I believe we CAN win against terrorism. We may not be able to eradicate
every incidence from the face of the earth forever, but we can embrace a new
geopolitical balance and Weltanschauung that underpins health, dignity,
opportunity, and respect for human life. We can create a soil so rich in
nutrients no poison will be able to take root. Will it take money? Yes.
Will it take political will? Yes. Is it doable? Absolutely.
This essay is intended to contribute to the thinking that will stimulate
It suggests three essential ingredients:
I A global Marshall Plan
II Combining internationalism and justice for Afghanistan’s women
III Move from reliance on oil to renewable resources
I Treatment Successful; Patient Dead -- and How to avoid It
Never have so many of us heard so much talk about solving a global problem.
We are told over and over that we will defeat terror by breaking up the
networks and getting the perpetrators of terrorist crimes. Yet absent from
the outpourings of analysis and commentary is the acknowledgment that we
cannot defeat terror by pulling out its manifestations at their roots.
Manifestations are symptoms. Causes have roots, and at those -- poverty,
despair, ignorance, helplessness -- we must unerringly aim our search and
destroy missions. We must think, interpret and act in ways that root out
the global origins of global terrorism. Lacking such an overarching
perspective our questions will not be deep enough, our vision too myopic,
and our actions piecemeal. Instead of defeating terror we may well find
ourselves perpetuating it.
It is essential that we ask ourselves uncomfortable questions such as what
are the costs and benefits of dropping bombs against one country harboring
one terrorist mastermind? Granted, we could potentially defeat Osama Bin
Laden, the Taliban and Al-Quaeda. AND THEN WHAT?
Would we seriously delude ourselves into thinking the world was better or
safer, or that we had just ‘won the war against terrorism?’ Would we be
prepared for the next mastermind, the next fundamentalist takeover, the next
terror network? And the next? War itself is inherently toxic. Bombs are
effective at killing, destroying, and forcing temporary setbacks. But they
can never root out anything. Especially not powerful ideas, hatred, or the
misery and suffering that is fertile soil for future terrorists.
I assume military analysts would be the most aware of the limits of warfare.
They would likely be the first to point out the need for stabilization and
rebuilding. It was, after all, a General who understood the pressing need
to rebuild Europe after WW II. Yes, I advocate here for a new and global
Marshall Plan, but I also wonder if we have really asked ourselves about the
long-term toxic impact of our current course of action on the delicate
fabric of the 21st century. Answer we must, or be held accountable by our
offspring and their children.
By viewing terrorism through a global big-picture lens we create the
opportunity for effective action, permanent solutions and a positive legacy.
Lacking that we can drop as many targeted bombs as we want against one
particularly onerous symptom. Ultimately it will prove futile if we
overlook the origins of the disease and the importance of health.
By far the most important piece missing in the anti-terror discussion is the
enormous mosaic of developing nation poverty. While poverty in Afghanistan
and to a lesser extent in Pakistan have at least been acknowledged, we
dangerously ignore the implications of magnitude. Today our 'target' is
Afghanistan. Who and where are next? The tentacles of terrorism are as
widespread as poverty and despair. Will we be viewed historically as the
nation that attempted to preserve democracy and freedom at home by bombing
country after country in the developing world? "We don't really need to
spend another dime on ‘intelligence’ to recognize the conditions that leave
whole countries in a state of despair and misery."
Some 1.2 billion people worldwide struggle to survive on $1 day or less
“ 150 million children are malnourished
“ 10 million children under 5 will die in 2001
“ 150 million people want to work but can’t find jobs
These numbers are far greater than Afghanistan, Pakistan, Asia and the
Middle East. Everywhere such misery exists, desperation, extremism and
terrorism take root and flourish. In a globally interdependent world in
which a fifth of our inhabitants are desperate, it is only a matter of time
until we all are. We’re still accustomed to closing our eyes to misery that
seems geographically or culturally distant from us. September 11th should
have gone a long way to show us the danger of such blinders.
