universal approval.
But buffered somewhat from the fray of the nation's power centers, academics have begun the quieter task of sifting through history to cull lessons that can serve as guideposts to the US response.
csmonitor.com's Josh Burek asked three experts with different backgrounds to share their thoughts on what foreign-policy and security lessons the US ought to learn in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 tragedy.
MELANI MCALISTER: Melani McAlister is an Assistant Professor of American Studies at George Washington University. Her book, "Epic Encounters: Culture, Media, and US Interests in the Middle East, 1945-2000," has just been published by the University of California Press.
STEPHEN BAKER: Rear Admiral (Ret.) Stephen H. Baker is a senior adviser at the Center for Defense Information in Washington. After holding several key positions in an illustrious military career, his last active duty assignment was as the Navy's top testing official - a performance for which he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal by former President Bill Clinton.
RICHARD EBELING: Richard Ebeling is the Ludwig von Mises Professor of Economics at Hillsdale College in Michigan. In addition, he serves as vice president of The Future of Freedom Foundation and writes for its monthly magazine, Freedom Daily. He has edited several books, including "The Failure of America's Foreign Wars," and he made several advisory trips to Moscow in the 1990s to help restructure the post-cold-war Russian economy.
csmonitor.com: Some observers are calling the violence on Sept. 11th an "attack on freedom." Others are suggesting it's a sharp backlash to decades of United States foreign policy arrogance. How do you assess the causes of the Sept. 11th strikes?
McAlister: Assuming that Osama bin Laden or those directly associated with him carried out the attack, we do know that bin Laden does not support the kind of freedom that is valued by most people in secular, pluralist democracies. Bin Laden is deeply opposed to freedom of religion; the rights of women; or a liberal, democratic society.
But that's not why he would attack the United States specifically. Other countries in Western Europe and elsewhere equally represent those particular freedoms. And other Islamic groups share much of the fundamentalist world view, but not bin Laden's focus on attacking US targets. Even among those groups with a penchant for violence, the focus is more often on issues within the Middle East specifically or the Muslim world more generally.
Bin Laden's primary gripe is the fact that since the Gulf War, the US has posted troops in his native Saudi Arabia. He considers this long-term military presence by a non-Islamic power to be an example of both US foreign policy arrogance and Saudi government corruption.
And second, he, like many people in the Arab and Muslims worlds, is angry with what he considers the utter moral callousness of the effects of 10 years of US sanctions against Iraq after the Gulf War. By some estimates, more than 100,000 civilians have died as a result of those sanctions, and this has created great acrimony in many parts of the Arab world. This acrimony comes from a wide variety of people, many of whom are not fundamentalists and many of whom are US allies, but bin Laden feeds on these feelings.
Baker: This has been a long-term "crusade" by Islamic radicals bent on corrupting, defying, and causing harm to the United States and other countries they view as detrimental to their Islamic cause. The US in their eyes is the epitome of arrogance and an invading threat to their beliefs and homeland; we support Israel, bomb Iraq killing innocent people, and bully the Gulf Cooperation Council. We violate their holy ground with our continued presence in Saudi Arabia, and put crippling sanctions on their counties. We are the cause for a lot of their suffering and have defiled the birthplace of Islam. We want to use that land as a military springboard against other Muslim states.
This was also an attack on US foreign policy indifference. The perception that the US does not care about the day-to-day economic plight of those living in the camps, in Gaza, and on the West Bank has existed since the Vietnam conflict, where we recruited and employed individuals, clans, and tribes to help us achieve policy aims. Whether we succeeded (as in Afghanistan) or lost (as in Laos), we tended to simply pick up and leave.
We are the enemy that must be stopped in their eyes and a holy war against the West has been and will continue to be their primary focus. They hope these attacks will induce Washington to do something stupid, costly, and counterproductive, such as killing innocent civilians. This would add fuel to the fire of advertising their anti-US-Israel struggle.
