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Issue No. 29 (November 2001) -- Mark Satin, Editor
If you are anything like me, dear reader, then you didn’t respond well to the attack on the World Trade Towers.
Or maybe you were one of those who felt that, along with the bodies and skyscrapers, something in you had been blown away. A sense of innocence that you’d managed to hang onto through the normal vicissitudes of life. Or a sense of civic safety. Or a sense of solidarity with all people everywhere.
I went through many of those emotions, before coming back to my normal, optimistic self; and this special Double Issue sums up my new political and personal understandings. I hope you find it useful.
One reason I got off to such a bad start is that, like many of you who’ve written or called, I found little post-September-11 wisdom on the right, on the left, or in what passes for the peace movement. . . .
On the political right, the young romantics of National Review and the Weekly Standard were riding high -- whooping it up over President Bush’s call to get Osama bin Laden “dead or alive,” providing intellectual cover for the Administration’s Quixotic insistence on declaring war against terrorism “everywhere,” as if a 10,000-year-old military practice could be eliminated by American fiat.
On the political left, even less adult guidance could be found. Predictably, Noam Chomsky took the lead in downplaying the events of September 11: “The terrorist attacks were major atrocities,” his first post-9/11 article began. “In scale they may not reach the level of many others, for example, Clinton’s bombing of the Sudan” (www.lbbs.org/chomnote.htm).
Equally predictably, Ralph Nader took the lead in opposing our assault on the Taliban. We need “sobriety in these moments of impetuousness,” he told thousands of cheering supporters at a San Francisco “super-rally.” We need to understand that the “mindless bombing of Afghanistan’s infrastructure will not end well” (www.thestruggle.org/nader.html).
Peace Action, our largest peace group by far, put out a statement asserting we have no “right of retaliation” under international law -- a clever distortion. We have every right to proceed militarily against physical attack (see, e.g., Mark Janis, An Introduction to International Law).
The group also urged that we pursue justice “in the courts,” conveniently neglecting to say how bin Laden and his hundreds of Al-Qaeda operatives and his Taliban abettors might have been apprehended and taken to “court,” or how we might have defended ourselves against them in the interim (www. peace-action.org/911pastatement.htm).
I attended the national peace march Sept. 29 in Washington. It was a glorious fall day; I wore my U.N. flag lapel pin. But it was Seattle-Philadelphia-Quebec City all over again (see RAM #12).
The marchers’ dominant feeling, as they explained it to me, was that we got what we deserved in lower Manhattan, that the chickens had finally come home to roost. Some representative signs: “War Is Not the Answer,” “Resist the Racist War!,” “Oil Fuels Global Oppression,” “No Racist Profits.”
And the New Age? The New Age, to which I devoted 20 years of my life? For the most part, it had nothing to say.
Dozens of articles in New Age magazines and webzines urged us to pray. Dozens more urged us to become more sensitive to one another (typically in simpering, oh-so-profound prose). Spiritually attuned novelist Alice Walker implored us to “punish” bin Laden with “love,” e.g. by reminding him of “all the good, nonviolent things he has done” (Village Voice, Oct. 3).
To say I felt politically isolated in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 is putting it mildly. I could remember feeling that way only once before -- as a teen-ager in the early Sixties -- and the parallel proved comforting.
In the early Sixties, just like today, the right was borderline scary, the left had calcified into a caricature of itself (to the delight of its acolytes), and religious and spiritual alternatives had degenerated into a kind of holier-than-thou tut-tutting.
As a result, in the midst of shattering events like the building of the Berlin Wall and the Cuban missile crisis, people with humanistic ideals tended to feel powerless and unspoken to. (Especially small town teen-agers.)
But if you made a special effort to look around in the early Sixties -- if you read some of the new writers, hung out with some of the less blinkered activists -- you’d have realized that, in the transcendent words of singer Sam Cooke (January 1964), “a change is gonna come.”
I suspect the same is true today.
Beneath the soul-destroying din of the true believers, dozens -- hundreds -- thousands of thoughtful, nuanced, intelligently hopeful voices were clamoring to be heard in the aftermath of 9/11.
They were scattered like glorious windblown leaves in newspapers and magazines, on C-SPAN and the Charlie Rose Show, on wondrous websites. You just needed to spend hours (and hours and hours) searching them out.
Superficially, the politics of these wise voices are all over the map, ranging from the conservative (Andrew Sullivan) to the radical (Richard Falk) to the hopelessly unclassifiable (John and Susan Collin Marks).
What links many of them together is something deeper than political partisanship -- a perspective I’ve begun to call “visionary realism.”
Visionary realism recognizes that -- improbable as it may seem -- the gruesome events of 9/11 provide an extraordinary opportunity for us.
In addition, visionary realism asks that we think clearly about who’s supposed to be at war with whom.
