All Writings
September 11, 2001

A War We Must Win

Not since Pearl Harbor has America absorbed such a devastating surprise attack. The dimension of the coordinated terrorist act that obliterated the World Trade Center and severely damaged the Pentagon while leaving an unbelievable trail of death and destruction may finally awaken the United States to the horrific reality of terrorism. We must now rise and declare unrelenting war on terrorism and on those countries that harbor terrorist groups.

WTC explosion Many American targets were subject to a terrorist attack before, including the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center, the 1998 bombing of two of our embassies in East Africa and the October 2000 bombing of USS Cole in the Port of Aden. Unfortunately, our responses to these acts of terror were overly measured and mostly inconsequential. They sent the wrong message to the perpetrators and their supporters–that America is an easy target they can attack with impunity. Terrorizing the most powerful nation on earth without our immediate and massive retaliation has further empowered these groups, feeding their ego and emboldening them to plan and execute the most spectacular act of terrorism ever on American soil. Other than inflicting collateral and material damage, they wanted to humiliate the United States, the epicenter of world power.

Our intelligence agencies must immediately address how such a sophisticated terrorist attack that required extensive coordination, communication, financial support, mobility, systems of support, technical-know how and executional capability go completely undetected? How also do we account for an intelligence failure of this magnitude? Whatever the answers, we as a nation must reexamine certain fundamentals assumptions, fashion new approaches and adopt a different mindset to deal with the plague of terrorism. For example, our slow-to-react tradition and excessive concerns with "norms of international conduct" must now give way to a national resolve to strike at the heart of terrorist groups wherever they may be. Our response must be timely, swift, massive, devastating and continuous. To avoid, or at a minimum, substantially reduce future acts of terrorism, we must take a number of serious steps that regrettably, to our own detriment, we have not given sufficient attention to and funding of in the past.

First, we must refocus our attention on the old-fashioned method of gathering information through direct human infiltration of known terrorist organizations and cells outside and within the United States. Although we employ the most sophisticated electronics such as satellite, AWAX planes, and unmanned surveillance planes that provide intelligence gathering and realtime data, these cannot substitute for tactical warnings via human intelligence, even if, in the process, we must deal with unsavory individuals. Moreover, electronics do not detect human intentions until it is too late. Much can be learned from the Israeli experience in this regard. I am told that had it not been for its extremely successful infiltration of terrorist cells, hundreds of additional acts of terror would have been inflicted on Israel.

WTC 2nd airplainSecond, rather than spending over a 100 billion dollars on an illusive Missile Shield, which may not even work, the United State must invest on ground defenses. Specifically, it will take less than 10 percent of that amount to beef up security in every airport, recruit thousands more security personnel and provide better training for them, invest in advanced electronic detectors, and assign Federal air marshals to most flights. In addition, we need to authorize intelligence agencies to substantially increase wiretapping, eavesdropping, as well as invest considerably more in terrorist research and analysis–areas severely underfunded in recent years.

Third, the United States must abandon its policy of proportionality when responding to terrorist acts. This proposal may sound cold and ruthless. I beg to differ. Most of the terrorist groups only understand the "power of the fist." They imagedespise the weak and admire the strong. This mindset explains why, by hitting the world's most powerful nation and getting away with it, gives them a sense of invincibility. When we strike back, especially in the wake of the current tragic disaster, we must retaliate with all our might. Our message to the terrorist groups must be transparently clear: When you kill and destroy indiscriminately, we will not seek merely to cripple you, we will wipe you out. The message to those nations that offer them hospitality should be equally unequivocal: You will pay dearly once we establish the connection between you and these groups. Only when the price host nations pay for harboring terrorist groups is extremely high, will they choose to abandon these groups. Israel's massive retaliations against Jordan, Syria and Egypt during the 1970's and 1980's forced the governments to permanently end terrorist infiltration from their territory into Israel.

WTC collapseFourth, the United States must lead a global campaign against terrorism. Nearly every nation has an interest in stemming terrorism, regardless of cause or source. Terrorism is global: Modern communication makes it possible for these groups to travel with relative ease, using largely false documents. We must institute and systemize the sharing of information with other nations about their whereabouts. Moreover, the United States needs to allocate all the necessary financial resources to undermine terrorism and work cooperatively for an extended period–militarily, economically and diplomatically–with every country willing to join us in these efforts.

Fifth, Washington must get immediately and directly involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and mediate a solution. This protracted and violent conflict has contrived to feed the frenzy of many Muslim extremist groups, especially image because the United States has not demonstrated, from their vantage point, evenhandedness in its policies toward Israel and the Palestinians. By this observation, I am not implying that we ought to appease the terrorist groups. I simply suggest that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is out of control and we are the only country that can do something about it. The new Administration must exert the necessary pressure on both sides to push for the acceptance of former President Clinton's plan, which is consistent with United Nations Resolution 242 and the position of successive Republican and Democratic presidents. A solution to this conflict will remove the most frustrating and subversive cause of the present unrest and instability that has brought the entire Middle East to a boil. Arab states friendly to the United States who have been reluctant to take stern measures against the extremists in their midst will be encouraged to do so once the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is brought under control. However, countries like Egypt and Jordan and the Palestinian Authority who receive tremendous aid from the United States must understand that they can no longer allow their media, which they fully control, to poison the public with anti-American propaganda and get away with it. America must now demand accountability.

Everything that happens in our lives as mortals must have a reason that may be beyond our capacity to fathom. I would like to think that the reason behind this most horrific and tragic event is to awaken Americans to assume their global responsibility to put an end to the scourge of terrorism. We must remain resolute and spare no resources to eradicate this evil so that those who gave their lives will be remembered for making the ultimate sacrifice for the noblest of all causes.