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[Opinion] US, Does It Have What It Takes to Put An End to Terrorism

[Opinion] US, Does It Have What It Takes to Put An End to Terrorism

Posted October. 04, 2001 08:21,   


A few weeks before the September 11 terrorist attack, a Canadian TV station aired a program that showed how awful Americans are to their northern neighbors. For instance, Harvard and UC Berkeley students and other Americans interviewed on the streets expressed their strong opposition to whaling in Sasketchewan but this area is actually inland.

Having emerged in peace and isolation, present American society now faces a new international terrorist threat. The US will meet the challenge with the help of old and new allies, but significant sacrifices will follow. The US will succeed only if it is willing to compromise some of the democratic principles which the people hold so dear.

The terrorist attack has changed the face of America forever. The attack on the symbols of US military might and economic power has shaken the American sense of invincibility to the core.

US leaders have put aside their rage and grief and are now calculating objectively how to destroy their enemies. Americans are setting their sights on preventing further terrorist attacks rather than uprooting additional terrorists. They are learning, as Koreans have done for the past fifty years, to overcome their weakness. For myself, I will continue to travel on airplanes, but this is the first time in my life that I have considered buying gas masks for my family.

As they learn about the unfamiliar history and region of Afghanistan, Americans are discovering how violent Americans have been to the rest of the world and how this has placed them in a dangerous situation. The first bombing of the World Trade Center occurred in 1993, yet it took Americans eight years to realize that this was a declaration of war.

Comparisons are being drawn between the recent attack and Pearl Harbor. Will the current American generation receive the same kind of recognition and honor as what one American journalist called `The Greatest Generation` of WWII?

This time, the US is declaring a war against an abstract terrorism, not a nation. It is only a mater of time now before Osama Bin Laden is assassinated and the Taliban regime comes to ruin. Yet, this can only be the beginning of an endless fight, just like the war on drugs. The most that we can hope for is to suppress terrorists.

Such a new and unprecedented threat forced the Bush administration to change the normal course of its foreign policy. Like the war on drugs, the US cannot wage this war alone. Its success depends on the cooperation of other nations.

During WWII, all Americans were compelled to make sacrifices in food and clothing. Ironically, the current administration is encouraging the citizens to consume more in order to ward off negative economic impact. It seems that there will be sacrifices in civil government and every day life this time rather than in material goods. The government will likely strengthen its power of investigation and interrogation.

The White House has repeatedly urged the people not to equate Islam or Arabs with terrorism. The majority of Americans know that America is not caught in a religious conflict but a fight against extremism. The discovery that an American had executed the Oklahoma bombing shows that Muslims are not the sole perpetrators of terrorist acts.

Like Koreans, Americans are tired of political partisanship and welcomed the newfound unity. There can be no partisanship in a crisis. However, labeling criticisms against the government as `un-American` will weaken political dialogue.

The US confronts a new challenge, hitherto unknown. Unfortunately, the victory is not certain in this war. Even in the case that the US has to retreat, it will be important to maintain the support of its citizens and ally nations and to uphold the value of America. I believe that America has the ability to do so.

Peter Paik (Head of the Korea Economic Research Institute, Washington D.C.)