Finally, visionary realism insists on the need for a two-track strategy -- one track unapologetically aimed at destroying the networks that attacked us, the other track aimed at changing the conditions that make terrorism seem rational or attractive or admirable to many.
When I was feeling most alone, I called on John and Susan Collin Marks, president and executive V.P. of Search for Common Ground -- the largest nonprofit group promoting cooperative, “win-win” solutions to conflicts in the world today (12 projects, four continents). I suspected they’d have a positive, dynamic understanding of our new situation. And they did.
“Right now, everybody sees all the danger around us,” John told me. “I also see a lot of opportunity.
“There’s a real possibility that the American relationship with Iran can be transformed [now]. There’s a real possibility that people are going to take more seriously the problems of corruption and venality in [the world]. . . .”
Susan felt even more strongly that a change is gonna come.
“I believe that what has happened -- even with all the horror -- presents us with an opportunity,” she said.
“The fabric of the world as we have created it to date has been ripped apart. And I believe that that was necessary -- because I believe we, humans, haven’t been ‘doing’ the world very well.
“We tend to trundle along, doing the same things we always do, as long as we can get away with it. Well, the fabric has been ripped apart now. And the opportunity is to re-weave it in a way that works for everyone” (www.sfcg.org).
Who's at war with whom
Another hallmark of visionary realism is that it’s not content to define the current struggle -- as network television relentlessly does -- as one between “America” and “terrorism.”
For different reasons, the political left and right are both happy to run with this cracker-barrel definition of the situation. But visionary realism sees deeper forces at work.
The struggle is between open and closed societies, says novelist Salman Rushdie:
“The fundamentalist believes that we believe in nothing. In his world-view, he has his absolute certainties, while we are sunk in sybaritic indulgences.
“To prove him wrong, we must first know that he is wrong. We must agree on what matters: kissing in public places, bacon sandwiches, disagreement, cutting-edge fashion, literature, generosity, water, a more equitable distribution of the world’s resources, movies, music, freedom of thought, beauty, love . . .” (Washington Post, Oct. 2).
The struggle is between freedom and fascism, says Christopher Hitchens, author of the just-published Letters to a Young Contrarian:
“[T]he bombers of Manhattan represent fascism with an Islamic face, and there’s no point in any euphemism about it. What they abominate about ‘the West’ . . . is not what Western liberals don’t like and can’t defend about their own system, but what they do like about it and must defend: its emancipated women, its scientific inquiry, its separation of religion from the state” (The Nation, Oct. 8).
The struggle is between tolerance and intolerance, says gay conservative author Andrew Sullivan:
“[T]his coming conflict is . . . as momentous and grave as the last major conflicts, against Nazism and Communism. . . . What is at stake is yet another battle against a [religious movement] that is succumbing to the temptation Jesus refused in the desert -- to rule by force. . . .
“We are fighting not for our country as such or for our flag. We are fighting for the universal principles of our Constitution and the possibility of free religious faith it guarantees” (www.andrewsullivan.com).
The struggle is between cosmopolitanism and tribalism, says Aryeh Neier, former executive director of Human Rights Watch:
“[R]eligion may not be the most important fault line. . . . Sept. 11 can be seen as a new phase in a long struggle in which tribalists and fundamentalists have identified cosmopolitanism and modernity as their archenemies.
“The World Trade Center, attacked in 1993 and brought down on Sept. 11, was an obvious target. Located in the cosmopolitan capital of the world, it was the ultimate symbol of modernity” (Washington Post, Oct. 9).
Whatever the differences in nuance above, the moral drawn by all these visionary realist thinkers is the same:
A war against supporters of open society, freedom, tolerance, and cosmopolitanism was launched on 9/11, and it’s imperative that we win it.
“Winning,” though, to all visionary realists, involves more than subduing terrorists and soldiers. In some ways that’s not even half the battle.
Will Marshall, president of the Progressive Policy Institute, got to the heart of the matter when he said, “Destroying existing terrorist networks is absolutely essential but it’s only the first step. The more enduring challenge is to offer hope of a better life to people who otherwise might be susceptible to the terrorists’ ideology of hate.
“To paraphrase Britain’s Tony Blair [who campaigned on a slogan of “Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime” - ed.], we need a strategy that’s both tough on terrorism and tough on the causes of terrorism.
“Such a two-track approach in no way excuses the barbaric acts of Osama bin Laden and his followers. It recognizes, though, that Islamic fanaticism flourishes in a particular environment of repression, poverty, corruption, and cultural despair” (www.ndol.org).
A very different kind of thinker -- Thomas Homer-Dixon, director of the University of Toronto’s Centre for the Study of Peace and Conflict -- brilliantly used a medical analogy to make the same basic point to an audience of futurists.
“The analogy of a terrible illness, like cancer, is useful here,” he said. “We must excise the social pathology of terrorism -- which means we must identify, track down, and destroy the culprits -- just as we cut out a cancerous tumor.
