By Jesús A. Rivas
The events of September 11, 2001 reset the world’s priorities and created a sense that we no longer have the luxury of living in this country without the fear of attack. This fear has created what some people call the "New Normal." In these lines, I will reflect on my fears since November 2001 and concerns that have been proven right. I draw from some of my personal experiences in an effort to present my understanding of what is the direction we need to take to return to the pre 9/11 feelings of national security.
Back when I was a kid in my native
When I grew up and
became a biologist, I learned that it was not an isolated case. Dr. Judy Stamp
I feel that our situation with
Muslim fundamentalism has commonality with the experience of the lizards. The
smaller lizard has nothing to lose by challenging the dominant lizard since
without a territory he is not going to breed or even survive. However, the dominant lizard has everything
to lose by spending his energy and resources continuously fighting the smaller
lizard. Just like the big lizard, I believe that the
The war on terror defies simple
solutions for we have emotionals, as well as tactical, and economic issues
intermixed. I would like to share
another personal anecdote that will illustrate a point that might orient us in
the right direction. A while back I was
vacationing in a remote beach in
If we consider the former examples and reasoning there is not doubt that there is only one thing that we can do regarding the war on terror: Immediate surrender, for we cannot win it and we would come out ahead if we surrender now.
I imagine that you might be thinking of the idea of “Surrender”. Why surrender? We have the strongest army in the world, what do you mean surrender?” Well, the question is not what I mean with surrender, the question is what does surrender mean? Does surrender mean that Osama Bin Laden will sit in the White House, and we will have to learn the Koran, and let our beards grow, and women would have to cover their bodies and faces and wear the burka, and we have to embrace the Taliban? Clearly not, for that is not what the enemy is asking for us to do. Surrender means that we have to consider their requests and negotiate with them.
Now you may say:
“Request? They have no requests they just want to kill us, which is why we need
to kill them first.” This would be an
understandable misconception due to the large amount of propaganda to which we
have been subjected to, but if we look at the facts we see that they do have
some requests that we have been ignoring for decades. They want us to remove our troops from the
their identified sacred grounds and to have a more fairer policy regarding the
I want to make sure
I am not misunderstood. I was very
scared during September eleventh and I am very sorry and sympathetic for the
people and the families of the people that died in the
After 9/11 many people were filled up with anger and desired revenge. Those feelings have led to the War on Terror that the majority of the world supported. However, we were dragged into this war without any standards of what constitutes failure or success. How are we to define what it is to win or lose this war? How do we quantify the outcomes? Even now, after 6 years we have not been presented with what it is that we want to do in practical terms. If we base our expectations on the notions of "traditional warfare", we can assume that winning battles implies that we win the war. I do not believe that is the case for the War on Terror.
Probably a good answer would be that we will win the war on terror when we recover our former life style, when we do not have to worry about a airliner dropping on our heads, or a biological attack, or when we can see our economy bounce back without seeing the defense budget sucking dry the funds that the rest of the country needs to function. After a six years of war on terror, what progress have we made? Are we less worried about terrorism now? Is our economy any better? So far the answer is no. Is any of these trends on its way to improve? The answer is, again, not encouraging. We are just as afraid and worried about terrorism as we were after 9/11 or even more. Our economy keeps sinking deeper and deeper without any indication that it is going to get better in the foreseeable future.
Not only we are doing just as bad than after 9/11 but our international policy has turn the public opinion against us, and the more we attack Muslims countries we convey the idea that we are against Islam. The more this idea catches on, the more young Muslim fundamentalists are likely to turn extremist and be recruited by terrorist networks. All the while our military budget keeps sucking out more and more money and, worst of all, we no longer have the civil liberties and freedoms that have made this country great. After all the “progress” of the war on terror, we sure have won the battles, but who is winning the war?
