[September 11, 2001]



What does Osama bin Laden, and other avowed anti-Americans in the world, want? And what should our response be? Shocked as we are by the tragedies of September 11th , our government needs to craft a level-headed, informed counteroffensive. Fighting terrorism is more like fighting crime than waging war. There is no final, decisive victory. We will never wipe terrorism out completely, but we can reduce the threat considerably. To do so will require a multi-faceted, sophisticated, and, most of all, sustained campaign over a period of years.

We have to give the President and the executive branch additional powers, but without providing a blank check that will come back to haunt us. Artfully calculated military strikes are necessary, but we must be willing to accept the risk of casualties. And we need to understand better who the enemy is, and how these groups and individuals can be found. Intelligence officers in the field work in a twilight world of grays to penetrate terrorist networks, directly or indirectly. We need to loosen some of the budgetary and legal restrictions to intelligence gathering. To do all of these things while maintaining basic constitutional and human rights will be a tremendous challenge.

Over the longer term, our most effective tool, as Secretary of State Colin Powell has pointed out, is likely to be the closer ties we forge with our allies, friends, and moderate (and not so moderate) Arab nations. Improved communications with global intelligence networks and immigration officials, for example, will yield critical information about terrorist networks—and their next targets. And discreet and covert cooperation with many Arab gov-ernments is likely to reap significant rewards. Our NATO allies must also keep up a sustained effort to uproot terrorists residing in their countries.

The most difficult challenge will be to change the mindset in impoverished nations that America, the symbol of globalization, is the enemy. There is no quick and easy fix to eliminate poverty and injustice throughout the world. In fact, globalization holds the greatest potential to help struggling economies throughout the world. Humanitarian aid and World Bank aid to cushion the adjustment to the global economy will be necessary, but it is education, tech-nology transfer, trade, foreign investment, and the opening of our and their markets that hold the great-est hope for progress. Useful models can be found in Asia. Even with the setbacks of the Asian financial cri-sis and recent political problems, large numbers of people in Asia, including Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world, have fared better than much of the Arab world. The secret has been that these countries are part of the global economy.

The truth is, Osama bin Laden could disappear from the scene, and terrorism and terrorists still would remain a danger to civilization. What America and the West does now, over the next weeks, months, and years, will establish a framework for millions of people with whom we share this planet to improve their chances for a reasonable place in the global order.

[photo of William Bodde, Jr.]

William Bodde, Jr. (CC ’99) was the first executive director of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). He also served as US ambassador and as a foreign service officer. As deputy assistant secretary of state, he was coordina-tor for counter-terrorism in the European Bureau.


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