“But when we’re dealing with a critical illness, the task usually doesn’t end there. We also want to change the underlying factors -- such as smoking -- that make cancer more likely to emerge in the first place” (www.wfs.org/mmdixon.htm).
The vast majority of politicians and pundits emphasize either the first track or the second. What visionary realists emphasize is that neither track can stand alone.
“The necessary decisiveness -- the hardness -- of the first [track] may be more than many of liberal persuasion can stomach,” says Charles Johnston of the Institute for Creative Development. “And the degree of acceptance, and even forgiveness -- the softness -- demanded by the [second track] may only look like weakness to those of more conservative bent.
“But both are needed, and . . . [t]he more mature leadership on which the future depends must successfully get its arms around such contradiction” (www.creativesystems.org).
Fortunately, dozens of realists -- visionary and otherwise -- have been speeding down both tracks. Synthesize their contributions and you get a coherent approach to not only defeating the terrorists, but to defeating the terrorist impulse -- and building a better world.
Interlude #1: Lure of terrorism
One of the biggest mistakes we can make is to assume the terrorist impulse is present only in “them” and not in us.
Whenever politically correct pundits discuss “Islamic” terrorists, they’re careful to also mention Timothy McVeigh or the Unabomber. But McVeigh and the Unabomber were as exotic, in their way, as Osama bin Laden. I’m talking about the terrorist impulse in ordinary souls.
At the Sept. 29 peace march in Washington, I couldn’t help noticing that several people were toting the book Empire, the “new communist manifesto” co-authored by a convicted Italian terrorist (Antonio Negri). From cover to cover, the book celebrates the possibility of communist revolution; the footloose masses are referred to glowingly and tantalizingly as the “posse.” The last page speaks of the “irrepressible lightness and joy of being a communist.”
The book is so popular these days, especially on college campuses, that the hardcover publisher couldn’t keep it in stock and eventually made it freely available online. But it’s not online anymore.
There are other indications that, prior to 9/11, the idea of terrorism (for a “good cause,” of course) was once again becoming radical-chic. On the morning of September 11, New Yorkers riding to work -- including of course to the World Trade Center -- were treated in their New York Timeses to a long, largely celebratory story about former Weatherman terrorist Bill Ayers, whose unapologetic memoir, Fugitive Days, had just been brought out by a major publisher.
The article began with this quote from Ayers: “I don’t regret setting bombs. I feel we didn’t do enough.” In classic radical-chic fashion, the article goes on to highlight the romantic and heroic aspects of Ayers’s life, while downplaying the damage Weatherman and its many imitators wrought.
I should talk. At about the same time Ayers was conceiving Weatherman, I was, um, having certain interactions with the person who blew up the homes of some combat-helicopter manufacturing executives in Toronto. Later I ran a hostel for draft dodgers in Vancouver that doubled as a refuge for young “revolutionaries” who wanted to get away from the U.S. for a while.
One of our visitors was a brilliant, gorgeous woman who’d done something nasty to a subway system. Another was Ayers himself. A long-time tenant in the dank, overcrowded basement was Ayers’s brother, Rick, a really nice guy who’d disappear every couple of weeks, then reappear, smiling. We didn’t ask, and he didn’t tell.
One of the ways I made money was by selling fake IDs to some of our guests. I’d get names and birthdates from the tombstones of dead babies in cemeteries, and work outward from there. One day at Rick’s request I thoroughly explained my method to him, and we laughed and laughed. Anything that could help bring down the evil Empire -- Amerika -- brought us great joy.
While reading the repellent September 11 New York Times article about Bill last month, I came upon this: “During his fugitive years, Mr. Ayers said, he lived in 15 states, taking names of dead babies in cemeteries who were born in the same year as he.”
Probably Rick shared my M.O. with Bill! I thought. Immediately my heart swelled with pride.
Then I did a double-take. Pride? For abetting terrorist fugitives? With 9/11 still a vivid memory?
Please, God, grant me and the idealistic wing of my generation no residual ambivalence on this one. Please purge us of our repressed wish to see comfortable, self-centered America blown sky-high, like the home at the end of Antonioni’s film Zabriskie Point.
TRACK ONE: TOUGH ON TERRORISM
It is war!
Visionary realists don’t accept the peace movement’s position that the assault on New York and Washington was merely a “crime.” Unabashedly, they see it an act of war, and consider the U.S. to be at war. But their reasoning is dramatically different from that of most Republicans and Democrats.
“We’ve [already] tried turning the other cheek,” says Jonathan Alter, co-editor of the investigative journalist’s bible, Inside the System. “After the 1993 World Trade Center bombing we held our fire and treated the attack as a law-enforcement matter. The terrorists struck again anyway.
“This time the Munich analogy is right: appeasement is doomed” (News- week, Oct. 15).
