Washington Terror attacks on European, Australian and other tourists in Bali and on a French chartered oil tanker off Yemen reveal the true nature of the threat posed by al-Qaida and its friends and sponsors: The world is afflicted with a deadly, undiscriminating disease that must be halted by painful and at times dangerous treatment.
The terrorists do not wage a political campaign by other means. They fight the very times in which they and we live. Only a fool would now say that Sept. 11, 2001, changed nothing however much we want that to be true.
The terrorists help change the driving force of world politics from economic interdependence to an imperative concern for security. Their blood lust limits economic globalization as it was pursued over the past decade, and is causing foreign investment and tourism to retrench in specific locations.
The Bush administration's war on terror is not and cannot be a military campaign waged to extend American empire, as it is frequently portrayed by both the administration's critics and its most impassioned supporters. It must have a global economic component that redefines and revalues interdependence in a changed world.
The war on global terror is the least bad of all the bad options available to Washington to contain the disease as far away from America's shores as possible: This war is chemotherapy for weak governments like those of Indonesia and Yemen, which now face the stark choice of fighting international terrorism on their territory or watching their chances to become vibrant players in the global economy suffocate in the ruins of terrorist blasts.
Europeans who were tempted to hope that this all does not concern them because their Middle East policies are "better" than those of Washington have learned in the past 10 days that they are in fact all Americans now, as far as the loosely allied terrorists are concerned. Do vacationing Germans in Bali really bear the responsibility for persecuting Palestinians and protecting the Saudi and Kuwaiti royal families from the criminally insane Osama bin Laden? The bombers of Bali say they do.
With us or against us is not a choice the terrorists extend. The United States and Germany, and Australia, and Yemen, and Indonesia, and ad infinitum must submit to their will to avoid destruction. There is no negotiable outcome for this conflict, no pain-free way of getting back to the way things were.
President Bush, a historical optimist as far as I can tell, seems to understand this, as does Vice President Cheney, whose political career is a study in pessimism. But facing midterm elections, they have largely steered away from open discussion of the negative. That is now unsustainable. They can no longer avoid addressing the conflict of economic and security imperatives that the war of terror on America, and the war on terror by America, involve.
Bush is unfortunate in not having economic spokesmen equal either to those who speak for the president on security or to the task they face. Over months, the confidence of investors has collapsed. They have heard little from the White House or the Treasury Department to counteract the resentment and doubts many feel over having been lied to by corporate chieftans and left unprotected by the government's financial supervisory agencies.
In the silence, terrorist blasts abroad and sniper's bullets at home echo more loudly than they otherwise would. Anyone who has ever dreamed of a vacation in Bali or of making money by buying emerging-market funds that invest in Indonesia has different dreams today.
This is globalization's double whammy: Technology continues to pull nations toward interdependence. The communications revolution compels us to be more aware of the rest of the world. But increasingly, it is the great awareness of risk that dominates the Zeitgeist of international economics and politics, and not opportunity.
"General Electric will continue to sell turbines wherever it can. Ford will not close plants in places not affected by a terror threat," says an influential Wall Street investment banker. "But people will retrench on anything new. They want to know what is safe in their lives and in business."
Bush must now show a capability to run the two-front war on terror that al-Qaida and Iraq's Saddam Hussein have forced on him while articulating an economic strategy to absorb and spread the costs of the conflict nationally and internationally.
The struggle against this international cancer will be long and difficult. And we have just been reminded again that it is not America's war alone to wage.
Jim Hoagland is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group.