All Writings
September 18, 2001

How Can America Emerge A Better And Stronger Nation?

Our historical experiences and the increasing pervasiveness and sophistication of terrorist organizations make it abundantly clear that the solution to international terrorism is far from simple. The war against terrorism will be long, protracted and costly both in terms of human lives and materials. What further complicates this awesome task are the elusiveness of the enemy, the continuing instability in the Middle East, the numerous states directly or indirectly involved and the difficulty of maintaining a determined international coalition to combat terrorism indefinitely. Through the prudent use of military force allied with creative diplomacy, however, we may find ourselves reaping benefits that transcend the war on terrorism. We can emerge a stronger, better nation with enhanced moral authority to lead a world more peaceful than that we discovered on September 11.

As we obviously cannot declare war on every country that harbors or otherwise supports certain elements of terrorist groups, we must institute a dual policy of incentive and disincentive for those nations whose cooperation we seek. It may be too late to turn the tide away from the use of force against the Taliban unless they are persuaded to extradite Osama bin Laden and his followers to the United States. In all other cases, however, the use of force should be a last resort, even against those countries that harbor terrorist organizations as they may, given the choice, opt to cooperate with us rather than face a devastating blow. But, for the United States to persuade other states to cooperate rather than risk severe punitive measures, including military confrontation, we must first demonstrate a military preponderance and the political will to employ it decisively. There are, in my view, four different categories of countries, each requiring a different strategy, or strategies, if we are to achieve such optimal results. These four categories are:

1. Besides Afghanistan, which will probably suffer the brunt of our military onslaught, this group includes states known to provide sanctuary to terrorist groups–Iraq, Syria, Iran and possibly Libya. Each, for its own reasons, with the possible exception of Iraq, is now trying to distance itself from terrorism. Each, nevertheless, holds a serious grudge against the United States, which we can use to our advantage. Iran, for example, rejects the Taliban and might even support our efforts, but it wants the United States to release around 4 billion dollars of its assets frozen since the 1979 hostage crisis. Syria and Libya would like to normalize relations with us. Syria, Iran and Libya want their names removed from the State Department's list of countries that sponsor terrorism, as this seriously hampers their trading, ability to attract new capital, investments and so forth. In return, we must unequivocally demand that they remove every shred of terrorist organization or cell inside their borders and willingly share intelligence with us. In brief, we can offer these three important nations powerful incentives to stop their support of terrorism while simultaneously improving our relations with them­thereby making a virtue out of necessity. As for Iraq, although it is not expected to cooperate and may consequently, suffer further American military reprisals, we need a new strategy completely divorced from our current Iraqi policy that produces neither inspections of weapons of mass destruction nor effective sanctions.

2. This category is comprised of states that provide indirect assistance to known terrorist groups–Pakistan, Lebanon, Yemen and the Sudan. Although there is no evidence that these countries currently harbor terrorist groups operating at their behest, they have been offering indirect assistance, such as training camps and staging facilities. But given the choice of working with the United States or opposing it, all of them will most likely opt to cooperate because the alternatives will be too dire to contemplate. Moreover, Lebanon would welcome an understanding between the United States and Syria that could end the activities of the Hizbullah. Sudan, stuck in a civil war that has sapped virtually all its energies, is in desperate need of economic help. Yemen, poor and emotionally drained, is in no mood for American military incursion. Pakistan has already agreed to play a direct role in attempting to persuade the Taliban to turn in bin Laden. American-Pakistani economic and military ties and our promise of future assistance are too critical for a country on the verge of economic bankruptcy.

3. This category is made up many Arab states claiming to be friendly to the United States, especially– Egypt, the Palestinian Authority and to a lesser extent Jordan and other Gulf States– that have turned a blind eye to the spread of anti-American materials saturating their official electronic and print media. The dissemination of this information is poisoning the public and spreading the Islamic extremist message of hatred for the United States. Meanwhile Egypt receives more than 2 billion dollars annually from us in military and economic aid; our yearly subsidy of the Palestinian Authority amounts to about 100 million dollars, while Jordan is a regular recipient of our foreign aid. In response to this largesse, Egypt and the Palestinians in particular do very little to stem the daily flow of anti-American propaganda in their official media, mosques and schools. While we must push hard for settling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, future American aid must be conditional on the immediate and total cessation of this hate campaign, which can no longer be justified by the cynical pretext of a free press. In addition, we must forcefully remind Egypt that, among the 19 terrorists who blew up the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, several were Egyptian nationals and that we have no intention of subsidizing the next generation of terrorists.

4. This category encompasses the scores of nations that because they contain substantial Arab and Muslim communities have inadvertently created an environment supportive of various terrorist cells. I am referring here to some Western European nations, Russia and the United States. Part of the global campaign against terrorism must include the uprooting of all terrorist cells from these nations while protecting and respecting the rights of the majority of their citizens. On the home front, Arab- and Muslim- Americans, many of whom have escaped hardship and persecution in their country of origin, have come to America to enjoy the freedom, opportunity and bounty we offer. They are justifiably concerned about becoming targets of the anger now surfacing. We must not allow racial and religious profiling and demonstrate a zero tolerance of bigotry. And, as they have done in the past, Arab and Muslim Americans must remain vigilant and redouble their efforts to work with the authorities in plucking out from their midst those who, having been led astray, sold their souls to the evils of terrorism. In addition, we need to authorize intelligence agencies to substantially increase wiretapping and eavesdropping, as well as to invest considerably more in human infiltration, research and analysis to learn about terrorist planning and intentions with a focus on chemical and biological weapons before it is too late.

As we embark upon this new kind of war, we must keep our battles global in context and character. This moral crusade cannot be won unless we also hear and deal with the legitimate grievances of the nations whose help we seek. I believe in this way we have an historic opportunity to reconcile many of our differences with previous and current adversaries, build bridges to new friends and settle violently raging conflicts while eliminating the evil of terrorism. We can emerge a stronger nation, proudly carrying the torch of moral authority to lead a better world.