The war “qualifies in my understanding as the first truly just war since World War II,” says Princeton international law professor Richard Falk.
“The perpetrators of the Sept. 11 attack cannot be reliably neutralized by nonviolent or diplomatic means. [Thus] a response that includes military action is essential to diminish the threat of repetition. . . .
“The extremist political vision held by Osama bin Laden . . . places this threat well outside any framework of potential reconciliation or even negotiation for several reasons: Its genocidal intent is directed generically against Americans and Jews; its proclaimed goal is waging an unconditional civilizational war . . . ; it has demonstrated a capacity and willingness to inflict massive and traumatic damage on our country. . . .
“[It’s also important to note that] at this stage . . . [t]he U.N. lacks the capability, authority, and will to respond to the kind of threat to global security posed by this new form of terrorist world war” (The Nation, Oct. 29).
In fact . . . it's "netwar"!
Although many in the Administration and Congress want to fight this war in as conventionally high-tech a way as possible, visionary realists are arguing that that’s impossible. The new terrorism -- like the New Capitalism and the New Age -- has discovered the lightness and joy of networking.
“The metaphor of a spider web with a masterly evil plotter at its center is appealing as a description of Al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations, but it may also be incorrect,” says Edward Rothstein, author of Emblems of Mind (a book about music and mathematics).
“A web . . . has crucial vulnerabilities. Eliminate its creator, and the threads weaken. . . . But terrorist organizations are . . . networks. . . . Instead of being built around a controlling hub . . . , a network can be a sprawling, decentralized arrangement.
“[D]eclarations that Americans are engaged in a different sort of war than ever before may have to do with this structure and not just with terrorism itself. . . . How is [a decentralized] kind of [terrorist] network . . . to be undermined, particularly given its intermeshing links with other terror networks with their own design?” (New York Times, Oct. 20).
Rothstein’s question is echoed -- and partially answered! -- by Joel Garreau, author of a fine book about bioregional networks, Nine Nations of North America:
“Bombers worked well in wars in which one Industrial Age military threw steel at another. [But in the Information Age we’ve got to] ask, how do you attack, degrade, or destroy a small, shadowy, globally distributed, stateless network of intensely loyal partisans with few fixed assets or addresses? . . .
“[D]epending on the structure of the network, removing a few key nodes can sometimes do a lot of good. . . . Another tactic: advancing the cause of the weakest link [e.g., by arranging an accident to eliminate a competent member, thus allowing a less competent member to take over].
“There are other possibilities. . . .
“-- [Attack] the stories people tell each other [that] define their reason[s] for living and acting as they do. . . .
“-- “Paint the [network] with PR ugly paint. . . .
“-- [I]dentify parts of the network that can be pacified and play them against former allies. . . .
“-- Intensify the human counter-networks in one’s own civil society” (Washington Post, Sept. 17).
Transform the military
To cope with the new terrorism, the military needs to become proficient at netwar. In a speech to a recent New Democrat Network conference, Senator Lieberman struck just the right note when he said, “We’re going to have to change our military strategy, our hardware, and the very way we wage war. . . .
“We need new ways to detect the enemy and to command our forces in an age when warfare will be conducted at the speed of thought. We need new ways to strike quickly and surely at enemies that will have new ways to hide and strike at us” (www.newdem.org).
The CIA also needs changing. Investigative reporter Seymour Hersh’s dispatches from Vietnam helped fuel the public outrage that brought the CIA down a peg or three. But in today’s world, Hersh is playing a dramatically different -- and equally necessary -- role.
“Today’s CIA is not up to the job,” he recently reported. “Since the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, the CIA has become increasingly bureaucratic and unwilling to take risks. . . .
“It has steadily reduced its reliance on overseas human intelligence and cut the number of case officers abroad. . . . It’s possible that there isn’t a single [capable CIA] officer operating today inside Islamic-fundamentalist circles” (New Yorker, Oct. 6).
Time for the pendulum to swing back a bit.
Think clearly about Iraq
For visionary realists, one of the most bizarre aspects of the peace movement today is its relentless defense of Iraq.
I don’t know how many times I’ve been told by peace activists that we have “no business” imposing weapons inspections on Iraq; that certain U.N. weapons inspectors -- although kicked out of Iraq in 1998 -- are “convinced” nothing unusual is going on there now; that the “U.S.-sponsored” U.N. sanctions are directly responsible for the deaths of over a million Iraqi “women and children”; etc.
You never hear peace activists repeat stories like this one, from just before the inspectors were kicked out: “[A] U.N. inspector grabbed a briefcase from two Iraqi officials running out the back door of their laboratory building in Iraq. Inside the case she found reagents used for testing biological weapons such as anthrax and documents about Saddam Hussein’s secret biological weapons program.
“When other inspectors tried to follow up by visiting the headquarters of the agency referred to in the documents, Iraqi guards blocked them at gunpoint” (Fred Hiatt, Washington Post, Oct. 22).
