On 9-11

Commentary On US Response
To Terrorism?
Fred Krueger


Before getting back to work after a late lunch, I found the following commentary from Pat Buchanan among yesterday's emails. The PB editorial doesn't provide much beyond revealing additional influences encouraging military retaliation, but it was enough to warrant reflection about what constitutes a more comprehensive view to our government's so far short-sighted approach to last month's terrorism.

While many details about this issue are not yet forth coming, it doesn't take keen analysis to realize that the forces pushing for a military response are stronger than the forces for thoughtful long term policy which can address real failures in our Middle Eastern affairs.

Of particular note is our failure to examine the specific complaints voiced by militant Muslims about America. They cite as reasons for their animosity: cultural imperialism (the global export of secular attitudes plus the degradation of traditional Islamic religious values), the starvation of over a million people in Iraq (through what they say is our cruel food embargo via the UN), gross injustices to the Palestinian people, and the placement of commercial interests above God and human interests (oil before human values).

These issues require greater examination than what we have seen so far in the popular media. Without engaging these causes of Islamic animosity, military retaliation alone will never root out the hatred. However military actions unfold, bombs and guns simply cannot address this level of complaint. Military action will only bounce us from one incident to another to another, and in the process intensify animosity and cause even greater depths of misery and death.

The problem begins in how we develop foreign policy on the basis of political pressures -- which is similar to how we develop budget policy or forest policy or other domestic policy: the loudest constituent concerns coupled with ideological suppositions and current opinion shape our response more often than principled and thoughtful reflection. Our national interests are then determined by resources, alliances and economic interests rather than the core principles which were historically at the heart of our government. This scheme leaves little room for ideas such as "in God we trust," or the principles of respect which follow.

The problem intensifies as we minimize the religious and spiritual dimensions at the heart of the Muslim complaint. Even though these are Islamic fundamentalists, they are still people who feel and act on teh basis of what is happening to them. Their response may have been terribly criminal, but it reflects the predicament which simple people have with the values of the secular multinational agenda squeezing their ability to deterine the religious character of their lives. We witness something similar in the squeeze felt by Americans in our own ghettos of poverty where lack of hope for the future causes a resort to criminal activity. This is no excuse for the terrible crimes of the terrorists, but this reflects on the fact that our foreign policy has relied more upon economic determinism and military power to shape its direction than concern for the rights of people, their legitimate needs for hope in the future, and consistency in extending to other nations the noble spirit and principles upon which America was founded. And these same secular forces about which militant Muslims complain are also changing and coarsening our country. With this combination of forces at the heart of foreign policy decision-making, the high ideals of the republic become subverted and we move into a system more akin to one in which financial and commercial oligarchies influence policy alonside perceptions about national interests and security.

The problem is that terrorism rooted in anger over the culturally-destabilizing secular influences our multinational corporations are exporting to Islamic countries cannot be addressed this way! The issue is first a problem of world views in conflict, and second a problem of how we translate our own religious values into policy. If we do not address this deepening predicament on its real grounds, we may win some military engagements but ultimately we will continue to be bloodied because our short-sighted view will choose wrong and ultimately inadequate responses. As a consequence the next generation of U.S. responses will be to clamp down on individual freedoms (to restrain further terrorist action), and this will be followed by an erosion of our other claims to democratic ideals. In the process we will see a weakening of our religious and individual freedoms and cherished national values.

This is why HOW we as a nation respond to this issue of international terrorism is crucial for us all and why we cannot continue with business as usual or avoid addressing its implications. Otherwise all of our other laudable concerns will disintegrate in the face of this overarching failure. In other words, the issue is NOT merely peace over war, as the press and others have described the first protests about Administration policy. Rather, the issue is whether we will have a thoughtful comprehensive response to the real conflicts at the heart of our dilemma, or will we have a simplistic knee-jerk military retaliation that satisfies our pain for awhile, but in the end only intensifies our predicament.

Yes, all this is a much longer discussion. Sorry to go on so long. Your thoughts solicited, as always.

Fred Krueger --> fred@ecostewards.org