Archive for Monday, November 26, 2001

Our new world

November 26, 2001


Our effort to overpower terrorism will involve a number of important long-range as well as short-term goals.

As for the American/Allied decision to continue military activity, including bombing of terrorists and their cells, during the Islamic holy period of Ramadan, cautious logic has been offered by Jim Wallis, editor of Sojourners magazine. Wallis has been covering issues of faith, culture and politics for 30 years. He writes in part:

" . . . Subtly, but very significantly, the international discussion has shifted from terrorism to bombing, from the attack on the United States to the ethics and effectiveness of U.S. military reprisals. That change undermines our purpose and tangibly weakens the fight against terrorism.

"But those who question American bombing are morally obligated to offer alternatives. The United States should redirect its campaign to the sources of terrorism's power and impact that, after all, are not fundamentally military in nature. Our focus should be on cutting off financial assets of terrorists (where we've started to have some success), heightening and coordinating domestic security, intensifying worldwide police and intelligence activity, and using international law to convict, isolate and discredit the terrorists then carefully targeting our search and capture operations to find and stop them.

"Most all Americans share a commitment to defeat the terrorism that hideously murdered 5,000 people on Sept. 11. Now honest and soul-searching questions are emerging about how best to do so. It is crucial such questions, some taking the form of dissent to U.S. military strategies, not be viewed as disloyal or unpatriotic. We are in a new world.

"We don't have enough experience or knowledge to rely on one approach as the source of all answers. There are practical alternatives rooted in different traditions. It's time to explore them. At this critical moment in our history, we must not let the American flag become a blindfold."

That is a solid and challenging package containing a good summary of what we are facing and what we have to do. There is no hint of retrenchment, retreat or appeasement, but there is a good approach on keeping discussion lines open and not leaping to condemnations of honest dissent.

We are, truly, in a new world. First things first: Seek, strike and destroy the terror movement. But as time passes and we gain new footholds and new knowledge and perceptions, there are far broader goals to pursue.

We must remember not to destroy ourselves and our own while we are trying to bring others to heel.

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