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A New Kind of War

The appalling atrocities of September 11 are a manifest declaration of war not only on the United States but also on civilization itself. They are an assault on human society marked by peaceful cooperation in all matters of economic, social, political, and cultural matters. There had been several other declarations which our authorities apparently misinterpreted and refused to acknowledge, such as the attacks on the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 and the audacious assault on the USS Cole in Aden harbor last year. But no one can misinterpret the attack by hijacked airliners crashing into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, wreaking death and havoc.

It is a new kind of war declared by an enemy who is faceless and without a place of his own. He makes no distinction between the agents of government and defenseless men, women and children, between facilities and functions of government and private amenities of trade and commerce. The magnitude of his use of terror and violence allows us to assume that the onslaught was launched with the knowledge and cooperation of a government that sponsors, harbors or nods at terrorists. Although early leads point to Afghanistan, the governments of Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Sudan, and the Palestinian Authority could conceivably be involved. They all belong to the world of Islam and harbor deep resentment stemming from a feeling of having been wronged.

Islam is the youngest of the three monotheistic world religions with Judaism and Christianity. It is the principal religion of much of Asia. In the Americas, the Islamic population has increased substantially in recent years, both from conversion and immigration. Muslims are commanded to "commend good and reprimand evil," be charitable, abstain from gambling, drinking alcoholic beverages, eating pork, and charging interest. In Islam, religion and politics are inseparable; the ruler of the community has both a political and religious status. This unitary nature of Islam as a system governing relations between a person and society may explain not only the rapid spread of Islam from Mecca to Europe and India and beyond, but also its basic suspicion and latent hostility toward secular, democratic Western society. The prohibition of interest-taking, which was enjoined also in Christian countries throughout the Middle Ages, has affected Muslim economic life ever since.

The unitary nature of Islam may also explain the development of various branches of Islamic religion in the countries of Islam. In Afghanistan, for instance, the Taliban regime advocates an uncompromisingly severe fundamentalist view of society, which led to a bloody civil war and resulted in continued economic stagnation and international isolation. Facing hunger and want, Afghan people are denied the benefits of commerce, capital investment and markets, and much-needed international assistance. Under Taliban rule the country has become a large terrorist training camp, a center for drug smuggling, and a breeding ground for instability throughout the Muslim world. International terrorist Osama bin Laden is a frequent host of the Taliban.

Many Americans seem to be unaware that, in Afghanistan, U.S. agents and money helped to create both Osama bin Laden and the fundamentalist Taliban regime. When, in 1979, the Soviet Union invaded Pakistan, the CIA provided billions of dollars' worth of arms and ammunition to various groups fighting the Soviets. According to The Economist (Sept. 15, 2001, p. 19), our CIA even encouraged the revival of jihad, or holy war, and the growth of an international pan-Islamic movement. It was rather successful, which forced the Soviet Union finally to withdraw its forces, having suffered terrible losses. Since then the Afghanis have carried their jihad far beyond the borders of their country, at first to other parts of the Muslim world, and apparently now to New York and Washington. It is a bitter harvest the seeds of which our own officials helped to sow.

The holy war is supported and energized by an undercurrent of anger against the United States which runs deep throughout the Muslim world. It flows from the very existence of the state of Israel which Great Britain together with the United States created and placed amidst a hostile Arab world soon after World War II. The United States has been its primary guardian and provider ever since. A jihad striking at America undoubtedly has a political purpose. It seeks to intimidate the United States so that it will withdraw and allow the Arab world to destroy Israel. Yet, even if we hold to the belief that the creation of Israel was a tragic blunder by British and American officials, with calamitous aftereffects ever since, we have no choice but to insure that the forces of terror do not prevail. In all international affairs we must point toward peace and lead the way.

Israel is a painful thorn in the sides of all Arab neighbors. For more than 400 years until the end of World War I, Palestine was an unimportant, secluded outpost of the Ottoman Empire which tolerated all religions. It was ruled by the sultans in Constantinople and administered by the pashas of Damascus. Throughout the tumultuous 1920s, 30s and 40s when an increasing number of Jewish settlers made their way into Palestine, Great Britain ruled the country by Mandate of the League of Nations. When the British finally withdrew and the High Commissioner left the country in 1948 the Jewish organizations in Palestine proclaimed the establishment of a Jewish state, called Israel. Despite several wars waged against the new state by its Arab neighbors, it managed to survive thanks to its valiant defenders and the generous support of the United States.

Throughout its half-century existence Israel has been a beleaguered fortress in a hostile world. Despite numerous peace efforts by well-meaning foreign powers, both sides, the Israelis and their Arab neighbors, continue to practice the correlative of loving our neighbors as ourselves which is hating ourselves as we hate our neighbors. Motivated and guided by old doctrines of historic and religious mission, both sides never cease to find new ways of conflict.

The Israeli government does not hesitate to confiscate land owned by Palestinians, classify Arab homes as illegal and destroy them. The Israeli army may seize Arab village land for military exercises. The government may create new Israeli settlements on confiscated land amid a hostile Arab population on the Arab West Bank and in Jerusalem. Moreover, the economy of Israel is based on a mixture of private and state enterprises; Israeli agriculture is mostly collective and cooperative. All such manifestations of socialism tend to discriminate in their functions and services and constitute festering sources of conflict.

