Academic journal article Policy Review

Sustaining Our Resolve

Academic journal article Policy Review

Sustaining Our Resolve

Article excerpt

WE LIVE AT A time of unprecedented promise. Freer and more open economic and political systems of governance are gaining ground, and the evidence is clear that these developments lead to more prosperous and more hopeful lives.

But terrorist attacks on civilian targets in other countries remind us of our own 9/11, that a war is going on and that we in the United States are very much involved. Attention is focused on Iraq for understandable reasons, but the threat reaches far beyond that. Insecurity is the enemy of the promise and the hope. Recent events in different parts of the world, most prominently in the Middle East, underscore this point. So we must focus on the threat and deal with it effectively.

In my own thinking about this war, I find it useful to keep three ideas in mind. The first is symbolized in the Great Seal of our republic: The eagle holds in one talon an olive branch and in the other arrows, showing that the United States understands that if you are to be successful in seeking peace, you must have strength. Strength and diplomacy are complements rather than alternatives.

The second is to emphasize the reinforcing nature of political openness and increases in income per capita--prosperity--that come from use of the market, recognition of private property, and the rule of law. Democracy more likely takes hold when earned incomes are rising, and markets flourish best in open political environments.

The third is to recognize that this war has already gone through two quite different phases. Today a third phase is under way that also has different characteristics. This phase will continue to be with us and is the long war identified by the president and others even shortly after 9/11.

During the first phase of this war, going back certainly to the 1970s, we were essentially passive. We were hit by increasing numbers of terrorist acts, but, though there was a gradual buildup of concern, we did nothing significant in response to these attacks. Then September 11 woke America up. We reacted powerfully, putting in place a different philosophy and taking a great variety of actions to implement that philosophy. We are now nearly five years away from that calamitous event. The war continues, but the juices of reaction to 9/11 have subsided. We must now realize that the job in a third phase of the war--necessary if we are to be successful--is to put our efforts on a sustainable basis, gaining broad support at home and abroad. As in the Cold War, public understanding and support will be as crucial as persistent pressure and the will to win.

The passive phase

THE WAR WE are in started a long time ago, although we did not recognize its nature until recently. We witnessed the assassination of Israeli athletes at the Olympic games in Munich in 1972, the assault on our embassy in Tehran with Americans taken hostage in 1979, the assassination of President Sadat of Egypt in 1981, the car bomb that killed 243 U.S. Marines in Lebanon in 1983, the attack on the World Trade Center in 1993, the bombing of our embassies in Africa, and the attack on the USS Cole in the late 1990s. We made no serious response to any of these bloody assaults. In the Reagan, Bush 41, and Clinton years, we hit back once or twice with airstrikes or cruise missiles. The enemy was not impressed.

By the mid-1990s, we knew about Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda. Just as Hitler laid out his plans in Mein Kampf, Osama bin Laden made no secret of his program. As in the case of Hitler, his announced objectives were not taken seriously enough.

There was, however, a building concern about escalating terrorism. As a hawk on the subject in the Reagan era, my comments in a 1984 speech were nervously received. I said then that:

* We must reach a consensus in this country that our responses should go beyond passive defense to consider means of active prevention, preemption, and retaliation. …

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