After the Terrorist Attacks
As the Smoke Clears
September 12, 2001
It would feel strange to publish something today that does not talk about the terrorist attacks that took place on Tuesday September 11. However, starting on Thursday we will resume our normal routine.
Let us ask today -- what will be different in the world, now that so many innocent people lie dead?
We can easily imagine the USA deciding to put up higher fences and tighter borders; more policemen and fancier secret agents; more surveillance and eavesdropping. Make citizens go through five hours of security checking before being allowed onto an airplane. And indeed, such things might have delayed or minimized Tuesday's horrible attacks, but probably not. And such measures are costly, not just in financial terms -- we do not want to let a handful of terrorists cause us to erode the US Constitution and the freedoms that make America great.
The painful fact is that big buildings and commercial jet planes are nearly indefensible targets. Straining to stop hate-filled terrorists from destroying those things is "too little, too late." Instead we must take action much earlier in the process that led to the attacks. We need to ask why the United States is such an attractive target in the first place. Most countries spend far less on stopping terrorist assaults, even though they too have big buildings and jet airliners.
The Taoist Lau-tzu mentioned that the knotty, gnarly tree lives peacefully into old age, while the tall, straight tree is cut down early and used for timber. One way to be left alone is to be unattractive. But no one wants the US to avoid terrorism by becoming a poor or miserable country.
The answer is not to become unattractive, the answer is to behave differently. Why is the United States considered the world's police cop, a worldwide bully, instead of the worldwide friend and partner? Let's change. The nation known as benevolent and friendly will be far, far better protected against terrorist attacks than the one with barbed-wire fences and border patrols.
A world full of justice will have no terrorists. We must move toward a world that works for everyone, with absolutely no one left out. I do not know if the United States is capable of shifting its foreign policy from "do what we tell you" to "how may we help?" but there is no safer, sounder protection against terrorism. We deserve the best possible protection for our children.
Hanno T. Beck is the publisher of the Progress Report.
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