Friday, August 27, 2004

Containing Terrorism

Robert L. Hutchings, who head President Bush's National Intelligence Council, argues George Kennan's containment strategy towards the USSR can defeat Al Qaeda. (Thanks to Foreign Policy magazine for the link):

"That brings me to my core conclusion: we should not assume that 'we' and 'they' have nothing in common. Usama bin Laden and his followers deplore what they perceive as the depravity and vacuity of modernity. So do many in the West. Terrorists and their supporters rage against the inequities and degradation brought on by globalization. So do many thoughtful critics who would not dream of resorting to terrorism to achieve their goals.

"Many of the grievances that terrorists express and exploit -- economic disadvantage, alienation brought on by globalization, a sense of cultural humiliation, and others -- are remediable, at least potentially. It was one of the core failings of Communist ideology that Marx failed to see that many of the class antagonisms he identified could be--and were--overcome by peaceful means rather than the class struggle he took to be inevitable. (I learned this at the feet of the late Lewis Feuer right here on this campus.)

"Our frame of mind -- even as we are waging a resolute campaign against international terrorism -- should be that we are not engaged in a fight to the finish with radical Islam. This is not a clash of civilizations but rather a defense of our shared humanity and a search to find common ground, however implausible that may seem now. Such an effort is no more possible with Usama bin Laden than it was with Stalin back when Kennan was writing, and it will be an elusive goal for years to come, but we have reason to be optimistic if we take the longer view, as Kennan did.

"Let me conclude, as I began, by citing the X-Article:

The in essence a test of the overall worth of the United States as a nation among nations. To avoid destruction the United States need only measure up to its own best traditions and prove itself worthy of preservation as a great nation.

"If these words sound somewhat melodramatic, I ask you to remember how vulnerable, uncertain, and fearful we felt as a nation on September 11, 2001. We have come a long way since then, but we still have a long way to go before we can recover the security and tranquility that was so brutally shattered that bright morning two and a half years ago."