Tue, 18 Sep 2001

Coalition of nations against terrorism needed

While nations must work together to fight terrorism, it is crucial to preserve civil liberties, writes Jusuf Wanandi, a member of the Board of Trustees at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Jakarta.

GENEVA, Switzerland (JP): The barbaric attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center (WTC) buildings in New York are considered by some to be a retaliation by people who have been left behind and are feeling injustice from U.S. policies on a number of things. They point to U.S. policies that are considered double standard, one-sided and unwilling to assist in justly solving problems.

The sense of injustice and sometimes despair with U.S. policies is felt by most Arabs and Muslims around the globe. These sentiments should be overcome, although this will require long-term effort. The sense of injustice should have been dealt with, even without the calamity of Sept. 11.

But the attacks, which cost the lives of so many innocents during peacetime, are a crime against humanity and should not be condoned for any reason. These acts were taken against the United States, but could be repeated against anybody in the future. If these acts are tolerated, no country or nation will be safe in the future. This also means no stability, law and order or peace as we know it.

Therefore, in the interest of humanity and the self-interest of every nation in the world, a broad-based coalition against future "hyper-terrorism" needs to be established. The policies against these acts should be all encompassing: political- diplomatic, economic, law and rules and military.

Diplomatic efforts, as undertaken by the U.S. administration, are the most urgent and important, especially in creating and managing a broad-based coalition. Here, the allies, especially members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), will be at the forefront and asked to give real support. This will partly be for their own self-interest as they might become the next target, but also to keep the alliance intact.

Russia and China are also important players, as permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and as states, because they are facing the same threat. Basically, they will support the coalition.

Support from other countries is also important. Pakistan is the most relevant. It is an important neighbor to the country suspected of hosting the main suspect behind the attacks, Osama bin Laden, who is being sheltered by the Taliban.

Moderate Muslim countries, such as those in the Middle East and Indonesia as the biggest Muslim country, are also critical, especially since they could be used by global terrorism. They all belong to the "alumni" of the Afghan war against the former Soviet Union, and also have to face terrorism at home.

Economic countermeasures boil down to cutting financial support and preventing the use of these financial resources for terrorism. This is not going to be easy. New, upgraded international norms and rules against these acts are necessary. They would provide a platform for maintaining longer-term efforts against terrorism. They would have to be formulated by the international community.

Military actions and policies are an important element of the whole and should include preventive policies and actions. Cooperation in intelligence gathering and police work is most important. Military actions should be well-prepared and targeted, and should be more than only an act of reprisal. Only then can the network be cut and uprooted.

The above policies will come at a cost, not only financially, but also in terms of the limitation of some civil liberties. A real balance should be found to preserve security and civil liberties at the same time. No unnecessary limitations on freedom should be allowed without a real need and only after conscientious consideration.

The acts of terrorism on Sept. 11 have ushered in a new era of international relations and strategic development. The U.S. sees these attacks as an act of war, and this will influence their new strategy, especially in defining friends and adversaries. The policies and attitudes of allies and friends will be very important for U.S. policies in the future.

Developments after Sept. 11 may well change U.S. policies that are considered unfair, double standard or unilateral. Some might be changed and some might be strengthened, such as on the National Missile Defense program. These policies should be improved in the long-term, but should not be related directly to this "hyper-terrorist" act.

Indonesia should become actively involved in this coalition. Not only is she the biggest Muslim country that should show leadership, but she also needs it as the Southeast Asian region has been affected by global terrorism and needs international efforts to overcome the problem.