by Thomas L. Friedman, The New York Times
There was something symbolic about the fact that the U.S. Immigration
Naturalization Service sent out letters approving visas for the terrorist
leaders Mohamed Atta and Marwan al-Shehhi and that those letters arrived
their Florida flight school on the six-month anniversary of the Sept. 11
massacre, which the two of them directed. Some things you just can't make
It was symbolic precisely because we are forgetting some of the most
important truths about Sept. 11 - so why shouldn't the I.N.S.? Sept. 11
about a very new kind of threat. And it wasn't mere terrorism.
Real terrorists don't want to kill a lot of people. Rather, they use
limited, but indiscriminate, violence or hijacking to create noise or fear
that draws attention to their cause and ultimately builds political or
diplomatic pressure for a specific objective.
That's why Osama bin Laden is not a mere terrorist. He has much larger
aspirations. He is a super-empowered angry man who has all the geopolitical
objectives and instincts of a nation-state. He has employed violence not
grab headlines but to kill as many Americans as possible to drive them out
of the Islamic world and weaken their society. That's why the Sept. 11
hijackers never left a list of demands, as terrorists usually do. Their
was their demand. Their demand is total victory.
What enabled bin Laden, as a super-empowered angry man, to challenge
superpower was his ability to invent his own missile delivery system to
rival ours. We have computer-guided missiles. He had human guided missiles:
19 young, educated Arab men ready to hijack an airliner and commit suicide
with it against a major target. But always remember that Sept. 11 could
been worse. One of bin Laden's human missiles could have carried a nuclear
device. The only reason it didn't happen was because the hijackers couldn't
Since that is the case, the proper, long-term U.S. strategic response
Sept. 11 should be twofold: First, we must understand exactly who these
suicide bombers were and how they were recruited. We need to know how these
human guided missiles are assembled. Second, we need to launch an all-out
global effort to make sure that all nuclear and biological warfare materials
are under as tight a control as possible.
"Historically, there has always been a gap between people's individual
anger and what they could do with their anger," said the Harvard University
strategist Graham Allison. "But thanks to modern technology, and the
willingness of people to commit suicide, really angry individuals can now
kill millions of people if they can get the right materials. We can't change
their intentions overnight, but we can make sure that the materials that
transform their rage into something that threatens us all are locked away
places as secure as Fort Knox."
That means investing even more U.S. energy and money in working with
Russia to secure its stockpiles because Russia and America have 99 percent
of the world's nuclear and biowarfare materials. And, after Russia, focusing
on China, India, Pakistan, Iran and Iraq. Unfortunately, the Bush team seems
to focus only on Iraq. It's not that Iraq is not a problem, but it's not
the top of my list.
What worries me most for my daughters' future is not Saddam Hussein.
a homicidal dictator who can be deterred, or eliminated, by conventional
means. No, what worries me most is the fact that we still don't understand
who those 19 hijackers were. What worries me is that nearly every day for
the past six months, Palestinian men and women - many of them secular, not
religious - have strapped dynamite around their waists and blown themselves
up against Israeli targets. How do you deter young people who hate us, or
Israel, more than they love their own families or their own future?
It will take us a long time, and much diplomatic therapy, to cure such
intentions. But what we can do now is limit the capabilities of such people.
We are not the only ones with an interest in this. If suicidal warfare
becomes "normal," the Arab regimes won't be spared. Because once people
empowered by this sort of thing, they won't stop with just the infidels
they will turn it on their own autocrats. And if it becomes "normal," it
will be awful for Palestinians, because how their state is born matters,
a state brought about by suicide bombers will forever be deformed.
And if it becomes "normal" in this integrated world, it will touch your
kids and mine in a way that will make Iraq look like a day at the beach.