Because Europe wasn’t so far from us and because General Marshall’s vision
prevailed, Europe did not sink into an abyss of despair and turmoil
following the Second World War. Our own country and the world have benefited
enormously from its recovery. In 1947, Gen. George C. Marshall said post-war
U.S. policy was directed "not against any country or doctrine but against
hunger, poverty, desperation, and chaos." A half-century on, the Marshall
Plan is still credited as the single most important component in
establishing peace and prosperity in war-ravaged Europe. It is also still
viewed as one of the most generous acts of enlightened self-interest ever
carried out by one nation in support of others. Today’s Americans are likely
no less generous in nature. But we are a lot less informed about the world
A global Marshall Plan would be led by the country that already did it once
and by the countries that were direct beneficiaries. Is it possible to use
the same foresight, political will and technical savvy to create a
wealthy-nation's Marshall Plan? One impediment is the magnitude of the
task. It seems overwhelming in scope and cost. But let’s number crunch for
Just a cursory glance at our initial response to the terror of September
11th shows how costs soared into the tens of billions of dollars. Then
there's the $40 billion Congress quickly offered President Bush for
anti-terror activities. Remember too, these unanticipated billions are
beyond our proposed defense budget of almost $343 billion. Current
projections put our military actions over the next 12 months at an
additional $100 billion. There is no attempt here to quantify the
additional billions yet to be spent on defenses against biological, chemical
or nuclear terrorism. Neither does this touch on similar costs to European
nations as they protect themselves from its global reach.
What would it actually cost for the United States and other industrialized
nations to launch a global Marshall Plan that would provide everyone on
earth with a decent standard of living? Nowhere near what you may think.
A 1998 report by the United Nations Development Programme estimated the
annual cost to achieve universal access to a number of basic social services
in all developing countries. Three years ago that would have been
$ 9 billion -- water and sanitation
$12 billion -- reproductive health for all women;
$13 billion -- basic health care and nutrition; and
$ 6 billion -- basic education for all.
To those who may still think it "costs too much," I would suggest that the
$40 billion price tag is less than negligible when pitted against the cost
of inaction. Ironically, it is also the amount of Congress's anti-terror
check to the president. But the price tag itself is inaccurate because even
if it is underestimated by an order of magnitude this is not pure outlay.
This money is being invested in people, in business, trade, infrastructure,
knowledge, technology, and a positive future. This is not the kind of money
that drops one time from a plane and disappears into a crater of
The comparative numbers are also inaccurate because the jury is still out as
to the potential costs of not making global education, social welfare, and
health care a top priority. Given the events of September 11th and all that
has followed, my imagination balks at being asked to project where the
policies of warfare and counter-warfare, terrorism and counter-terrorism
will take our troubled world.
By blinding ourselves to the enormous human suffering on our planet we
become a mad doctor treating the terrible manifestations of toxic disease by
offering toxic cures. The patient’s system is already filled with poison.
Even if one of the toxins kills off one of the poisons the patient will
There is another way in which the dollar comparison fails. Just as we can’t
imagine the damage of inaction I don’t believe we can accurately assess the
benefits of positive investment. A global Marshall Plan could eradicate
barriers in our thinking and behavior, create partnerships as yet
unimaginable, and set us on a new path of creative problem-solving. The one
component I am sure of is that where political will goes, miracles follow.
The Marshall Plan is only one case in point. Our world has seen many
examples, for good and bad.
President Bush is right when he repeats that this is a war unlike any other.
What he either fails to grasp or refuses to acknowledge is that this war is
different because all we can possibly win on the ground is battles. This war
can be waged but never won through warfare. It is a lose-lose proposition
for the good, the bad, and especially for the masses of innocent people
alive today and the masses of children yet to be born.
This is a war unlike any other in that it is cannot be fought in the air,
inside mountain caves or on the ground. This one can only be fought deep in
the soil in which the human soul germinates and is replenished.
So, what will it be America? Will we be warriors and use our guns and bombs
to till the soil of deprivation, inhumanity and hate? Or will we be
visionaries and stewards of the future by cultivating the soil that breeds
dignity, hope and respect for human life?
II What Do You Women Want?
Have you wondered if we could talk with the Afghani people what they would
say? I most wonder what the women would say, the faceless and voiceless
among a people surviving in stifling silence after years of internal
conflict, war, and fundamentalist dictatorship. Do we have even the least
idea of what they want? I wonder, if we could know would it affect our
attitudes and policies?
When the bombs first began falling on Afghanistan I believed at least 60% of
the population -- the women of Afghanistan -- would secretly rejoice if it
heralded an end to the era of Taliban atrocities. When I heard an Afghan
woman speak against the bombing, her words pricked the comfortable bubble of
my own callousness.
She was a representative of the Revolutionary Association of the Women of
Afghanistan (RAWA) speaking from Pakistan. RAWA describes itself as "a
political/social organization of Afghan women struggling for peace, freedom,
democracy and women's rights in fundamentalism-blighted Afghanistan." Not
only their name, but their words draw clear lines in the sand:
"The Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) was
established in 1977, long before the current Taliban regime seized power.
