The spectacular assault on the US has underlined the irrelevance of most American foreign policy priorities-especially NMD. It also draws attention to the need to understand Muslim extremism and to cultivate allies in the Muslim world to help combat it, which will require a new Israel policyby Anatol Lieven / October 20, 2001 / Leave a comment
Published in October 2001 issue of Prospect Magazine
The us has been the target of a very serious act of war, conducted by a formidably cruel, brave, fanatical and well-organised enemy with a terrifying capacity for both savagery and self-sacrifice. At the time of writing, a few hours after the attacks, the casualty figures are not known, but it is clear that this has been by far the worst terrorist attack in history and the worst attack of any kind ever directed against the American mainland.
On the assumption that the perpetrators are identified and traced to some physical space a ferocious military response will be necessary. Not to do this would be to betray the victims and display weakness. However, successful war requires both a capacity for ruthlessness and an intelligent political strategy, including the attraction and conciliation of essential allies. So what we also desperately need is a fundamental reassessment of many of the attitudes which have guided American policies since the end of the cold war. In some areas at least, we may get this. For while war produces strongly emotional responses, it can also provoke stark clarity of thought and a radical re-ordering of previous priorities.
Such new thinking is essential, not only on the part of the US, but also of Britain and other American allies. This is not just because the US will expect our full support in hunting down and destroying the perpetrators of this atrocity. It is also because our own cities are under the same threat, and the extent of this threat may be determined by what actions and policies America now pursues. We therefore have to work with the US to shape common strategies.
The attack has underlined the irrelevance of America’s dominant security priorities, which are still rooted in cold war attitudes and structures. This is true of three areas: first, the attempt to cast Russia and China as major threats to vital US interests. Second, the strategy of National Missile Defence (NMD) and the militarisation of space. And third, policy towards Israel and its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza-since this attack originated in the Muslim world and was clearly motivated by hatred of Israel and of US support for Israel.