America has encountered its postmodern Pearl Harbour. Hollywood imagination has turned into reality and hit “the leader of the free world” like a boomerang. The land of opportunity has turned into a land of threats. Deeply shocked, the government tries to fight the symptoms of the problem, doing more of the wrong thing. Its policy is dictated by a Western military logic that aims at beating the enemy using smart oriental warfare strategies that win by avoiding battle. In view of the suffering of so many innocent individuals and families, the American people should fundamentally rethink its leadership’s objectives and approaches.
The country needs to combat the roots of anti-Americanism. Ordinary American citizens should not be forced to pay for American hegemony and the narrow interests of Israelis. In a democratic society, the majority should not be subjected by a tiny minority. The pain of so many victims, to whom I extend my heartfelt condolences, should not be in vain.
Every analysis first must uncover the reasons for the attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon, whose dimensions show how deeply hated America is. The US leadership and its European satellites were quick to diffuse the very focused objective of this attack. They claimed that it was aimed at the whole civilised world. According to their view, such attacks happened elsewhere before and can happen in any country in the future. The enemy is denied a face, called “international terrorism,” a heaven-inflicted plague like AIDS. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
As obvious as it is, it needs to be stressed: the attacks were directed solely against America and, to be even more precise, against its leaders. Any attack on other countries in the aftermath will result only from their links to America. Europe would be well advised to protect its taxpayers and soldiers from paying the price for America’s failings and adventures. Its enemies see the attack as a punishment for all the mass-murders that Americans have committed on other peoples’ soil. They point to the following facts: in World War II, America focused on killing civilians – children, women, and the elderly – in their carpet bombing of German cities, which avoided man-to-man fights with German men. In Dresden, their planes waited for rescue workers and survivors to appear on the streets, and then bombed them in the morning after the British attacked an ancient city filled with millions of homeless refugees.
America was the only country that used the atomic bomb against innocent people. It killed hundreds of thousands of people in their war against the Vietnamese, dropping more bombs on little Laos than in the entirety of World War II. The indiscriminate mass murder continued in Iraq and Yugoslavia. It did not refrain from using nuclear ammunition against powerless civilians in Serbia.
America is perceived as the worst aggressor in the modern world and a force that destabilises world peace. Its enemies conclude that in view of its crimes, America cannot criticise others for not respecting the “sanctity of human life” and other fundamental human values.
The sad truth is that probably the majority of people on earth secretly or openly rejoices at the strikes against the US. The official statements by leaders around the world, which were broadcast by the Western media to detract attention from the roots of the conflict, did not necessarily represent the feelings at the grassroots. A simple calculation helps: just add the number of Arabs (who resent the constant massacres by the US-backed Israelis), the Russians (who were severely harmed by the arms race and free-market economists), the people in the Balkans (whose compatriots were massacred by US air strikes), the Chinese (whose embassy was bombed by the Americans who still continue to spy on their borders), and other Southeast Asian countries (whose economies they believe were destroyed by American financiers).
Most people resent the expansionist nationalism of America, which, in a modern version of the crusades and colonialism, equates Americanisation with civilisation and holds that the rest of the world is barbarous. They resent the export of the failed American model. It promotes greed for material things, the disintegration of the family because of disloyalty and homosexuality, and violence and immorality through its movies.
Any responsible parent wants to protect his/her child against these products of “mankind’s last best hope.” They do not want to see their societies flooded with drugs, crime and other vice. Shootings in high schools are abhorred. They believe the world can do better. Foreign nations do not want America to stand above the law, such as witnessed recently when Congress debated whether America should be allowed to invade the International Court to “rescue” American war criminals who are indicted by the whole international community. On other occasions, when it serves its objectives, America pretends to act in the name of this international community and is ready to punish enemies by accusing them of “crimes against humanity.”
A black-and-white view, which divides the world into good and evil (assuming that one’s own country always is the good guy), may inspire movies but cannot serve as a basis for an effective national policy. If the US focuses on combating “international terrorism,” and becomes even more nationalist than before, it will be destroyed eventually, like other empires before. Openly debating the attack on other countries does not differ from the plotting of the attack on America’s icons. A witch hunt against Arabs (similar to the imprisonment and confiscation of assets of Japanese after Pearl Harbour) contradicts the American spirit.
Sure, America can indiscriminately destroy countries as it did before and kill thousands of innocent people. But it faces a growing number of determined enemies all over the world. For any person killed, hundred of new enemies will rise. Portraying the enemies as a small group of cowards dangerously underestimates their strength, which in any war needs to be accurately assessed. Far from being cowards, they possess a spirit of defiance that America cannot match. Arab children, equipped only with stones, fight the most sophisticated war machinery in the world.
It takes significant courage to challenge the world’s mightiest country and attack its most powerful centres, including the Defence Ministry itself, and sacrificing one’s life for national and cultural beliefs. For the enemies of America, terrorising is not an end it itself, but a war for the survival of peoples and values. Nobody wants to take away America’s freedom (we cannot speak of a democracy since the rich buy most of the votes). In contrast to the determination of its enemies, the American president fled the danger. Intimidated by a few people, he hid in a bunker, while his people – whose lives really were threatened – expected leadership.
So far, unfortunately, the US, who believes that might is right, has only understood violence and sees it as a legitimate means to pursue its objective. This pushed its enemies to resort to extreme action, since they could not achieve anything with words that are not reported uttered by people who are eventually murdered. Instead, the country should cure the roots of anti-Americanism.
America needs to fundamentally redirect its national strategy if it wants to change the world and defeat its enemies. The government should change the “hard” and the “soft” side of American policy. The American people has the right to ask its leaders not to endanger their lives through their unconditional military and political support of Israel and aggressive foreign policy in general. Only by refraining from hegemony can America make friends with the Arab people and other oppressed peoples on this planet.
Is it not better to convert enemies into friends instead of killing them? Why should this not be possible? The only reason might be the Israeli lobby which occupies most positions of power in the American government, finances and media, and, disguising as patriots, sacrifices American interests and lives for their narrow self-interest. The American people should decide whether it wants such selfish people to control its destiny. They should be taught that true patriotism saves American lives.
In regards to the soft side of strategy, only moral leadership can win the hearts of people and secure power for a long time. In contrast, violence will help leaders maintain power only temporarily. America should become a respected part of the international community and throughout the world implement the enlightened values of humanity, which it always propagates. America needs to learn to tolerate other political models and cultural values. Otherwise, a war of cultures will ensue, which America will lose. It should return to the values of its Puritan forefathers and democratic founders who promoted truth, honesty, loyalty, compassion and other moral values, before they were hijacked to serve as cover for other pursuits. In the short term, instead of threatening and scheming to kill, the immediate focus should be on rescuing as many innocent people as possible, an act of responsible leadership practised by New York’s mayor.
Life is equally valuable all over the planet. But Americans have never reported many details about the fathers and mothers, and husbands and wives whom American soldiers killed abroad. For the first time, America feels on its own soil the vengeance of the suffering it exports so easily to other countries. Perhaps the attack on its political and economic strongholds opens their eyes to the suffering of other people and helps them rethink national strategy.
This world needs idealist nations like the US which believe in shaping rather than reacting and trust in the possibility of human betterment. If America uses its heart instead of its arms in the active pursuit of world peace, it can become a mighty force of good.
The German writer, a leading expert in strategic studies, was appointed as a senior faculty member at the Australian Graduate School of Management at the University of New South Wales and the University of Sydney. He became the first permanent foreign professor at a Chinese university in the history of the People’s Republic (at Peking University). He held appointments at Harvard Universities and McKinsey and Co. He contributed this article to the Jordan Times.