President Bush has described the September 11th terrorist attacks as a new kind of war, one that requires a new way of thinking. The shock of these attacks has awakened Americans and people throughout the world to the need for a new way of thinking. But what should this new way of thinking consist of? I would like to suggest some elements.
First, we must recognize that we are all vulnerable, and our vulnerability is interconnected. No one on the planet can escape into a fortress of security. So long as people anywhere are insecure, the potential exists for making people everywhere insecure.
Therefore, the United States, as the world’s most economically and militarily powerful nation, must dedicate itself to helping assure the security of people everywhere, including those in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Palestinians.
Second, we must understand that military power can only have limited results in a “war against terrorism.” Terrorists are difficult to locate and do not occupy a fixed territory like a nation. Finding terrorists will be more dependent upon good intelligence than military operations. Such intelligence will require global cooperation. It is not something the United States can hope to do alone.
Therefore, the United States must strengthen its ties with the rest of the world through diplomacy. We must maintain an ongoing global alliance in the fight against terrorism. This will require the United States to be a good global citizen and to join other nations in efforts to achieve global cooperation in such areas as supporting the law of the sea, preventing global warming, banning landmines, banning illegal transfers of small arms, banning nuclear tests, establishing an international criminal court, providing verification procedures for the Biological Weapons Convention, and fulfilling our obligations for the global elimination of nuclear arms.
Third, we need to abandon Cold War thinking and policies such as nuclear deterrence and deployment of missile shields. These policies are utterly useless against small groups of extremists prepared to use any instrument at their disposal, even box cutters, to attack the United States.
Therefore, the United States should stop spending obscene amounts of money on military might, such as on our bloated nuclear arsenal and on missile defenses. Rather, we should allocate our resources to providing better intelligence to protect the American people, to eliminating stores of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction in our country and throughout the world, and to improving the lives of people in the poorest countries who suffer each day for lack of basic necessities or from brutal government policies.
The United States needs to be a beacon of hope throughout the world based on our active support of democracy, human rights, and the alleviation of the conditions of poverty for all the world’s people.
The new way of thinking that is now needed could lead us to a new way of Peace. Our challenge and opportunity, as we grapple with the aftermath of September 11th, is to build peace from the ashes, helping to construct a culture of peace worldwide that will make terrorism unimaginable, undesirable and unacceptable to every citizen of the planet.
*David Krieger is President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.