Recently, Gregg Easterbrook, an investigative reporter who’s also written a book about spirituality (Beside Still Waters), looked at all the nuclear hot spots around the world. “The leading atomic threat is Iraq,” he concluded.
“Building atomic weapons essentially requires two things: engineering skill and a supply of plutonium or enriched uranium. [D]ocuments obtained from Iraq after the Gulf war included designs for at least two apparently workable atomic bombs[, and] if Saddam lacks fissile material, it is not for lack of trying . . .” (New Republic, Nov. 5).
One peace scholar -- David Cortright, co-author of The Sanctions Decade (and former anti-Vietnam war activist and executive director of SANE) -- recently pleaded with his peace movement colleagues to be “more credible” on the Iraq sanctions issue.
The number of deaths that can be attributed to the sanctions is far fewer than the peace movement cares to admit, Cortright claimed. Moreover, “Sanctions could have been suspended years ago if Baghdad had been more cooperative with U.N. weapons inspectors. . . .
“Also significant has been Iraq’s denial and disruption of the [U.N.-sponsored] oil-for-food humanitarian program.” It was Iraq’s rejection of this program from 1991-96, not U.S. mendacity, that kept humanitarian deliveries of food and medicine from Iraq until 1997 (The Nation, Dec. 3).
Act wisely on Iraq
Given the clear and present danger from Iraq, how are we to respond?
The most appealing visionary realist plan I’ve seen comes from David Owen, former British Labour Party foreign secretary (and co-founder of a true radical-middle political party, Britain’s Social Democrats, 1981-1990, R.I.P.). It has three parts:
1. Have the U.N. lift most restrictions on civilian imports while retaining the arms embargo. In other words -- don’t let Saddam continue to use the economic sanctions “as an excuse for poor health and social services.”
2. Have the U.N. identify “terrorist organizations that either train in Iraq or operate from there, and demand a fixed timetable for dismantling them.”
3. Have the U.N. demand the “re-installation of intrusive U.N. monitoring of all Iraqi sites that could be used for the manufacture of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons.”
Implicit in parts #2 and 3: We can’t take “no” for an answer. “If Iraq resorts to its usual foot-dragging,” says Owen, “the U.S. must establish a military base with an airfield in Northern Iraq . . . to pursue a counter-terrorist strategy” (Wall Street Journal, Nov. 15).
Secure the homeland
Visionary realists value their privacy. But they don’t take their physical security for granted, either -- especially now that it’s clear that thousands of people around the world are assiduously planning to kill Americans on American soil.
“The overarching thing is to protect our citizens,” says Marc Sarkady, once co-founder of an intentional community in New England and now a consultant to political leaders and Fortune 500 companies. “Don’t let anything like September 11 happen again!”
Communitarian author Amitai Etzioni strikes just the right key when he says, “[W]e should not automatically reject any and all new measures to enhance our safety. The Constitution has always been a living document that has been re-interpreted in line with the needs of the times.”
Etzioni himself is prepared to use “computers and cameras to scan crowds to locate people who have been reliably identified as threats to public safety. . . .
“The people being scanned are in public spaces. The cameras scan only what they display publicly. . . . Moreover, computers are not ill disposed toward any racial group” (Chronicle of Higher Education, Sept. 28).
Millimeter radiation imaging, a technology so advanced it can see under people’s clothing, is anathema to the ACLU -- but it appeals to visionary realists like Yale Law School professor Jed Rubenfeld.
“Radiation imaging technology is infinitely preferable to a body-cavity search conducted by human hands,” Rubenfeld explains. “[A] body-cavity search is far more degrading and dehumanizing.
“Indeed, if imaging technology were perfected, no human eyes would need to see anything in most cases. An agent would get involved only if the scanner set off an alert indicating suspicious hidden objects” (Washington Post, Oct. 26).
With imaging technology, not only could each of us be scanned speedily and thoroughly at appropriate checkpoints. Every piece of luggage could be inspected speedily and thoroughly at airports and other transportation terminals. Every item going through U.S. ports could be inspected (incredibly, only about 2% of boxed imports are inspected even today).
Some other security initiatives that many visionary realists favor:
-- Issuing national identity cards that connect to data banks of retinal scans, thumbprints, etc. (Marc Sarkady);
-- Doing better background checks on all those applying for temporary visas (Cecilia Munoz, National Council of La Raza; on CNN, Oct. 23);
-- Keeping better tabs on all those here with temporary visas, and swiftly deporting anyone that violates the terms of their visa (Munoz);
-- Putting the National Guard around each of our 103 nuclear power plants (Paul Leventhal, Nuclear Control Institute; on C-SPAN, Oct. 22).
Interlude #2: Lure of the tribe
On the evening of Sept. 24, I was happily watching a show on C-SPAN, popcorn by my side.