>From the beginning, RAWA opposed how Muslim extremists in Afghanistan
misinterpreted traditional practices and Islamic law to justify the
oppression of women. The Taliban are the champions of illiteracy and
highest incarnations of ignorant arrogance. RAWA believes that despite
manifold impediments and meager resources, one of its duties is to carry the
torch of literacy and knowledge among women in defiance of the Taliban and
Yet this RAWA representative opposed the bombing. No matter how many times
the seemingly surprised interviewer asked, her position remained firm. She
gave two reasons. The first was simple: “Because innocent people will die.”
After hearing the interview I researched further and found the same
sentiment in a press release of September 12th. This statement was issued
by a different organization called The Afghan Women's Mission. Both groups
want to see the perpetrators of the criminal acts of September 11th brought
to justice. Neither endorses our method of accomplishing that objective.
"Afghans have been suffering the results of extreme war, poverty, disease,
hunger, lack of education, health care and shelter for too long. Afghans
comprise the second largest refugee group in the world today. In addition,
there are millions of internally displaced Afghans who are living on the
edge of survival throughout the country. To attack Afghanistan now would be
to attack a weak and defenseless people who have no control over those that
rule them with violence and terror. While we insist that those responsible
should be identified and tried in a court of law, we urge the United States
government to not answer violence with violence."
My surprise at the RAWA representative’s second reason for opposing the
bombing bespoke of my own ignorance and RAWA’s long-term vision for
Afghanistan. Reason number two lies interwoven into the social and political
complexities that we Americans know little of; complexities that could
unravel Afghanistan into more years of instability and warfare.
RAWA is unsure what a future government will look like. As some of us in
the west are only slowly beginning to understand, politics in Afghanistan is
a quagmire of tribal divisions, changing loyalties, and deeply cherished
beliefs. Make no mistake however. Her invectives against the Taliban were
powerful indeed. She described them as misogynist criminals illegally
enforcing the world's most oppressive regime against women, and spoke of
atrocities against 7-year old girls and 70-year old grandmothers. Yet RAWA
is firm. Not only the Taliban, but any fundamentalist government is
dangerous to Afghan women and children.
As a recent news analyst noted: “Afghans have a history of uniting against
governments imposed from abroad - a legacy that turns any talk of a
post-Taliban Afghanistan into mere speculation.” Not only is the political
situation within the country divided among some 45 disparate factions. The
six countries bordering Afghanistan -- Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan,
Tajikistan, China and Pakistan are all attempting in various degrees to
influence Afghan politics to meet their own country’s needs. The U.S. is now
the lone western country in the midst of complexities of which we know so
Given our government's past history of forming alliances with the " enemy of
my enemy" it is unclear where our intervention will lead and where it will
end. A few results of such policies include support for the Shah of Iran,
Saddam Hussein, Osama Bin Laden, Pinochet, and other criminal dictators of
Latin America. We have not been wise in this arena. Neither have we been
patient. Nor have we had a larger view of the long-term overt results of
our covert activities. And to all appearances, we have still not learned
Obviously RAWA and the Afghan Women’s Mission do not represent all Afghanis
or even all of Afghanistan’s women. But they do speak with knowledge of
their country and the suffering of their people. And they are not a
self-serving political faction. So what do these women want? In my opinion
what the world should want. Justice. Not a swift sword of vengeance, but
justice rooted in the living soil of long-term solutions.
If we were to listen, understand, and act on their vision, what might we do
differently? How would we implement their plea for justice while supporting
a solution from within Afghanistan itself that would satisfactory RAWA’s
objectives of ‘peace, freedom, democracy and women's rights?’ I see only
one option -- use this opportunity to strengthen both the United Nations and
the international rule of law. Having worked at the UN for over a decade, I
am well aware of its flaws and am not suggesting that as it is today it has
the power to do the job. But if we put our political will behind it, it
The UN could become a forum to demand of world governments that accused
terrorists be brought before the world court in The Hague. This approach,
like that of RAWA itself, would require time, vision and patience. But
there are precedents. That method was globally endorsed and ultimately
forced Libya to hand over the Lockerbie bombing terrorists without an
invasion. The world is again slowly succeeding against Serb perpetrators of
genocidal ‘ethnic cleansing’ in Bosnia. It is requiring time and patience,
but we know that is a small price to pay for increasing stabilization in the
If we chose to do so, we could funnel some of our anti-terror resources into
the creation of a UN anti-terror agency with teeth. It could be modeled
along the lines of NATO, affiliated with national intelligence agencies,
military and Interpol. Is this even conceivably possible? Actually yes. The
UN can become as strong as we are willing to let it. It’s just that before
we would be willing to undertake a shift from an American-led coalition
approach to strengthening the rule of international law through a global
body we would have to answer for ourselves some hard questions about who we
are, what we have done, and what we want.
