It is close to three months since that Day.
Time brings events into deeper clarity, just as it is easier to
see an entire landscape with distance. When the attacks on U.S.
soil occurred, the events were a personal tragedy, a macabre
spectacle, and an event of enormous geopolitical significance.
Now, the psychic time and distance from the event provide a
better glimpse of how the world shifted from its preexisting
The goal of politics should and must be an
unrelenting commitment to achieve and maximize peace and
prosperity in this country and around the world. The tragedy
made those aspirations painfully distant in the short-term.
However, the long-term ramifications of the attack may not be so
dark. This event have brought Russia, China, Europe, and the
United States to more deeply appreciate that they are more
likely to suffer from terrorism than from each other. This can
only heighten cooperation and minimize inevitable differences in
worldviews and strategic interests.
I am a globalist, in the sense that I see the
world as a single political entity trying to work things out in
a fragmented way. World government, an idea predicted by
thinkers as diverse as Hans Morganthau and Albert Einstein, will
occur someday, and 2001 may be viewed someday as a key date in
the world’s progression towards that reality.
My point is not that such a world government
is likely to occur soon, or is even desirable at this time.
Still, recent events bear out the fact that events anywhere can
effect events everywhere, and the desire for integration into a
global system that moderates the behavior of nation-states will
only continue around the world.
The 21st century may be marked by conflicts
increasingly at the margin of human civilization, as ancient
rivalries fed by poverty and suffering cross over into an
increasingly democratic and uncomprehending world. The Taliban
moved into Afghanistan because that state had broken down
entirely. Such anarchy may continue to breed and harbor
terrorists unless the "integrated" world can provide
solutions to areas outside of its realm.
The 21st century may be entirely different,
in that Samuel Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations may
prevail. The conflict between slam and the West may be
re-ignited to a terrible degree if the U.S. is seen as attacking
another Muslim country besides Afghanistan without proper
justification. This is a precarious time between the West and
Islamic civilization, as the lack of common ground between the
two worldviews is enormous.
If a famine in Afghanistan occurs, or if our
inability to capture Osama bin-Laden leads to perceived
excessives on our part, look out. The war in Afghanistan is
going better than I had anticipated, but finding bin-Laden is
the hard part.
The fact is that the United States may not
and in some cases should not take action against terrorism that
would be counter-productive. In other cases, there is no way we
would anyway. Fifteen of the nineteen hijackers were Saudi
nationals. There’s no chance that the Saudis will let U.S.
authorities investigate their contacts thoroughly, and there’s
way that the United States will press the Saudi government on
this issue. This is in part because corporate interests do not
want to jeopardize their interests in the Saudi kingdom, but
also because our national security team realizes that any
government that overthrows the current regime would be an
unpleasant prospect. Infiltrating terrorist groups in Egypt,
Syria, Uzbekistan or Pakistan will require more stealth than
brute strength. Fighting terrorism is difficult to resist
precisely because the enemy is so difficult to detect.
The nexus of the conflict between
civilizations is the Israeli-Palestinian state, and will remain
so until some solution is found. The United States is the only
state that could serve as the most credible broker between the
two sides. Moreover, our ability to spend a sizable chuck of
money to compensate resettlers on both sides can make all the
difference. One hundred billion spent on a peace agreement could
turn out to be the best investment the world has ever seen.
There cannot be any peace, and the world
cannot be secure, until Israel can coexist alongside a
Palestinian state. The devil is in the details, but Palestinian
claims cannot be dismissed as illegitimate any longer. Readers
may disagree, but they should not delude themselves into
thinking that any long-term peace is possible without anything
less than the two sides live together, with Jerusalem becoming
an open city run religious leaders from the three major faiths.
Heightened insecurity will remain a daily
fact of life, and so the "security" state is here to
stay. The United States is unlikely to become a dictatorship,
nor is it likely to be a freer place five or ten years from now.
A government with vastly increased powers, whether warranted or
not, can only increase the likelihood of abuse.
The most frightening prospect is terrorism on
an unimaginable scale compared even to 9-11. If this were to
occur, all bets are off. Life is scarier now, and the security
that predominated since the end of the Cold War and Gulf war is
a permanent anachronism.
Still, this is a beautiful country filled
with predominantly decent people. This sentence would be close
to cant a few months ago, but now it has a bit more poignancy.
We’ve seen worse things before, and we’ve never been
stronger. We will persevere as a nation. We will get through
The world will get through this too. Despite
everything, I am still an optimist. There is a lot of history
left, but mankind has more tools than ever to become a master of
its destiny, instead of a slave to it.
by David McCullough
by Michael P. Gerace
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