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A World Transformed

By Scott Gillette



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 course.

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 this.

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.


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