Ebeling: There are fanatical elements in Islamic fundamentalism that consider Western values and institutions a threat to their vision. They want a theocratic social order in which the conduct of individuals is made to conform to a certain theological code of conduct. But, in principle, this need not require an aggressive war against America. The mullahs in Iran and the Taliban in Afghanistan have attempted to seal off their countries from Western influences and to control interactions with "impurities" coming from the outside.
What is an equal or even greater motive is their view that the US uses its political and military might to intervene in the domestic affairs of Islamic countries, especially in the Middle East. America props up corrupt regimes that are perceived as undermining the religious and cultural traditions of these societies. And the financial and military support given by the US government to Israel is seen as the weight that tips the scales against any fair solution to the Palestinian problem.
csmonitor.com: Let's hypothetically rewind to 1980. Could you prescribe a set of foreign policies different from the ones US leaders did take that might prevent this kind of attack from happening?
McAlister: What we saw in Afghanistan after the Soviets were thrown out is a kind of quick-fix mentality on the part of US policymakers. Once the initial battle is won, American attention wanders. The US is too often not around for the process of picking up the pieces, for the difficult, unexciting, and usually civilian work of follow-through. Afghanistan was in shambles in the early 1980s after the war against the Soviet Union; it was not only unstable but also badly served by the government that arose in the wake of the war.
In those kinds of situations, the US should be offering every kind of support to the international institutions that might help build a functioning state, diminish corruption, bolster the possibilities of democratic participation, etc. That means spending money, it means using diplomatic initiatives, and it means supporting the United Nations and other multilateral organizations.
Baker: After the Afghanistan conflict with Russia the US pulled their support and left the Afghanistan people on their own to sort out their country in a very unstable neighborhood. The US had no reconstruction program or beneficial coalition initiatives to offer. The result was chaos and poverty that provided a fertile environment for the Taliban to enter the scene in a reunification effort. Bin Laden's hatred for the US only grew because of these events.
If US leaders could do it over again, no doubt this would be a critical policy that they would rethink as well as the severity of sanctions imposed over the years rather than economic improvement programs. Another example that infuriated a lot of Islam was the remaining troops left on their holy ground of Saudi Arabia after Desert Storm. It was viewed as a violation and an insult for these troops to remain as a protector of Saudi Arabia. An examination of the impact of our "footprint" in the Middle East would be considered with that hypothetical rewind.
On the intelligence side, we placed too much faith in official pronouncements and did not take the temperature of foreign publics Iran is the prime example. Moreover, the inability to begin a serious transformation of the military after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 has resulted in a force today that is not optimally structured for the 21st century.
Ebeling: The US government since World War II has tended to see every conflict around the globe in starkly drawn black and white terms: "freedom vs. tyranny," "good vs. evil." These elements have been present in some of the conflicts around the world during the last half-century. But American policymakers have had a naïve conception of the historical factors and ideologies that have been present in these regional wars and civil wars in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. Most of them have been conflicts between factions and groups who care little or nothing about Western ideas of freedom, tolerance, and pluralism. They have been fighting to overthrow one brutal and authoritarian group so they could install their own.
The Afghans who fought the Soviet invasion and occupation in the 1980s desired to free their country from a foreign intruder. Virtually none of those resisting the Soviets had any desire to free their individual fellow countrymen from authoritarian or theocratic government. They all wished some form of domestically imposed tyranny instead of a foreign imposed version. This should have been obvious from the newspaper accounts of the ideas and beliefs of the various factions in the Afghan resistance at the time.
The American Bill of Rights was not going to form a part of the post-Soviet order in Afghanistan. Thus, there was no way for the US to influence how the post-Soviet turn of events would develop in that country. If the US had attempted to pick and support a faction viewed as more to its liking than others, then once the Soviet were gone that faction would have had all the other resistance groups against it. The US would have had to abandon its protégé or get sucked into the same maelstrom the Soviets experienced.
csmonitor.com: Are traditional military lessons useful to the US as it considers a response? Or, are we in fact playing "a new game." What are the rules governing this conflict?
