CIAO DATE: 9/01
From CIAO's Board: Commentary on the Terrorist Attacks against the United States
University of California, San Diego
Over There and Over Here
Steve Walt and Bob Keohane have outlined political approaches to the problem of terrorism that rest on the formation of alliances. Walt approaches this problem in a more realist way while Keohane invokes the value of international organizations. However both assume that the tasks we are asking these allies to carry out are readily straightforward; to support our military, intelligence and preventive actions. But Jack Snyders intervention underlines that what we want countries to do is by no means straightforward; indeed, it is not clear that we ourselves are capable of doing what we are asking of others.
Very shortly after the crisis, President Bush made it clear that he would draw no distinction between governments who harbor terrorists and the terrorists themselves. Colin Powell talked of countries standing with us or against us, and these remarks were later expanded by Paul Wolfowitz into the hyperbolic claim that the US would seek to end states who sponsor terrorism. The implicit model is one in which the interests of governments and the terrorists they harbor are aligned, making for a simply identified enemy, the rogue state redux.
This model is a misguided one. For failed states like Afghanistan, it is not clear that the central government has the capacity to turn over Osama bin-Laden. Even if it did, it is not clear whether it could prevent another such figure from operating on its territory in the future. What would it mean to end the Taliban government? What precisely would replace it, beyond further radicalizing civil war?
For somewhat more capable authoritarian governments such as Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the more besieged of the Central Asian republics, the problem is not one of state capacity but of a politics that the attackers may have cleverly foreseen. While the U.S. is pressing such governments to stand with us or against us, the fundamentalists and their swaths of both hard and soft support are posing the same question of these governments: do they stand with or against the faithful? In delivering his (purportedly) tough message to the Taliban, Musharaff could be exploiting the opportunity to line up his increasingly Islamized military and to place relations with Afghanistan on a new footing. However, his rush for U.N. cover left little doubt of the risks he runs in identifying with the United States. These risks have been misrepresented. The issue is not only whether the government will survive but what it will have to do to persist. Defenders of Pakistani public opinion argue that support for extremism is shallow. But it doesn't have to be deep; the critical issue is not necessarily the majority but the minority that is already inclined towards radical politics. What does the government need to do to manage them? Similar dynamics will undoubtedly appear in Saudi Arabia, Tajikstan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgistan, not to mention those states whose commitment to ending terrorism is in any case dubious: the Palestinian Authority, Syria and Iran most centrally. Who is in fact dictating the terms of these alliances?
But the most troubling problem with the alliance model is its assumptions about countries that are unambiguously our friends, and its assumptions about the United States itself. In a recent forum in San Diego, Miles Kahler referred to the new political technology of the highly decentralized terrorist network: a loose confederation of cells that can come together around a particular task and then dissipate quickly back to the everyday. That everyday is the milieu of modern life in the advanced industrial states.The genesis of these networks may lie in various political, economic and religious grievances in the Middle East but the central staging areas of this most recent attack were in increasingly deep immigrant communities in Europe and the United States. These communities have legitimate grievances not only about their home countries but about their current status as outsiders, often facing an increasingly violent and racialist right-wing politics. German security officials report that as many as 3500 militants from the Arab world live in that country and operate to raise funds for radical causes. Even as this crisis was breaking, the United States was once again proving itself unwilling to halt or even track the extensive networks of domestic fundraising for the IRA. And does anything need to be said about the ability of Asian, Latin American and European networks to deliver illegal drugs to American consumers and to continue to operate complex criminal and financial networks here?
It only took three days for the European caveats about the use of military force to roll across the Atlantic. But the most tellingand chillingpolitical event of Monday September 17 was not alliance politics, but the Ashcroft press conference in which he outlined a new series of internal security measures that the Department of Justice will be seeking, including extended wiretap powers.
of allianceslining up our friends, pressuring potential safe harborsis
an important part of anti-terrorism politics. But the highly unsuccessful war
on drugs is probably a more accurate guide to the future of the anti-terrorism
effort than the highly successful Gulf War effort. This is a problem which deeply
engages domestic politics, tests the internal capacity of democratic as well
as authoritarian states, and rests on breaking complex and highly elusive transnational
Kirkpatrick Professor of International Affairs
John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University
Professor of Public Policy, Duke University
Director, Terry Sanford Institute of Public Policy
Response by Etel SolingenSteven Weber
Professor of Political Science
University of California, Irvine
Response by Stephan Haggard
Professor, Graduate School of International Relations and Pacific Studies
University of California, San Diego
Response by Stephan HaggardPeter Katzenstein
Response by Robert Keohane