Then somebody called in from Toledo, Ohio and stated that some of her Muslim friends thought that "4,000 Jews . . . were supposed to be in the World Trade Center towers" on the morning of September 11 but that "they didn't show up for work."
My heart sank in a way it rarely ever had. I put aside the popcorn. I thought of several questions for the caller: How did her friends know the number of Jews that stayed away? Who told them to stay away? And how was the message so effectively delivered?
In the weeks since then, I’ve heard some things about the slander. It's supposed to be popular on the Arab “street.” It's been bandied about in the darker corners of various “peace” and reparations movements in Europe and the U.S. (in good postmodern fashion, as at least a “possibility”).
The entity that supposedly warned the Jews to stay away is usually said to be the Mossad (Israel’s secret service), though in other versions it’s the CIA. The number of Jews ranges from 4,000 to 6,000.
(At least 10% of the victims of the assault on the World Trade Center appear to have Jewish names, so I guess the Mossad didn’t do a good job.)
The immediate result of my hearing the slander on C-SPAN was to whet my interest in my Jewish heritage, something I’d rarely even thought about for the last, oh, 40 years.
Suddenly I was ploughing through Rabbi Telushkin’s popular tome Jewish Literacy, and actually managing to enjoy books like Jonathan Rosen’s The Talmud and the Internet. God knows, I might someday go to shul. There’s such a sense of security in thinking you “belong” to a Special People.
In the end, though, I do not want the security of an inherited tribe. My friends are a sufficient “tribe,” and popcorn a sufficient tribal rite. I was expelled from a Texas public university once for writing under a loyalty oath, “My HIGHEST loyalty is to ALL HUMANKIND!!!,” and I still believe that.
But now I know that, if things spiral out of control, it will not be up to me to choose my identity. The decision will be made for me by my fellow citizens, just as it was made for my relatives in Poland and the Ukraine 60 years ago.
TRACK TWO: TOUGH ON THE CAUSES OF TERRORISM
Many visionary realists believe that, before we can address ourselves to the developing world in a credible way, we need to engage in a public, sincere, and inevitably painful re-examination of our behavior toward that world.
“If the world could see that we were trying to understand our impact on the world, then the world [would respond positively],” Marc Sarkady, cited above, told Radical Middle.
“It would have to be an ongoing national dialogue -- one where we re-examined our foreign policies, our role in Allende’s overthrow, all of that. . . . It would have to involve a level of candor and self-effacement that’s not traditionally ‘American.’”
Recently, the renowned Harvard political scientist Stanley Hoffmann (World Disorder, etc.), by no means a radical, came out for a self-exam.
“America’s self-image today is derived more from what Reinhold Niebuhr would have called pride than from reality,” he said. “If we want to [be more credible in the world], we need to readjust our self-image.
“This means reinvigorating our curiosity about the outside world. . . . And it means listening carefully to views we may find outrageous, both for the kernel of truth that may be present in them and [to glean] the stark realities -- of fear, poverty, hunger, and social hopelessness -- that may account for the excesses of such views.”
Hoffmann’s list of the grievances we’d hear is similar to Sarkady’s: “[S]upporting and sometimes installing singularly authoritarian and repressive regimes . . . America’s frequent unilateralism [and] sorry record in international development . . . American support of Israel.”
Hoffmann disagrees with Sarkady on one point, though: “[S]elf-examination and self-criticism have been the not-so-secret weapons of America’s historical success” (American Prospect, Nov. 19).
Articulate a vision
Some visionary realists are convinced that, to effectively reach others, we need to articulate a positive vision of what we stand for.
“[W]e must provide an inspiring vision for the majority of people in the middle [in the Arab world] who love much about the U.S., but also mistrust it and dislike its policies,” says Shibley Telhami, the Anwar Sadat Professor for Peace and Development at the University of Maryland (San Jose Mercury, Oct. 14).
Already several visions have been offered.
For example, Benjamin Barber, author of Jihad vs. McWorld, has begun talking about a “declaration of interdependence” that would acknowledge that “no one nation can experience prosperity and plenty unless others do too” (“Global Thinker,” Washington Post, Nov. 6).
Mary Kaldor, co-author of Global Civil Society, wants us to stand for a “politics based on tolerance and inclusiveness” (The Nation, Nov. 5). Christopher Hitch- ens, cited above, wants us to stand foursquare for “secular pluralist democracy” (C-SPAN, Nov. 11).
Help Muslim moderates
Every visionary realist wants the U.S. to help Muslim moderates. The question is how.
Two basic paths -- by no means mutually exclusive -- have been suggested.
Some visionary realists would have us demonstrate to the Muslim world that we care. Telhami, for example, wants us to “restart a credible Arab-Israeli peace process.” George Lakoff, author of Moral Politics, wants us to “show our good will by beginning in a serious way to address the social and political conditions that lead to despair” (www.press.uchicago. edu, then click on “The Days After”).