McAlister: After the American hostages were released from the Iranian embassy, in January 1980, newly-elected President Reagan declared that the signature policy of his administration would be a "war on terrorism" (as opposed to the human rights focus of the Carter administration). Predictably, this led to some rather cynical mobilizations of the term "terrorism" the Lebanese Shi'ites produced terrorists but the Nicaraguan contras apparently did not. And at the end of the Reagan administration, terrorism was far from defeated, and in fact, violence was beginning to be on the rise again as a result of increasing tensions in the Middle East and elsewhere.
So I'm quite dubious that a "war against terrorism" can be anything more than a rallying cry for policies the Bush administration would like to pursue. If we took the idea seriously, such a war is simply an impossible task, since it suggests that the US can achieve its goals first and foremost by military means. Terrorism is a type of violent action, but that doesn't mean that systematic violence can put a stop to it. While some limited actions by the military might be justified in this case (since it seems unlikely that anyone can get bin Laden out of his hiding places otherwise), a one-time extraction is a far cry from an all-out war in Afghanistan or elsewhere.
If the US begins to broaden its actions to include taking on (and taking out) the Taliban, or attempting to overthrow and destabilize every government that "supports" terrorism, we are looking at both a moral quagmire and a political nightmare. This logic could be easily used to justify overthrowing not only the Taliban, but the governments of Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Libya, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (both of which were, after all, one of the big supporters of bin Laden in an earlier period), among others. In this scenario, the idea of a global war on terrorism would begin to look like a brutal and self-serving form American hegemony. It would also, for good reason, begin to appear very much like a war against Islam in general.
Hard-hitting diplomacy and international police action are absolutely crucial here. In terms of policing, the US is already developing a systematic campaign to try to dry up the financial bases of support for those who consistently attack civilians. We should also offer financial rewards to individuals, and diplomatic and financial incentives for the Taliban or any other entity, who give information that lead to the capture of bin Laden (this is essentially what was done in the case of Milosevic in Yugoslavia).
Concerted, international action to help bring a functioning, democratic government to Afghanistan should be a US priority.
Baker: This is a new game for sure. We can't live with Al Qaeda. Counterterrorism has taken the forefront of our politics and motivations. Military lessons learned are very important as well, such as what happened to Russia in 10 years of conflict in Afghanistan pointing to roads we should never walk down.
Our military response cannot be knee-jerk type retaliation without solid evidence and intelligence. Collateral damage and the killing of innocent civilians will have an important sensitivity. Special Forces will play the most significant role they have in the military for years. Tactics demand that the US: not present a massed target anywhere; be mentally prepared for urban combat involving small units in hit-and-run tactics; have a viable back-up force, but don't make it so large that its own security becomes a problem. Precision-guided munitions will not be the answer in many responses. Coalition building will be of prime importance as compared to unilateral responses.
A worldwide effort to defeat terrorism under the auspices of self-defense will nurture support that is needed for a long-term effort. Public relations are critical in how we are viewed both domestically and internationally in our response. Political, economic, diplomatic leadership will be just as important as the Generals and Admirals in this "new game." Intelligence agencies will help locate, track, and target terrorists. Covert operations will increase dramatically.
Patience will be vital as intelligence collection agencies share their information and peel back the onion of terrorist cells to find their center of gravity and eliminate them. The rules that will govern: get the intelligence right; get the operation right the first time don't miss; get a coalition with you, and don't do anything that will splinter it.
Ebeling: President Bush has stated a number of times since the tragic events of September 11th that America is at war. But a "state of war" has been understood both in international law and custom for several centuries now as a relationship existing between sovereign nation-states that has a beginning, a middle, and an end.
This is not a war in that sense. Groups of individuals not representing the legitimate political authority in any country have conspired to undertake violent acts against Americans and others. The President has said that these terrorist networks may be spread over as many as 60 countries. In the vast majority of them, these individuals have no contact with representatives of the governments in the countries in which they are living. They live normal lives, waiting to be called or inspired to participate in some violent act. Or maybe to never do anything except to go about the affairs of ordinary life.
csmonitor.com: Civil liberties are often sacrificed during national emergencies. What principles should be kept in mind as the US considers what balance to strike between order and freedom? More specifically, are the heightened security measures now being implemented effective?
