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Alternatives to War

By Andres Capablanca


On September 11th, America was under siege.  The horror of death, the destruction of our nation’s economic and military symbols, and the new rising threat of terrorism had struck our nation.  But for many Americans, terrorism wasn’t a concept that was too familiar.  For many, terrorism was something that the evening news had reported about that had taken place in a country that was thousands of miles away. The September 11th  attacks had changed all that, because this time, it was our own firefighters, policemen, mothers, fathers, or our neighbors who had been victimized by such an atrocious crime.  America’s anger was just.  Although even with the new rise of patriotism and cooperation, our country had failed to see the lack of alternatives to military force, because retribution apparently had to be expressed only through war.  During this time, America should continue to pursue its commitment to freedom and justice through international dialogue, because peaceful international cooperation can directly engage terrorism while military force can exacerbate the situation. 


The US should emphasize mobilizing law enforcement programs around the world so that those responsible can be brought to justice to the full extent of international law.  For example, when Pan Am flight 103 had been bombed, the US had worked closely with other law enforcement agencies in other countries to apprehend those responsible for the crime.  In addition, the US should provide clear evidence on Osama bin Laden’s connection to the September 11th attacks.  The US justifies its bombing of Afghanistan because of the Taliban’s refusal to handing over Osama bin Laden, but the US Government had refused to provide all the evidence of his culpability.  When the Taliban had requested evidence on Osama bin Laden’s culpability, the US government simply responded that it would not negotiate.  According to Richard Falk, a professor of international law at Princeton University, the Bush administration created massive confusion when it demanded Osama bin Laden from the Taliban without providing clear evidence of his guilt.  Richard Falk said, “The request for evidence is not really a negotiation.  It’s a reasonable precondition.”  Another thing that should be done is to lead international efforts to reduce stockpiles of chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons to prevent any unauthorized use.  Also, international efforts should continue to focus on seizing financial resources and assets from the terrorists. 


The problem with a military response against terrorist cells is they aren’t as tangible as most people would think they are.  Even though some of Al-Qaeda’s training camps were destroyed, their network isn’t tangible enough to be crippled by bombs or tomahawk missiles.  Many analysts contend that US military action might be part of the Al-Qaeda strategy.  Many Muslims in the Arab world have long grievances against the American government, and a military campaign that puts innocent civilians at stake can only make these anti-American feelings even worse.  The objective of the Al-Qaeda strategy is to destabilize friendly countries to the US like Saudi Arabia, and show that the United States is willing to jeopardize innocent Muslims in order to apprehend a criminal.  Al-Qaeda shows this as “proof” that the America is an enemy of Islam.  Although its not true that America is an enemy of Islam, it should prove to the rest of the world that it will not partake in any operation that puts civilians in danger just as the terrorists had done on September 11th.  William Vendley, the secretary general for Religions for Peace, an international organization of religious leaders, claims that terrorism feeds upon the frustration on those who feel exploited.  Vendley says, “Military instruments are not only not helpful, they can corroborate perceptions of victimization.” 


America has amazed the world with its unity and its strong mentality that it will prevail no matter what adverse condition it has to confront.  Although even with all the unity, America can all also amaze the rest of the world in the sense that it can halt continuing military action.  It can show the world that problems can be solved through international dialogue without the single use of a bomb.