A Long-Term Strategy for American Security

by Jayne Seminare Docherty and Lisa Schirch, November 9, 2001

Short-Term Strategy: (Increased security in the next 2 years)

  1. Dismantle terrorist networks. Arrest al Qaeda operatives and bring them to trial. Avoid a focus on bin Laden, as this sets up a personal hero for anyone who dislikes U.S. policy and incorrectly assumes that the organization will not survive without him. Dismantle the financial support system of terrorist networks. Allow the Taliban to turn al Qaeda operatives over to a third country. Use incentives rather than threats or military force to gain information and cooperation on a legal approach to the crimes of September 11. Reallocate the billions of dollars being spent on the military campaign to create economic incentives to turn in al Qaeda operatives. Use specialized military units to capture operatives and make sure these units are equipped with and trained to use non-lethal weapons. Support the development of a multi-national team to conduct arrests and raids on terrorist cells.
  2. Use a defensive military strategy. The current use of a strong offense (e.g., eliminating governments we don’t like, encroaching further on the Muslim world with military troops, killing civilians in carpet bombing raids, targeting individuals for assassination) actually makes us much less secure. Americans around the world and at home are more at risk today than they were before the beginning of the bombing campaign on October 7, because many people see our offensive military strategy as “evil.” Rather than destroying terrorists, the current strategy is creating more potential terrorists. Within the limits of the Posse Comitatus law that limits the domestic use of the military, National Guard units should be deployed to guard against more attacks. Federal law enforcement units should be adequately equipped and trained to protect against terrorist attacks through intelligence gathering and arrest, while respecting civil liberties.
  3. Start a civilian-based defense program in the United States. Train civilians to report possible terrorist acts. Train them to use nonviolent resistance to defend their own homes, communities, institutions and Arab-American neighbors, if they are attacked. Train civilians to resist terrorists if they do take over an airplane, train, or bus using the skills of noncooperation and appropriate force. Note: This does not mean vigilante-style law enforcement using lethal weapons.

Intermediate Strategies (Increased security in the next 10 years)

  1. Acknowledge the interconnected nature of the conflicts in the Muslim world. Put major resources toward negotiating issues fueling the current support for terrorist actions — e.g., a removal of U.S. troops from Saudi Arabia, lifting of sanctions against Iraq, and a more even-handed approach to the Israel-Palestine problems including backing the Mitchell Commission recommendations to stop all new Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Support negotiations in Kashmir and other conflicted areas.
  2. Craft long-term multilateral arrangements and organizations for addressing problems in the regions of the world that are home to large Muslim populations. Honor our commitment to work through multilateral bodies. Thereby indicating our willingness to be part of the “family of nations” and not the one nation exempt from the rules that govern everyone else
  3. Plan for and support an authentically Afghan government after the removal of Al Qaeda. Rely on recognized international organizations for such activities as the nation-building process in Afghanistan. Whatever government is established in Afghanistan must be rooted in Afghan traditions and must be authentically Afghan in nature, goals, values, etc. Urge the U.N. to use indigenous Afghan processes of conflict resolution (such as the jirga) to help Afghani people design their government. Support and encourage any efforts at healing and reconciliation in Afghanistan.

Long-Term Strategies (Increased security in the next 50 years)

  1. Help build a global environment that does not support terrorism. Massive funding for schools, universities, health care facilities, food and shelter programs, and democratic infrastructures around the world will help Americans live more secure lives. These initiatives will isolate terrorist groups from the support base of disenfranchised and marginalized people that turn to terrorism out of desperation. Provide peacebuilding assistance for countries dealing with inter-religious conflicts.
  2. Create new relationships with Muslim countries. Commit funds, resources, and personnel to building better cultural understanding between the U.S. and the Muslim world. Stop the cultural and economic imposition of Western values and institutions onto Muslim countries.
  3. Promote democratization in Muslim countries currently led by dictators. Support these societies in their efforts to discover and nurture indigenous democratic processes grounded in Islam.
  4. Reduce our dependence on oil. The U.S. can lessen its dependence on foreign oil and its need for cooperation from Middle Eastern nations that produce oil by investing in proven renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power.