McAlister: One thing is for certain: We must accept no measures that allow anybody or any agency to engage in racial profiling. It is perfectly possible to increase security in ways that target suspicious behavior, not suspicious skin colors or ways of dressing. Paying cash for a plane ticket might be a reason for getting closer scrutiny; having an Arab-sounding name must never be.
The key thing here is to insist that Americans take time to consider and debate the options. It might be acceptable to grant the FBI and other agencies broader powers to monitor all the cell phones and computers of a targeted individual without getting specific authorization, but I would want to hear a lot more than I have about the civil liberties arguments against such a step. Right now, the haste to action has destroyed the debate, and that means that the terrorists have actually succeeded in making us so afraid that we are willing to put a muzzle on our democracy.
Baker: First of all, the word is out that sacrifice will be asked of our people. Our enjoyment of the freedom that existed in the US prior to Sept. 11 has obviously changed. I think Americans have paid enough attention to the way they treated Japanese Americans after Pearl Harbor to avoid over-reacting with regard to racial profiling and targeting groups unjustly. Homeland Defense and security precautions will require a new lifestyle adjustment for most. There is a difference between sacrificing civil liberties and enduring inconveniences. Civil liberties do not have to be diluted or violated, nor will the public support it in this day and age. Civil liberties, once lost, may never be recovered.
The initial security measures that have taken place over the past two weeks are band-aid approaches only. The new Cabinet-level Office of Homeland Defense needs a budget to be effective. An entire reassessment of our vulnerabilities is underway and it will take several years to get US precautions up to an acceptable level.
Ebeling: Personal, civil, and economic liberty is the most precious element in what it has traditionally meant to be an American. If we sacrifice liberty in the name of security, then the war will be lost no matter how many battles are won. In times of crisis and emotional confusion and anger it is easy to legislate away our freedom. It is not as easy to get that freedom back when the crisis has passed. The first duty of government is to protect the citizenry from aggression. But it must be done in a way that does not undermine the freedoms that are reflected in the Bill of Rights, including our rights to protection from unwarranted search and seizure of our person and property. We should be extremely hesitant in endorsing many if not most of the recent proposals for giving the government greater latitude in intruding into our private and personal affairs.
For centuries the fundamental problem in society has been how to limit the powers and potential abuses of the very government that we establish to secure our freedoms. Who will guard us from the guardians, is the perennial dilemma. When the crisis has passed there will be new government agencies and bureaus with new government employees who will look around for new justifications and rationales to keep their jobs and expand their budgets. They will have powers to intrude into our lives that they will want to use in ways not originally intended for. And even more of our freedoms will then be at risk.
csmonitor.com: How can the US best deflate the anger directed at it?
McAlister First, we must be clear on one simple notion: It is never acceptable to respond to even the most profound grievances by killing whoever is in reach. This is true in reference to the terrorists who struck last Tuesday, and it will be true as the United States crafts a response to those murders.
There will always be deep differences of opinion about what shape the world should take, and the US will inevitably take steps that create a backlash by some nation or group. The first question to ask, then, is not "Why are some people mad?" some people are going to be angry even when we do the right thing. The question instead is: Has the US done the right thing by the peoples in the Middle East and the Muslim world? Do we believe that US actions have increased the level of economic fairness, democracy, and freedom in places like Iran, Saudi Arabia, or Iraq? I think the answer is, overall, no. Instead, the United States has shown a rather blatant disregard for the rights of Arabs and the sensibilities of Muslims, except when they are able to show themselves as a strategic ally in the search for oil.