The Palestinian Authority is a vocal advocate of conflict by championing the "right of return" for Palestinian refugees. It demands the right to retake the land and property that were seized by Israel in the June 1967 war. It asks for the return of every square foot of the occupied West Bank and Gaza to Arab control and jurisdiction. When its demands remain unheeded they spark widespread rioting in the Palestinian-controlled areas and bloody confrontations between Israeli soldiers and stone-throwing Palestinian youths backed by Palestinian militia firing light weapons. The leaders of both sides seem to prefer to lead their men to combat rather than urge them to the patient labors of peace.

The road to peace points in the opposite direction. It would require an immediate cease-fire and cease-and-desist from present political conduct. The Israeli government including the military could not confiscate another square foot of land owned by Palestinians and create settlements where no private developer would dare to build. State enterprises that are found to discriminate must be privatized. There must be no regulatory restrictions on the sale or purchase of real property. The government must refrain from interfering with the economic lives of all its residents.

The Palestinian Authority under President Yasir Arafat must forego all claims to the "right of return," which is the right to seize that which has been seized before, again and again, throughout the long history of the country. Peace demands the disclaiming, disallowal, and repudiation of all forms of seizures, now and forever. The victims of Israeli confiscation may demand just compensation for private property seized after the 1967 war; the refugees who abandoned their property forfeited their rights during the war.

At the close of World War II allied armies drove some fifteen million Germans from their land and homes in places which now are in Poland and Russia. The refugees soon intermingled with the native population and helped to rebuild the devastated country. Today, there are no German refugees lingering in dismal camps. The country is more productive than ever and standards of living are among the highest in the world. Few Germans, if any, would want to return to Poland or Russia, but millions of Poles and Russians would love to come to and seek employment in Germany. There are no stone-throwing German youths at the Polish border.

Angry Palestinians could learn from the Germany of Ludwig Erhard, building their country and improving economic conditions. The refugee camps of 1967, overcrowded since then, could be made centers of international trade and commerce or citadels of finance in giant towers with highrise apartments, restaurants and hotels. Sadly blinded by notions of nationalism and socialism, many Palestinians choose to live in the past, lingering in despair. With their eyes glued on the past, they neglect the opportunities of the present and lose the future.

Peace is a slow process with gradually changing public opinion that prefers cooperation to confrontation. American leaders should point the way by observing and censuring evenhandedly with varying severity any and all acts of aggression by the two parties. As the primus-inter-pares power the United States government could observe and publicly render judgment on every violation of the principles of peace, no matter who should commit the wrong. Since war always begins in the minds of men, it is only in the minds of men that peace can be won.

The U.S. government unfortunately has made enemies throughout Asia, with millions hating us with an obsessive, fanatical passion. They do not envy us for our virtues and possessions but hate our global empire whose tentacles reach into all corners of the world. Our bombs and missiles have killed women and children in Iraq, Iran, Kenya, Tanzania and Serbia. Countless Iraqis continue to suffer hunger and deprivation due to economic sanctions imposed by the UN, and Iraqi military and civilians continue to suffer casualties from American and British raids on radio and missile sites. Our bountiful foreign aid and assistance, which the U.S. government doles out year after year, fosters dependence and corruption and festers political strife and conflict. In South America, U.S. officials finance and direct a bitter war against drug growers and dealers. In fact, most Americans are unaware that their government has profoundly antagonized much of the human race.

We may not be able to remove all causes of alienation such as envy and ignorance. But we must be ever mindful of the causes that make others hate us. Hatred poisons even the religious heart and may fill it with malice and fanaticism. It made a few warriors of Islam crash into the World Trade Center and Pentagon, killing defenseless men, women, and children and carrying fire and fury into our land.


Most Americans favor an immediate response to the atrocities. We must not just go after the perpetrators, they suggest, but also deal with their sources of support and hold them accountable. Surgical strikes by aircraft based in the United States or on carriers are proven to be rather ineffective. We may have to declare war on one or more countries, they conclude, and send expeditionary forces in the form of infantry divisions and special operation forces. The bases of terrorism must be eradicated wherever they may be. We must brace ourselves for unavoidable military and civilian casualties at home and abroad.

This reaction of some media voices fills this writer with consternation and fear. If the United States government were to react to the September-11 atrocities in such a manner, he is convinced, it would lead to war without end. It would precipitate another Vietnam War which cost the lives of some 50,000 Americans, 400,000 South Vietnamese and more than 900,000 North Vietnamese. It would repeat the tragic errors of U.S. involvement which failed utterly in its objective, the independence of Vietnam and the containment of world communism, despite massive military aid, heavy bombing and U.S. troop commitment of some 550,000. The length of the war and the high American casualties finally turned many Americans against the war. They called for immediate withdrawal in huge demonstrations in Washington as well as in many other cities and on college campuses. The use of expeditionary forces in Asia would confirm the old dictum that "the only lesson which history has taught us is that man has not yet learned anything from history."

