By Dwight Owen Schweitzer Originally published in The Jewish Star Times on September 18th 2001
By the time this is read no doubt every analytical permutation of the tragedy in New York and Washington will have been explored, its’ implications noted and its’ effect on the world the subject of endless speculation. To date however we have noted several omissions in this process. In 1918, Woodrow Wilson went to the Versailles Peace Conference in order to carry out his pledge to the American people that the result of winning WW I would be ‘to make the world safe for democracy’.
We learned last week, as if we needed to be taught that after over three-quarters of a century, that goal still eludes us. In fact the world is not only still a very unsafe place, it is palpably less safe than when that pledge was made. We have only ourselves to blame. It is and always has been a question of defining our national priorities and is often hidden by our historical romance with right wing dictatorships. The passion and outrage of our people arising out of the carnage of the past week will sorely test our resolve in the weeks and months to come as the debris disappears in the fullness of time and the scars of wreckage no longer darken our landscape.
We must accept the fact this is not a war against terrorism however that phrase might galvanize the hearts and minds of a nation ruefully awakened from its complacency. It is, and must be, a war against dictatorship. It is in dictatorship that the seeds of war germinate regardless of the religious or immoral bias of a leadership that can, by virtue of its whim, decide in an instant to sow the wind. Democracy and pluralism do not lead to terrorism regardless of the claims of Israel’s’ foes. It is not by accident that every state identified as a sponsor of terrorism and a haven for terrorists are right wing dictatorships. They can call themselves what they will but that fact remains.
The current mantra of the supporters of the Presidents’ policy is to go in and root out the terrorists and punish their sponsors. It is worse than naive to suppose that such a policy will be any more than a short term palliative to a fundamental problem. When one person can single handedly cause the deaths of millions it is not enough to identify the perpetrators and their allies for this years terrorist is only the precursor of next years terrorists so long as the primordial soup of fanaticism is allowed to boil in the feted atmosphere of dictatorship.
What we and our allies must do to keep faith with our recent dead and dying is to declare that the policy of the free world is not simply to stop the practitioners of terror and punish those who harbor, employ, or benefit from their activities. Our goal must be to encourage democracy and pluralism in those countries to insure that the taproot of terror can no longer exist. We must embargo and quarantine those states identified as sponsors of terrorism and support all indigenous parties and opposition groups within them. This President Bush would do well to remember that the popularity his father enjoyed at the close of the Gulf War died along with Sadam Hussein’s’ slaughtered Kurds.