For at least 40 years, the US government has actively backed oppressive or antidemocratic-governments as long as those governments were willing to support and protect US "national interests." In the Middle East, those interests have been defined as protecting low-cost access to oil, supporting Israel, keeping Arab allies in place as a base for military and political action (which then could be used to help protect access to oil, as in the Gulf War), and, until the 1990s, keeping the Soviets out. US foreign policy has supported those interests; sometimes diplomatically (as in the repeated attempts to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace, generally on Israeli terms), sometimes politically (the arming of the Shah of Iran in the 1970s); sometimes militarily. The US has intervened militarily in the Middle East dozens of times since WWII, including the stationing of Marines in Lebanon in the early 1980s after the Israeli invasion; backing the Islamic militants in Afghanistan, supporting both sides in the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, and of course, the Gulf war of 1990-91.
What Americans must realize is that our tremendous economic and military power does not mean we can act unilaterally, arrogantly, and in our own narrow self -interests, and expect there to be no price to pay. And that should lead us to ask much harder questions about the consequences of insisting on a black-and-white world.
Baker: Change our image as an indifferent global bully. Exploit the coalition relations being developed to the fullest. Doors are opening that we need to exploit to the fullest. A unified global effort to work together to make our environments better and safer exists. More than 80 countries lost people in the Sept. 11 attacks. A United Nations effort would be very healthy for the US A reduction of the sanctions currently in effect against every Islamic country except possibly Jordan should be looked at. We can be more cooperative in economic help toward the poor countries that need help. We need to shed indifference to the plight of others including the "others" who are inside our borders. The US also needs to shed the aura of unilateralism that others have perceived as a growing staple in US foreign policy over the past few years. We are not the world's policeman or the world's conscience. We must be consistent in our efforts.
Ebeling: There is ultimately no way for the US to deflate the anger of various people and groups around the world other than to end its half-century policy of foreign intervention. There is no way for us to avoid making enemies when we intervene, because the very nature of that intervention is for the US to take sides in that country's domestic affairs and controversies.
Inevitably, the groups and factions whom we choose not to support now view the US as the prime impediment to their own goals. The adage "the friend of my enemy is my enemy" is set in motion. Furthermore, there is a high level of American political hubris that it knows how best to set the world straight and that the world should appreciate it and happily follow its lead. Many in the world gladly watch Hollywood movies, wear New York-type designer clothes, eat burgers, and dream of American-style lives of comfort and ease. America has peacefully conquered much of the world culturally, through voluntary adaptation by tens of millions of what they see and like about the "American way."
What they do not want and will resist is political and military intervention that they view as attempting to shape their domestic institutions and political processes without their approval or consent. Ending our foreign political and military interventionism is the only way to reduce the likelihood of terrorist attacks because it will reduce the creation of enemies of America is other lands.
csmonitor.com: Americans keep talking about "bringing the terrorists to justice." Thinking long-term, what conditions must exist for justice to be met?
McAlister: Justice for the families of the people who died on Sept. 11 would be best met by specific and direct action brought to bear on those who committed the crimes. Ideally, that would mean capture and a trial for bin Laden and the others involved, since I believe that at its best, the American justice system can be a very powerful example of democracy in action.
What justice does not mean is attacking every group or every government that the US argues has supported terrorism, or even every one that has supported bin Laden.
Of course the Taliban are a deeply reactionary government who have oppressed many of their own people (even as they came to power as the apparently less-corrupt alternative to many of those groups that are now in the opposition). But the fact that they are a feudal theocracy, and one that has harbored a violent terrorist, does not stand as justification for overthrowing them.
And that's because no country has the "right" to simply choose to install their preferred governments in other countries. We can support and even lead genuine international action, but we must not act like an imperial power, or we will be treated to the anti-imperial backlash that ended European colonialism.
Baker: Justice is not revenge. It is holding oneself and others accountable for what is done and not done using comprehensible standards of behavior applied fairly. The most universal approach to justice would start with an affirmation (or reaffirmation) that the deliberate killing of nonbelligerent civilians is a crime against humanity. In the long term, the US fight against terrorism should be under the auspices of self-defense: a global effort to prevent further acts of mass destruction.
