CIAO DATE: 9/01
From CIAO's Board: Commentary on the Terrorist Attacks against the United States
I am spending the year at Russell Sage on 64th Street and have only been able to follow your conversations without adding to it. We now have again access to reliable email and I want to add a couple of comments.
I do so with a somewhat different vantage point than most of you. I have worked on terrorism and other internal security issues, on and off, for the last decade, on the intuition that after the end of the Cold War this was going to be of increasing importance. Security specialists, judging by the reactions of colleagues, editors and reviewers sought that this was interesting but not relevant. Those parts of books and articles could be skimmed or should be cut. I think the cognitive shock for teaching and research will be salutary. We now have an opportunity to learn from our European colleagues and their work on societal insecurity and Asian scholars working with the concept of comprehensive security. That is, we have an opportunity to end American exceptionalism on this frontier of scholarship.
My research on German and Japanese terrorism convinces me that the main tools are police, diplomacy and intervention and in that order. The framing of the issue as war in the first twelve hours after the attack and in the Presidents speech last night, accompanied by the admission that it is a difficult and prolonged one, will prove less helpful I believe than a framing in terms of policing and intelligence augmented by covert action. The reasons why this administration has chosen this path are fairly evident and I agree with all of you that diplomacy, alliance building, and well-targeted and selective military strikes based on good intelligence will all be important.
It is not a fundamental mistake in my understanding that the main problem is exterminating terrorist organizations abroad. The Japanese Red Army survived for decades sheltered by North Korea and Syria and was put on the run and effectively finished only when those states changed their policies. Without state support terrorism has a much harder time. But I think that this is the exceptional case.
The typical case is when the main staging ground for terrorism is inside a liberal society not outside. Loosely-coupled cell-like structures act sometimes in coordination and sometimes not. They have a life cycle measured in scores of years. Eradicating them normally takes a generation, by the calculation of the Japanese police in the 1970s, 15-25years for the terrorists who staid behind in Japan. The spontaneous ability of regeneration, after a particular cohort of terrorists had been eliminated, remains the most baffling aspect of the German Red Army Faction. I think it went through 5 generations of active cells in a support milieu estimated at between 200-2000 in a country of 60 million. The German police developed computer assisted search and dragnet operations that the US will not be able to match. Yet the police was spectacularly unsuccessful. In the end luck (the end of the Cold War and German unification) and time solved the problem. Civil liberties of the kind we cherish are difficult to have in that situation. The inability of the President to point to even one solid link in that totalitarian chain was evident in the speech. I hope that the Battle of Algiers will be a movie that his staff will make him watch.
The soft power of America lies in the openness of its society. It is the ground on which this war will be fought, possibly for decades. The experience of the IRA, the Sikhs, the Kurds, Hamas and numerous other organizations suggests that terrorist organizations have global reach particularly when they can operate from within the richest and strongest state in the world. Terrorism is not only a competitor with but also parasitic on state power. What we cherish most, our diversity, now constitutes a risk. Others suffering terrorist attacks have pointed this out to us for years. Now we are confronting the unpleasant truth ourselves.
Does one fight an unending war with oneself? When their Arabs kill our Arabs now, just as their Japanese were beating our Japanese in the late 1980s, the framing of the issue in terms of war, military now and trade then, becomes deeply problematic. Powell and Rumsfeld to be sure are important. But this is the hour and the decade of John Ashcroft.
I hope that an opposition in Congress will soon reappear. The sooner the framing
of the issue is changed the sooner that day will come. We are not, primarily,
fighting enemies over there. We are, primarily, choosing the terms
of living in diversity in here.
Stephen M. Walt
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