Other visionary realists have more direct help in mind. Fareed Zakaria, for example, editor of Newsweek International, wants us to “fund moderate Muslim groups and scholars and broadcast [their] fresh thinking across the Arab world” (Newsweek, Oct. 15).
Many visionary realists contend that dialogues and exchanges can help the U.S. appear less threatening to Muslims.
In 1998, John and Susan Collin Marks’s organization, Search for Common Ground (see above), sponsored the visit of a U.S. national wrestling team to Iran. “The wrestlers demonstrated an alternative model for how the two countries could interact,” John says.
“They competed fiercely, but did so within mutually accepted rules. They recognized they had differences, but they allowed their mutual commitment to athletic excellence to triumph. . . .
“We followed up the wrestling initiative by launching a series of people-to-people exchanges between Iran and the U.S. [For example,] we brought nine Iranian non-governmental environmental experts to the U.S.,” where they interacted with their professional peers -- leading to numerous “meetings and follow-up activities between Iranian and U.S. environmental groups.”
Marc Ginsberg, former deputy senior advisor to President Carter for Middle East Policy, hopes to create a U.S.-Muslim Policy Engagement Commission composed of “public and private-sector Middle East and Islamic experts, including Arab Americans and victims of terror.
“Members would travel to the Middle East and begin a dialogue on behalf of the U.S. with hostile elements who wield remarkable influence over public opinion in their homelands -- Islamic clerics, seminarians, journalists, and university students” (Washington Post, Oct. 23).
Promote political reform
All visionary realists want the U.S. to pressure Muslim countries to become more democratic and more observant of human rights. “[W]e have to press the nations of the Arab world . . . to reform, open up and gain [popular] legitimacy,” says Fareed Zakaria, cited above.
“We need to do business with these regimes -- yet, just as we did with South Korea and Taiwan during the cold war, we can ally with these dictatorships and still push them toward reform. . . .
“I have myself been skeptical of nation-building[, but in the Arab world we] have no option but to get . . . into the nation-building business” (Newsweek, Oct. 15).
Stop talking, start giving
For visionary realists, few things could do more to reduce terrorism’s appeal than for the U.S. to stop talking about compassion, “caring,” etc., and start practicing it in a way that’s commensurate with our wealth and expertise.
The most vigorous aid proposal I’ve seen comes from two staffers at the Worldwatch Institute, Dick Bell and Michael Renner. Its title: “A New Marshall Plan?: Advancing Human Security and Controlling Terrorism.”
“[L]et’s assume that the U.S. will spend an additional $100 billion on military actions in the next 12 months,” they write. “What could we buy if we matched this $100 billion military expenditure dollar-for-dollar with spending on programs to alleviate human suffering? . . .
“Nine billion dollars would provide water and sanitation for all [people in all developing countries for one year]; $12 billion would cover reproductive health for all women; $13 billion would give every person basic health and nutrition; and $6 billion would provide basic education for all. . . .
“[W]e must all understand that, in the end, weapons alone cannot buy us a lasting peace” (www.worldwatch.org).
Welcome Muslim exports
Many peace activists and anti-globalists hope to diminish foreign trade, in order to diminish “capitalism’s global reach.” However, most visionary realists share this newsletter’s view that in the long run, trade can be more beneficial to Muslim nations -- and all developing nations -- than even the most generous aid programs (see RAM #6).
Without delay, “Western nations should open their markets to [Muslim and] Third World exports,” says Daniel Griswold of the Cato Institute.
“The U.S. imposes its highest trade barriers on exports that are most important to poor countries, such as . . . clothing and textiles. We could deliver far more ‘aid’ to poor farmers and workers by allowing them to sell what they produce duty-free in our market” (Washington Post, Nov. 29).
Promote social reform
All visionary realists would encourage, bribe, threaten -- whatever it takes -- Muslim nations to begin the task of social reform. If visionary realists’ priorities differ, it’s only because their life experiences differ.
Jennifer Whitaker’s priority is women. “Hopes of enduring peace, stability, and development . . . depend on putting women’s rights on the table -- and giving women a place at the table -- starting now,” says Whitaker, director of the Project on Women’s Human Rights and U.S. Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations.
“This is not some utopian ideal. Women’s participation is essential for the creation of stable political and social structures. . . . Without [it] our moral case against terrorism will ring hollow” (Washington Post, Nov. 15).
Thomas Friedman’s priority is education. Readers of his twice-weekly foreign affairs column won’t soon forget his harrowing description of a typical school in Pakistan: “[Y]oung boys . . . sat on the floor, practicing their rote learning of the Koran. . . . Most will never be exposed to critical thinking or modern subjects. . . .
“[T]heir almost entirely religious curriculum was designed by [a Mogul emperor] who died in 1707. There was one shelf of science books in the library -- largely from the 1920s.”