Once known perpetrators of terrorist acts are caught, trials in an international court of law would refute any suggestion that trials were rigged, and hopefully encourage greater support to continue efforts combating terrorism.
Ebeling: This cannot be considered to be a traditional military action. It requires more old-fashioned police and investigative work to find the individual perpetrators. Military build-ups, ground troop invasions, and carpet bombings are like trying to swat a fly with a sledgehammer.
The president referred to the posters that would be seen in the old West that said, Wanted: Dead or Alive. Why not take that seriously. The government has placed bounties for some of these terrorists. But make this a real bounty: $500 million for bin Laden and $250 million for each of his senior suspected co-conspirators, and make it tax-free.
The president has also asked the American people to be patient, that there may not be a swift or dramatic solution to the terrorist problem. Fair enough. Then set the market mechanism to work with high bounties, and let private mercenaries and bounty hunters do the work. It will cost a lot less money and fewer lives than the military operations that seem to be about to be set in motion.
csmonitor.com: Since the end of the cold war, the US has been termed, and largely acted as, the lone world superpower. How might the events of Sept. 11 change US thinking and behavior abroad?
McAlister: I think Sept. 11 will awaken us to the new realities that have evolved in the 10 years since the end of the Gulf War. What we're going to see is a twofold legacy. On the one hand, the war against Iraq in 1990-91 seemed to prove that the US can and would be able to rally most of the post-cold-war world around the American flag. The war with Iraq was a multilateral action, but no one doubted that the US was running the show, and that it would continue to be at the helm of most internationalism for a long time to come.
But we're also seeing another legacy: Policymakers have learned that the politics and alliances in the rest of the world simply won't make sense along the simple "us v. them" lines of the cold war. Even now, when some people want to frame what is happening as the West v. Islam, we must recognize that the US cannot act alone. It cannot simply ignore the potential consequences of current events for countries like Pakistan or Saudi Arabia, and cannot assume that every European nation will simply back whatever bombing campaign the US wants.
The Gulf War seemed like a simple victory, but the destruction of Iraq in the 10 years since, and the US failure help solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict means that however much humanitarian sympathy we have in the world, there is simply not a lot of enthusiasm for a Pax Americana.
Baker: The struggle against terrorism is now worldwide. The US needs the cooperation of other nations in intelligence, and in permission to deploy forces or traverse airspace. And the US could improve the operations of allied units in countries that, for internal reasons, cannot allow US forces bases on their soil. Moreover, elimination of the ingredients that nurture terrorism poverty, dispossession, famine, and disease will require a global effort by the wealthy nations of the world. For the US, there is both strength and cover in numbers.
Ebeling: I fear that most Americans, and certainly the people in positions of political decision-making in Washington, will draw the wrong conclusions from the events of Sept. 11. They have an image of an innocent and noninterfering America that finds itself with enemies who for no good reason other than a hatred of American values are now undertaking cruel and evil deeds. They are cruel and evil deeds.
Thousands of innocent men, women and children have been killed or had the lives ruined because of the attacks in New York and Washington. The criminals should and must be brought to justice. But America is not an innocent child in the world. Our government has armed, trained, and assisted foreign governments who have sometimes used that aid and training to oppress and kill their own people. We have bombed and blockaded foreign countries, raining death on people in Belgrade and causing starvation in Iraq. We have supported so-called "freedom fighters" in places in Angola, who we later relabeled murderers and thugs when their political usefulness had ended and we found it convenient to see them in a different like. We have bombed a harmless pharmaceutical plant in Sudan when it served a president's domestic purposes, resulting in a lack of medicines in various African countries.
These are real people affected by US foreign intervention. Their lives are ruined or ended as well. Their relatives or friends do not see America as a great savior and liberator. They see it as a destructive force. Are those who are the "collateral damage" from these American interventions any less human beings than those who died in New York and Washington?