What does it mean to be a superpower? Will we be the sword of vengeance or
the stewards of the future? How strong are we? Are we strong enough to
come to terms with our own past and encourage other countries to do the
same? If each nation were to stand up to acknowledge its actions without
fear of reprisal the world could act with a new unity and combined force
against modern-day terrorism. South Africa used that method as one means of
beginning to heal the deep wounds caused by Apartheid.
If the U.N formed a South-African style Truth Commission on terror, which
nation would be left to cast the first stone? In the light of honest
recognition and with the moral weight of a global body it would be
appropriate for the U.S. and others to ostracize any nation unwilling to
take a stand. Within the forum of a global body either a country would
stand alone in support of terror or work within a powerful global body
As powerful as the combined weight of the global body committing to
eradicating the real roots of terrorism and working through the world body
are, there is another extremely powerful and no less urgent way to win
against terror while protecting our country and the earth itself. It
entails rooting out a source of evil more pervasive and potentially far more
devastating than any terror network we have yet seen.
We need only release our dependence on three tiny letters -- oil.
III What price oil?
"To go a bit further, it is not a great stretch to say that Tuesday's
(September 11th) events were about oil. Our presence in the Middle East, our
support of the Saudi regime, the Gulf War, our support of Israel, oil - they
are all connected, in our geo-political western view of reality. If we have
seen anything this past week, it is the urgency of sustainability - to get
beyond our dependence on petroleum, our umbilical cord to Earth in the
Middle East, and find a better basis for our relationship to the region."
If the Middle East and the Persian Gulf held no precious oil supplies, would
we have intervened following Iraq's incursion into Kuwait? Most analysts
think not. If oil were not in the region, would we have kept US troops on
Saudi soil over the past decade? Certainly not.
What has our dependence on oil cost us? The answer to the question depends
on what you include in the calculations. Going by prices at the gas
station, it would seem like oil must be a pretty inexpensive commodity. But
many of the costs of oil are not calculated into the price at the pump.
Include the price of keeping troops on foreign soil, ships at foreign ports
to protect oil supply lines, and the price will skyrocket.
Our dependency on foreign oil is estimated to cost $60 billion per year.
Add intangible but real costs such as damage to the earth, loss of a
virtually non-renewable resource, lives lost and hatreds created, and the
price becomes apparent in currency other than dollars.
It would make enormous sense to turn our backs on oil now. Today.
Obviously it would free us from having to protect oil interests in the
Middle East. By relying on renewable resources we would preserve the earth
and stop stealing from future generations the possibility of living as well
or better than we do now.
As an added bonus it would make our nation more secure by removing the
possibility that any terrorist could again topple another building with an
airplane, as hydrogen fires generate almost no heat. Retrofitting airplanes
to hydrogen has also been suggested as a means of avoiding layoffs at
Boeing, making flying safer, and a smart approach to updating our natural
gas line system.
It is unfortunate that the leaders of the current administration not only
appear as symbolic supporters of oil ueber alles, but in actuality are
leaders in the oil and drilling industries. President Bush proposed on
October 11th that we should drill in the Alaskan refuge to decrease our
reliance on foreign oil. In ten years, when we would have that oil, the
decrease would be somewhere between 3 and 5%.
A very real way of combating terrorism is for voters to insist their elected
officials push for the implementation of alternative energy as a matter of
urgency and national security. Congressional candidates in the November
election should be questioned on their position. It is extraordinarily
important to turn this country away from oil and petrochemical production to
renewable energy so we can truly win the 'war' on terror, defend our country
and safeguard our future.
Terry Laggner is the communications director at the Washington Council
on International Trade and previously worked as communications advisor to
the U.S. Ambassador to Austria (Swanee Hunt) and in press and communications
at the United Nations in for about 10 years.
“New Marshall Plan. Advancing Human Security and Controlling Terrorism” by
Dick Bell & Michael Renner, Worldwatch Institute www.worldwatch.org
National Public Radio broadcast of an interview with a RAWA representative
MSNBC analysis “After the Taliban, What Next?” by Preston Mendenhall in
Islamabad, October 15th
Ray Anderson, chairman Interface Inc. from remarks in Seattle, September
18, 2001 (full text at www.wcit.org )
Natural Capitalism, Paul Hawken, Amory & L. Hunter Lovins, pg. 23