On the way to the strongholds of Osama bin Laden and other conspirators in Afghanistan, U.S. expeditionary forces would have to fight their way through the Islamic Republic of Pakistan with a population of some 140 million 95 percent of whom are devout Muslims. And in the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan itself they would face the Taliban regime ruling over some 25 million Afghanis with an uncompromising severity of its fundamentalist Islamic view of society. In the Vietnam War U.S. forces faced the military might of communist North Vietnam with a population of less than twenty million bolstered by the goodwill and support of the Soviet Union. In Pakistan and Afghanistan covering an area ten times that of North Vietnam, our forces would encounter the manpower of some 165 million Muslims led by fundamentalist mullahs and generals counting on the goodwill and support of one billion Muslims. And when our troops finally reach Kabul through sheer bravery and with great sacrifice, it is rather unlikely that bin Laden and his fellow terrorists would be waiting to be apprehended. They probably would plan and direct their bloody attacks from new bases in some remote corner of the world.

As the world's only superpower with a military might greater than that of all other powers, the United States government may flex its nuclear muscle. U.S. supremacy primarily rests on the possession of the greatest quantity of nuclear weapons that can be delivered by plane, artillery, ship, or ballistic missile. Some also fit into a suitcase. During the cold war the nuclear strategies of both the United States and the Soviet Union were identical: aiming their weapons at the opponent's nuclear arsenal and at centers of population. Both powers based their strategy on the idea that nuclear war would involve mutual assured destruction (MAD) for both countries and possibly for the world as well.

The MAD strategy may have forestalled an attack by the Kremlin masterminds on the United States and its NATO allies. But it is utterly useless and inapplicable in a war against terrorists. It would wreak no mutual destruction but rather assure annihilation of countless innocent men, women and children. Even if some governments should be found to harbor or even support the World-Trade-Center and Pentagon terrorists, the United States government must not use its nuclear might. Surely, it has the military capability to strike at Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, or at Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan, at Baghdad, the capital of Iraq, or at Khartoum, the capital of The Sudan. It can revenge the New York and Washington terror with much greater terror, incinerating many thousands of men, women and children. But we must caution against blind vengeance against alien and hostile populations. To wreak a nuclear holocaust on any Muslim city would be a crime against humanity and the start of a hundred-year-war between Islam and the West.


War has been a feature of human history since the Stone Age. The method of warfare has changed continually with the types of weapons made available by technological knowledge and industrial capability. It is about to change again as the knowledge of biological, chemical and nuclear weaponry has become readily available to the scientific community throughout the world. It has given small bands of fanatics, zealots, and maniacs the capability to strike at will at any society, no matter how large and powerful. It may have rendered America's gigantic warships and far-flung military bases rather useless. Internal guerrilla-style terrorist groups may wreak havoc on the centers of population, waging a barbaric war on society.

On September 11 the terrorists struck the symbols of American power and economic order. Remaining at large and free to roam the world, they may strike tomorrow at British symbols of power and economic activity, for it was British authorities who favored and sanctioned the birth of Israel. Or they may terrorize the authoritarian rulers of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Oman, and Bahrein who reign in great luxury, delivering the oil that drives the West. They may hit societal infrastructures, i.e. food supplies, power, water, sewage, telecommunication, transportation, etc. They may smite symbols of Western capitalism and resort to assassinations of its eminent capitalists and entrepreneurs.

Terrorism reaches back to ancient Greece and has occurred throughout history. It is difficult to prevent. International cooperation and agreements to tighten borders, to hunt, apprehend, and return terrorists for trial offer some deterrence. The best defense against terrorism is intelligence effort and ability, that is, obtaining knowledge about all manifestations of terrorism. Intelligence activity is concerned with detection and analysis of terrorist agitation, preparation, training, and planning. Its importance cannot be overstated in this new war of terrorism. It may be more important and cost-efficient by far than huge expenditures on nuclear armor, aircraft carriers, and military bases around the globe. Systematic intelligence gathering must be a fundamental and important part of national defense. All major countries have elaborate intelligence systems that protect the country not only against hostile foreign agents but also internal terrorists. Israel probably has the best intelligence service in the world. Some Muslim countries, especially Libya, Iran, and Syria, are known to have efficient networks as well. During the Cold War with the USSR the United States government created the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to coordinate intelligence and national security. Although the U.S. has seven other intelligence gathering agencies, all unfortunately were oblivious and in the dark when the hijacked planes crashed into their targets.

The United States has the ability and resources to organize a world-wide hunt for the terrorists and bring them to justice. It is a difficult task, which may take more time than anxious media may be willing to concede. Leading the hunt, the U.S. government must marshal the forces of civilization throughout the world and launch a united manhunt for all propagandists, warriors, and partisans of terror. Self-defense is a virtue; it is a bulwark of civilized order.

The civilized world is engaged in a guerilla war it did not seek. It is a war with small groups of alienated individuals too weak to mount open assault. No country can ever have an army large enough to protect its people against such attacks. But the United States government does have the ability and resources to organize a world-wide hunt for the perpetrators and their sponsors. Self-defense is the oldest law of nature. Vengeance is not cured by blind vengeance, nor wrong by another wrong.