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O'Leary is Professor of Political Science and Chair of the Department
of Government at the London School of Economics and Political Science.
We are delighted to have Professor O'Leary as a Visiting Professor
in our Department of Political Science this year and I want to personally
welcome you to the University. Professor O'Leary is a world-renowned
expert on nationalism and ethnic conflict and has written extensively
on hostilities in Northern Ireland. Not only is he a prolific author,
he has worked as a broadcaster and in advisory capacities to governments
and political parties.
deeply regret that the first occasion that I speak publicly at Penn
should be in the aftermath of these appalling atrocities. These
atrocities have affected all of us--for example, the niece of the
friend I stayed with in Vermont, before coming here, is missing.
And, these atrocities are not just national, they are international.
The victims were international (two of the plane flight victims
were from the city of my birth), the causes were very likely international,
and the impact will be international. This is not just about America
or 'America under attack'.
must all think, and not be driven by our immediate collective
passions, not least because these will have been anticipated. We
must think, and avoid words like 'senseless' and 'mindless'--which
only show our bewilderment.
did this? No one here knows for certain. Discussions of the
usual suspects fill the airwaves, but we lack certainty. We know
it is highly unlikely to have been a government, or authorized by
a government. The risks of an American and NATO counter-reaction
would have been too high for any barely rational government.
know that it was organized: planned, trained for, and executed with
remarkable efficiency--it seems that only heroic resistance on the
plane that crashed in Pennsylvania prevented all these missions'
objectives from being wholly fulfilled.
what was the purpose of these missions? These are dumb crimes,
by which I mean that these atrocities have so far not been justified
by speech, by arguments explaining why the relevant organization
carried out these deeds. Think about this.
political violence of nationalist movements is almost automatically
accompanied by claims of responsibility. 'We did this to remove
your empire, and its soldiers from our land.' We are familiar with
these voices, and when we are not from the relevant empires we may
both understand and sympathize with them.
political violence of secular ideological movements is also replete
with words, whether these movements be fascist or anti-capitalist.
They name their targets, explain why they are enemies, and glory
in their successes.
movements use violence instrumentally, to break the will of the
empire that holds them. They may engage symbolic targets, but usually
conduct their warfare to avoid deliberate civilian casualties, because
they wish to win support for their actions in their constituencies,
and externally. They try, fitfully, to fight just wars. If they
don't, they erode their own support bases.
ideological movements are usually weaker than nationalist movements--indeed,
the weaker a nationalist movement is, the more likely it is deeply
ideological. Ideological secular terrorists rarely enjoy mass, active
or diffuse support--as we know from post-war Germany and Italy.
They use violence symbolically--hitting centers of power to deflate
and humiliate the incumbents, to show their vulnerability.
of you will have concluded that these suicide missions were ideological--and
you may be correct. The Pentagon, the World Trade Center, and the
White House--that was not hit, respectively symbolize the military,
financial and executive power of the United States. But, perhaps
that is not the whole story.
acts have not been publicly justified -- why not?
it the prudence of the organization's leaders? Is it to avoid the
consequences of a U.S. and NATO 'search and destroy' mission of
possibly apocalyptic proportions?
it to avoid antagonizing those who harbor them--to use President
Bush's ambiguous phrase? These explanations have certain plausibility.
it is also possible that these acts have not been justified, because
they are considered self-evidently right, a mass killing of personnel
who man the institutions of evil--in which case these acts have
been religious in character: value-rational, not instrumentally
rational; the acts of holy crusaders, and not of those who negotiate,
albeit with menaces.
say this not to be provocative, but to ask you to think about how
these suicide killers might have seen their actions.
make no mistake. This was not another Pearl Harbor--as many fools,
including Dr. Kissinger, have thoughtlessly said. No plan of territorial
seizure accompanies these atrocities: no government, no ambition
of conquest, except perhaps moral conquest.
people who organized these atrocities were probably motivated by
the world-religion that is most secularization-resistant, and from
the peoples who feel most humiliated and outraged by western power,
and its leading state, the United States of America.
this is so, it should make us think. The USA & NATO and their
allies cannot sensibly go to war against Islam, or against Islamic
believers, and to start to engage in public discourse of that type
would simply make it more likely to lead to extensive repetitions
of what has just occurred.
come from a part of the world that may just be coming out
of thirty years of political violence, of a nationalist rather than
of a religious character, let me suggest some things that should
be thought about in three domains.
think about appropriate external policy. These acts were criminal:
they have violated both U.S. law, and international law. The U.S.
must organize with its allies to bring the perpetrators to justice--using
all the savvy and skills of which America is capable.
think carefully before supporting large-scale retaliatory jihads--recall
that at least twice in recent memory the wrong locations have been
hit by U.S. forces, and the wrong peoples have been aerially murdered.
do not speak as a pacifist: I welcome an interventionist America,
from the Balkans to Africa, depending, of course, upon the purposes
of the interventions. But, through rage, an incensed America may
act against its long-term values and interests. Killing civilians
is wrong, and that applies both to terrorists and to governments--and
governments are generally the biggest killers of all.
the medium and longer term, the US must also appraise its policies
in the Middle East and the Islamic worlds--these are, of course,
not homogenous territories, and policy has not been homogenous or
consistent. But, it must be asked why hatred of the U.S. is so fierce
in these locations. It is, of course, true, that these hatreds are
not spontaneous, and often have little basis in fact. They are often
irrational, and the USA is scapegoated and demonized absurdly. But,
U.S. foreign policy before and after the Cold War has propped up
authoritarian regimes. And it has, to the abiding humiliation of
the Islamic world, supported Israel, right or wrong--and Israel
is not always right.
think about being normal as a way of standing up for yourself and
your values. Be normal, as much as possible. Do not let your
normal rhythms be disrupted. You are still more likely to be killed
on the road, or by a fellow citizen than by externally organized
paramilitaries. Keep a sense of proportion, despite the magnitude
of the horrors unfolding. Don't close universities--make them places
where people talk and argue about these questions; don't run extra
fire-drills that drag visiting professors from their slumbers; don't
encourage mass anxiety--there will be enough of it.
there must be much thought about better internal prevention in the
USA--preventing such things from happening, or from so easily happening
again. That will involve security measures.
airports, domestically, are the laxest that I have experienced--that
is because your decision-makers have put commerce ahead of personal
security, and because they have chosen not to have rail networks
that would make you less dependent upon planes. Be prepared to argue
for slower planes and more trains.
immigration and border-controls, and internal surveillance mechanisms,
must no doubt be enhanced. But, be careful; make sure that you do
not suffer from the illusion of fortress America. Prevention is
very difficult. And avoid antagonizing your Canadian and Mexican
neighbours--who have also lost co-nationals.
all, ensure that your internal controls and surveillance do not
lead to witch-hunts of those associated with 'harbouring' activities,
or to special emergency regimes of detention. This is right, because
it is right--the human rights of all should be protected. But, it
is also prudent--if you make whole populations the targets of your
security policies they will be less likely to co-operate with you
Monday, over 99.9999 per cent of Americans of Islamic faith or of
Arabic or Central Asian origin would have co-operated in reporting
to the authorities anything they knew of these planned atrocities.
The test of a good security policy is that they will feel exactly
the same way in the future. Do not do to Muslim and Arab Americans
what was done to Japanese Americans after Pearl Harbor. Protect
your human rights protections, because they are your human rights
to SAS Symposium on Terrorism Introduction
(click on names below)
Almanac, Vol. 48, No. 4, September 18, 2001