Shared Governance: Pleas and
ARCHIVE - November, 2001
Toward the Terrorist Anti-World: Terrorist Actions and Appropriate
Francis A. Beer, Department of Political Science
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
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
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 nonmilitary 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 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?
IN THIS ISSUE:
The opinions expressed in these articles are those of
the authors, and do not represent those of the Boulder Faculty Assembly,
CU faculty at large, or the University of Colorado.
Responses to these articles are welcome. We are developing
our capacity to collect responses on-line. In the meantime, please send
your comments via e-mail to Thomas.Mayer@Colorado.edu.
for the names and contact information of the membership of the BFA