Oct. 5-11, 2001
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(From left) Professors John Norton Moore , R.K. Ramazani and Philip D. Zelikow, Ambassadors W. Nathaniel Howell and David D. Newsom and Col. Rick Rosen watch the posting of the colors during the opening ceremonies of a forum on America’s response to terrorism.

By Matt Kelly

A panel of former diplomats, lawyers and academics, convened Sept. 26 in the Law School’s Caplin Auditorium, were optimistic about America’s response to terrorism.

The forum featured five U.Va. faculty members with particular expertise in very relevant areas: government and foreign affairs professor David M. Newsom, a former U.S. ambassador and deputy secretary of state; government and foreign affairs professor W. Nathaniel Howell, former U.S. ambassador to Kuwait; history professor Philip D. Zelikow, director of the Miller Center of Public Affairs; R.K. Ramazani, Edward R. Stettinius Jr. Professor Emeritus of Government and Foreign Affairs; and law professor John Norton Moore, director of the Center for National Security Law.

Newsom admitted Western rhetoric had raised expectations and then dashed hopes. Many Muslims, he said, live under unpopular, authoritarian governments, some of which the U.S. support, and it is often easier to criticize the U.S. than their own rulers. Newsom said Western popular culture is seducing the young of Islam.

The U.S. needs to change the resentment, he said, and understand that the complex ethnic, cultural, religious and regional differences must be addressed through long-term, patient effort.

Howell, the former U.S. ambassador to Kuwait, noted the media has been saturated with war talk, which can play an important educational role, but can also skew perspective because terrorism is not the only threat, he said.

“No one can remain on ‘high’ for a long time,” he said. “We will know we have matured when this can take its place with the other news stories.”

He said while military action is a “necessary arrow in our quiver,” diplomacy can accomplish a lot and the issue could return to a law-enforcement matter. Small military forces would be needed, he said.

Howell warned that terrorism is different now than in the 1970s and 1980s, when he helped negotiate with airline hijackers in Algeria. He said they had specific, limited demands and one eye on their escape route.

“There were issues that could be discussed,” Howell said. “Osama bin Laden wants us to disappear. There is nothing there to discuss. We are in this conflict because they want it.”

The terrorists cannot destroy the U.S., he said; their aim is to destroy people’s will to continue with their lives.

Zelikow focused on the point when a criminal act becomes an act of war. He laid out several criteria for an act of war: foreign enemies had to attack the nation; they had to be part of large organized groups or states; and their defeat is only possible with the assistance of the military.

Bin Laden, Zelikow said, met those standards with the distribution of video calling on religious Muslims to kill Americans, and with his being placed on the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s “10 most-wanted list” after the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Africa. Zelikow said bin Laden has thousands of armed men harbored in scores of countries — more than the FBI alone can handle.

He said Americans need to understand other people and their problems, but cautioned that not all problems are in Americans’ nature or means to solve.
Ramazani said he has been trying to explain the complex subtleties of the political, economic and psychological conditions that terrorists use to exploit and train their foot soldiers, who kill people in the name of Islam from bases in 60 countries.

He advocates a holistic approach, bringing every available instrument — including the military — against the nation’s enemies, but also warned that the country should learn from the past.

The United Nations must become involved, since the recent attack is a threat to world peace and security, Ramazani said. He suggested the U.N. — led by the U.S. — adopt a declaration of the sanctity of life.

Moore assured the audience that a military response to the Sept. 11 attack is legal under the U.N. charter. He said there were three myths circulating on the Internet that any retaliation would be illegal under the U.N. charter, or that it would require the permission of the Security Council, or an attack on Osama bin Laden would violate an executive order prohibiting assassinations.

Moore said the U.N. charter would permit a military response because there is an inherent right of self-defense against a series of ongoing attacks. The U.S. is likely to seek U.N. Security Council support for any action, although it is not necessary, he said. Nor would killing bin Laden constitute an assassination, since he ordered the attack on an American installation and thus would be considered a combatant.

Moore also called “nonsense on stilts” the contention that the U.S. brought the attack on itself with its own actions. The U.S has sent more than $100 million in food aid to Afghanistan, he said, while several administrations have sought to broker a peace deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and have fought three wars in the past 10 years in defense of Muslims.

Bin Laden and his allies want to bring the world to the Taliban’s utopia, which he compared to Pol Pot’s Cambodia. He said the U.S, in comparison, is the most powerful democracy in the world, believing in the rule of law and unprecedented freedom.

Moore agreed that the world was different after the attack, but he said it is also different for the terrorists. He said democratic people around the world are coming together to fight terrorism, something that has been missing in the past.

During the question period, the panel was asked if the war on terrorism would turn into an ongoing failure, such as the wars on poverty or drugs. Zelikow said the war would be a success if terrorism were reduced back to the level of a crime. Moore said it was as winnable as any other war and it should destroy terrorism’s global reach, although he predicted that there will always be violence in the world.

Another questioner suggested that several of the countries the U.S. must rely upon are not stable or democratic. Zelikow agreed that the U.S. would be choosing allies among a number of authoritarian regimes, but said U.S. pluralism respects their rights of self-determination. “No countries adjacent to Afghanistan share our particular values,” he said.

Howell noted that fundamentalists are at war with moderates within Muslim countries. He also noted that the U.S. is pursuing several coalitions simultaneously, sharing intelligence from one country while having a political alliance with another.

Another man asked about rooting out poverty after vanquishing terrorism and how he was surprised the discussion did not include the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

Ramazani warned that the gap between rich and poor is growing in countries where people do not have freedom of expression or assembly, but said the U.S. calls these regimes its friends. He said the majority of the people in Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia have no love for the ruling class. He said poverty is only one source of the resentment, where there is envy for the powerful. He said these grievances should not be brushed aside.

Moore said studies have not been able to link poverty and war and said the best route to prosperity is through the rule of law and human freedom.


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