I want to be clear. No, two wrongs do not make a right. That America does things abroad it should not is not an excuse or rationale for what happened on Sept. 11. But we will continue to create desperate and fanatical men who will view us as the enemy for as long as we interfere into the affairs of other people in other nations. That means there is no end to this "war on terrorism" as long as we follow the foreign policy we have been on since 1945.
csmonitor.com: OK, you've all read each other's remarks above. Now imagine President Bush has asked you to write a mission statement that will guide the US response to the Sept. 11 strikes.
McAlister: The goal of terrorism is to strike fear into the hearts of those who are left to mourn. We don't lash out; we offer support to the victims, the promise of justice to those who go on, and a commitment to protect the civil liberties of all.
We treat this like the extraordinary crime it is: Ask the UN to support diplomatic pressure and military action if needed to get Bin Laden turned over to the US. (Since the US has refused to sign onto the World Court, we will by necessity be demanding extradition our absence from the World Court is an omission to be rectified soon.)
Finally, in the long term, we must address three issues.
1) The utter disaster that is Afghanistan under the Taliban. Diplomatic initiatives to create a democratic government there.
2) A solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, not because this is bin Laden's primary concern, but because the lack of resolution has helped Islamic fundamentalism to gain strength in the Middle East.
3) An education initiative that will teach all Americans, young and old, in detail about the politics, culture, and history of other parts of the world. We can no longer afford our ignorance.
Baker: On Sept. 11, 2001 more than six thousand innocent people were killed by a fanatical element of Islamic fundamentalism. The individuals commiting these acts view the US as a country that has defiled their soil and the birthplace of Islam, interfering in their domestic affairs and exacerbating their misery and economic plight. The perpetrators of these attacks must be brought to justice, preferably in a world court for crimes against humanity.
We cannot allow continued destruction in the US and other countries to continue. The response must include a coalition of Western, European, and Arab countries acting together in self-defense to prevent the growth of terrorism and eliminate the center of gravity of terrorist cells. It will take years for this campaign to be successful. It will require the cooperation of the leadership in all areas of military, intelligence, finance, diplomacy, and religion worldwide.
Simultaneously the "haves" need to take action to help the "have-nots." The war on terrorism has to blend into our war on drugs and our war on poverty, dispossession, and disease. Our responses will be watched by the world and we should make every effort to have the world act together as an overwhelming unified force against terrorism.
Ebeling: In this understandably emotional moment it is necessary for every American to step back and weigh carefully what should be done, how, and with what consequences.
Americans need to take a careful and thoughtful look before we risk loss of many of our liberties in the name of "security." President Bush, in his address before Congress and the nation, announced that he was setting up a permanent Office of Homeland Security, with wide national powers and authority. Do we really want to see a further reduction in our traditional system of Constitutional Federalism, with Washington taking over supervision and command of police powers normally considered the responsibility of local and state government? Do we want to lose local democratic control over law and order to bureaus and bureaucrats in Washington, who will be able to override and control law enforcement throughout the land? If we lose our liberty or if it is noticeably restricted, what will we have gained in the long-run? The great and perennial problem throughout the ages has been, who protects us from the encroachments of our own government? Who guards us from the guardians?
For decades, in the name of freedom, we have sponsored, financed, and supported governments in what is known as "the third world" that have been antidemocratic, dictatorial regimes. They have sometimes used our aid and training to terrorize and kill their own people. We have armed and supplied opposition movements that we labeled "freedom fighters," who then came to power and oppressed their own people. And they often are the very people who we now turn around and accuse of being "terrorists" and "war criminals."
If there is any fundamental lesson we as a nation should learn from this tragic event, it is that we are creating many of our own enemies by trying to socially engineer other people's lives in their own countries. These people don't like or want it. Yes, many of them want our fast-food, our designer clothes, our action movies and our freer way of life. But they do not want the American government to interfere in their domestic political and economic affairs. They want to decide these things for themselves, even when they made a terrible mess of it and end up with political and economic systems far from being a reflection of the American political system.
Americans rightly want justice in the face of this terrible act. But we need to learn humility and end our government's political and military intervene around the world.