Let’s imagine an
extreme case of success following the path that we have taken. Let’s imagine that we managed to dismantle Al
Qaeda and all the other terrorist networks. Let’s consider for a moment that we
have plowed over every country that stood up to us and that we did catch every
single living terrorist. Will this mean
that we won the war? Will this mean that
we will have peace of mind about our safety at home the way we had it before
9/11? Is our economy now flourishing
better? The answer to these questions is
again, no. We can kill some of the bad
people but while do that we destroy innocent countries (more than one million
innocent Iraqis but many accounts) we seed well deserved hatred against the
Of course there
will be a price to pay for every American if we surrender in this war. We will not have to embrace the Taliban and
we will not lose our freedoms but we will have to give up the extra-cheap oil
we enjoy in this country. This might come as a surprise for many readers since
in this country we seem to be unaware of a fact that is clear for the rest of
the world: this war is exclusively
about the oil. Even Alan Greenspan, who
is not liberal, said so. If we gave up
our control over Arab grounds we would have to pay the same kind of prices that
Most people in this country are not willing to embrace oil-efficient policies or environmentally friendly life styles too readily since this normally means a number of small sacrifices; but these sacrifices are small potatoes if you consider that they are contributing to the national security. The choice we are given by our leaders is attacking other countries or to forfeit survival. To this question most people would, understandably, answer: “what ever it takes for our survival”. But the real question is: the genocide of millions of people in other countries (and make no mistake, losses of many American lives) or pay more money at the gas stations. There might be some Americans that still would choose to go to war when this choice is presented but most Americans would say no to war and would embrace a peaceful solution; although it might involve some smaller sacrifices in our behalf. On the long run we would develop green technologies and life styles that do not require as much oil consumption, which will benefit every body and direct us toward a long lasting peace and health for the planet.
The required first
step we can do in order to win the war on terror is to remove our troops from
It is possible that
there might be some extremist that still might want to attack the
To give the people something to lose is a most important maneuver in any negotiation. The presence of a middle class that has something to lose was what made capitalism possible. A good status of living within a large mass of people prevented them from joining social revolutions or radical causes that could overthrow the systems. It is that middle class that had too much to lose what provided the grass root support that opposes any radical change in the status quo; including right or left winged extremist, white supremacist or any other extremist organization. In fact, the most stable countries in the world, such as the developed nations, are those that have a very large middle class with too much to lose if there are drastic changes.
Giving the Muslims
extremist something to lose would be a most convenient tactic for us. The more we bomb and invade Islamic
countries, the more we send the message to all the Muslims that they have no
hope of living the way they want and that the best they can do is to join the
war against the US. This reasoning
explains the timely message of Bin
Laden prior to the invasion of
I realize that
emotions can be very powerful and they have the potential to override common
sense; especially when it comes to fear.
It is very difficult to get past the issue that we need to bow to a
smaller enemy that has attacked us unfairly.
Being the largest country and the most powerful in the world it is hard
to conceive that we would have to comply and to come to terms (other than our
owns) with smaller countries as there is a matter of pride. However, the wisest thing to do is not
necessarily what pride and emotions demand.
As a mature nation we need to avoid the down fall of the empires of old
times that fell trying to subdue all their enemies under their boot instead of
brokering peaceful deals with them. It
is perhaps a time for
It was hard for me to surrender my sandals and watch to somebody who took them away unfairly, but I am quite happy I did not risk it and walked out unscathed. I am sure that the bully that used to abuse me ended up ahead to broker a piece treaty with me and not having to look over his shoulder all the time fearing when I was coming back to retaliate for his abuses. The difference between mature and non-mature decisions many times resides in how far ahead we are thinking when we take them and this is a moment to think carefully and to look ahead.
The wisdom with which we handle this situation and what degree of maturity we show in this crisis will decide our future. If we go on the imperial route and try to conquer every country there is as the former empires did, history tells us what the result will be. If, on the other hand, we take a mature path of cooperation and wisdom, we will prove to be the great nation that we have been claiming to be, and will unify the world under a flag of peace and cooperation.