Foreign Policy In Focus Response to Terrorism Sign-on Statement

Between Monday, September 17 and Thursday, September 20, FPIF circulated the following sign-on letter via the Internet. Over 1,800 people, mainly academics and foreign policy experts signed the letter–a remarkable response over a short period of time. We sent out a press release Thursday afternoon, just prior to President Bush’s speech to Congress and the country, and distributed the statement to all congressional members. Those who signed included professors from 83 different colleges and universities, students from 40 academic institutions, and people from 18 different countries, ranging from Cameroon to Pakistan to Ukraine. A number of the signers also sent notes and comments.

FPIF Response to Terrorism Statement

1. America is living through a tragedy of unprecedented depth. As a nation and as a people we have witnessed and suffered a horrific crime, and we call for a strong, international response. This was a crime against humanity. America’s response must be deliberate and determined, and it must uphold our highest moral principles and international norms of conduct.

2. This response must seek justice, not revenge. Our collective response must root out the international terrorism networks responsible for these attacks, not fan the flames of yet more terror.

3. We stand opposed to the massive, widespread, and prolonged military response, as foreshadowed by the militaristic language of the Bush administration officials. Such posturing will not end terrorism. Rather, such a response is likely to result in more civilian casualties, cause greater political violence, and engender new acts of terrorism against innocent people.

4. Instead of waging the first major war of the new century, the U.S. people and government should assert our determination to protect ourselves and all peoples against the threat of terrorism by doing the following in the international arena:

  • Forge a new global alliance against terrorism, linking our traditional allies with such disparate nations as Russia and China, to quickly bring together intelligence, police, and military agencies in an effort to identify, pursue, and bring to justice the terrorist networks.
  • Use international police action and international tribunals as the preferred method for tracking down, capturing, and trying international criminals. As the recent case of Slobodan Milosevic illustrates, the world community has made remarkable progress in creating and using international norms to prosecute international crimes against humanity.
  • Organize strong international financial and diplomatic pressure against the governments of any nation found to be supporting or harboring international terrorists.

5. At home, we must also act deliberately, strategically, and humanely. Adopting a siege mentality and embracing the politics of war will carry new risks for America. Instead, we should do the following:

  • Seek to maintain America’s hallowed traditions of open government and open society.
  • Avoid eroding the basic civil liberties that define this nation.
  • Resist efforts to target people because of their race, religion, ethnic background, or appearance.
  • Act with great care before expanding the powers and budgets of our national security agencies. Congress needs a thorough and independent investigation into why and how these terrorist networks succeeded in operating with impunity, even within the United States. Before handing over sweeping new powers and billions of dollars to our intelligence agencies and the military, we must first understand why existing U.S. intelligence practices, defense strategies, and post-cold war foreign policy have proved so inadequate in protecting the American people.

Unleashing vengeance through overwhelming U.S. firepower will prove an ineffective and counterproductive response to this new scourge of international terrorism. A “crusade,” as President Bush terms it, of American bombers and battleships invading the Islamic world will demonstrate our military might, but it will diminish the chances of finding, dismantling, and punishing these terrorist networks.

We seek victory over these international terrorists. Part of this victory will be measured by the number of terrorists brought to justice, the number of their financial links severed, and the shattering of direct or indirect support for terrorist organizations. But the greater part of victory will come through our government addressing the policies, circumstances, and grievances that spark terrorist responses, particularly against America. Otherwise, for every terrorist network broken, another will take its place. If our response is shaped by wisdom and conviction, we will be able to claim both victory and peace.