Friedman’s point: “The real war for peace in this region . . . is in the schools. . . . When we return [after the shooting war], and we must, we have to be armed with modern books and schools -- not tanks” (New York Times, Nov. 13).
Impose a solution in Palestine
Being realistic, visionary realists know that the terrorist swamp can’t be totally drained until the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is brought to an end.
So they’re inclined to be particularly forceful here. While insisting on Israel’s right to exist, they’re becoming increasingly willing to call for a complete Israeli withdrawal from the “occupied territories” (the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem) -- that is, territories Israel occupied during the 1967 war and never relinquished.
Those territories could then become the heart of a Palestinian state. Meanwhile, the Palestinians’ so-called “right of return” (to pre-1967 Israel) could be compromised or abandoned in exchange for Israeli abandonment of all Jewish settlements in the occupied territories, with all buildings, streets, power lines, etc., to be left intact.
Fareed Zakaria, as “Establishment” a visionary realist as you’ll ever find, puts it gently but firmly when he says, “Israel cannot remain a democracy and continue to occupy and militarily rule three million people against their wishes. It’s bad for Israel, bad for the Palestinians, and bad for the United States” (Newsweek, Oct. 15).
Since Palestinians and Israelis have proved unable to negotiate a peace settlement, visionary realists are increasingly drawn to the idea of imposing something like the settlement above on both parties -- some clever hybrid of U.N. Resolutions 181, 242, and 338, and the final Clinton peace plan.
Human rights champion Anthony Lewis reports that a former Israeli foreign minister and a current Hamas political leader have both publicly urged that the world impose -- and enforce -- a solution on both parties.
“Palestinians will not be satisfied -- it’s OK,” the Hamas leader stated. “Israelis will not be satisfied -- it’s OK. [Just say] this is the situation, live with it” (New York Times, Oct. 30).
Enforcement will cost the world billions of dollars and require a long-term, multinational peacekeeping force. But after September 11, it’s unnervingly clear that other scenarios could prove far more costly.
Become less dependent on oil
Many radicals and peace activists lament the presence of U.S. oil companies in the Middle East. Visionary realists are more inclined to believe that -- at least at present -- the big global oil companies are a force for peace and stability in the region.
After all, as Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid puts it in his illuminating book Taliban, nobody wants to build pipelines in the midst of civil war (Yale Univ. Press, 2000).
However, there is a good foreign policy reason for the U.S. to become more self-sufficient in energy. It’s that we shouldn’t have to worry about whether various dictatorial and corrupt Middle Eastern states will sell us oil.
“We [should] decide our policy toward Saudi Arabia, for example, based on a more measured conception of America’s national interests, rather than the imperatives of cheap oil,” says economist Robert Kuttner, author of Everything for Sale.
Kuttner wants us to rapidly move toward energy self-sufficiency. The best source of “cheap, plentiful energy is to use less, not to drill for more,” he says, citing the work of the Rocky Mountain Institute (www.rmi.org).
“[B]uilding better technology to conserve heat and light as well as more efficient transportation could easily cut energy consumption in half without reducing living standards,” Kuttner concludes (American Prospect, Oct. 15).
If we became more self-sufficient in energy, we’d be freer to press for all the initiatives, reforms, and solutions called for in Part Two of this article.
When I started this article, John and Susan Collin Marks assured me that our brutal new situation presents us with opportunities (see p. 2 above). Now that I’ve finished, I’m able to agree with them, for the following reasons:
First, the terrorist war is giving us an opportunity to learn that, just as a humane doctor must make use of both invasive and alternative therapies, so a humane superpower must make use of both military force and transcendent social compassion. Being tough on terrorism AND tough on the causes of terrorism is our only hope for survival -- and I don’t just mean American survival.
Second, the terrorist war is giving us an opportunity to understand that cultural and political globalization is no longer an option. It’s HERE. Virtually every person on Earth has seen the same grisly images of the war you’ve seen; virtually every person is struggling -- in their different ways -- with all the issues I’ve tried to raise above. Literally or figuratively, we’re all walking around with U.N. flag lapel pins now.
Finally, the terrorist war is giving us an opportunity to learn that doing good in the world is in our self-interest. Maverick social thinkers like Hazel Henderson and Ken Wilber have always taught this, but the message is being shouted now from every media treetop. Here’s Anthony Lewis in the New York Times (Oct. 20):
“Attacking the indecency of life in in much of the Southern Hemisphere is no longer a matter of grace, of charity, of patronizing kindness. It is a matter of intense self-interest.”
And here’s Michael Ignatieff in the British Guardian (Oct. 19):
“Our values tell us to reach out and share the extraordinary bounty of a globalised world with those who have less than we do. Our interests now also tell us that if we don’t, we will face an unending struggle in which victory will be forever beyond our grasp.”
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