[VIEWPOINT]Shocked Into Worries About Security

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[VIEWPOINT]Shocked Into Worries About Security

A terrible terrorist attack has occurred. The Pentagon in Washington and the World Trade Center in New York, the heart of the United States, have been attacked in an event the United States has called "a second Pearl Harbor." As a result, the world's political, economic and military networks have in effect been paralyzed. The entire world is amazed as to how such a fictional-sounding situation has come true. It is as if the entire world, not just the United States, has been attacked by terrorism. The world is suffering from the worst common security fear since World War II.

We should not simply think of this act of terrorism as an attack committed by a certain armed organization on the United States. We should look closely at international terrorism - the problems that spur it, the effects it creates and how to defend against it.

The incident could be another incident of the anti-American campaign waged by some radical Islamic fundamentalists along the same lines as the suicide bombing of a U.S. Marine compound in Lebanon in October 1983 and a truck bomb in Saudi Arabia in September 1996. Therefore, some Americans are pointing at Osama bin Laden from Saudi Arabia as the culprit. However, we must note that more fundamentally, international terrorism is characteristic of the armed movement of Islamic fundamentalists that are antagonistic to the West and to capitalism. We can clearly see this from the indiscriminate and unending acts of terrorism committed by radical Palestinians and Islamic fundamentalists throughout the Western world.

Such a "clash of civilizations" is not a post-cold war phenomenon as described by Samuel Huntington, but stems from a structural problem inherent in international society since the start of the first Middle East War in 1948. Five large-scale wars between the Arab nations and Israel and the persistent terrorist attacks against Israel by the Palestine Liberation Organization have led to state-sponsored terrorism involving the governments of Libya, Iraq and Syria. Unlike sporadic acts of terrorism committed by armed civilians, state-sponsored terrorism is supported and instigated by governments and amounts to something close to war. Urban guerrillas in West Germany in the 1970s, the Red Army in Japan and recent Jihads of Shiite Muslim factions were orchestrated by civilians. But the terrorist attack in Rangoon in 1983 and the bombing of Korean Air flight 858, both North Korean outrages, as well as the Pan Am-Lockerbie bombing in 1988 by the Libyan government are prototypes of state-sponsored terrorism.

However, since the Gulf War in 1991, acts of terrorism by armed Islamic groups have drawn support from all Muslims on the grounds that they are part of a holy war against the West. The distinction between civilian and state-sponsored terrorism has therefore become meaningless. The vicious cycle of indiscriminate and reckless terrorist retaliatory attacks by the Israeli government and the Palestinians make clear the inherent structural problem of terrorism.

Terrorism, regardless of the motive, is a cause of international strife and an enemy of peace. Especially for South Koreans, who have been the subject of numerous acts of terrorism, and as long as the division between North and South Korea continues, the massive tragedy suffered by the United States is not someone else's story, a far-away event. As seen in the immediate emergency warning issued by the South Korean government and its commitment to protect U.S. military facilities and Americans living in Korea, the Korean Peninsula is still a potential flash point in the international community despite the inter-Korean summit meeting held in June 2000.

The government should learn a lesson from the terrorist incident as it prepares for the inter-Korean ministerial-level talks that will be held beginning Saturday after a long hiatus. It should make every effort to begin confidence-building measures between the governments of the two Koreas. Analyzed more closely, acts of terrorism and provocation stem from an absence of trust. What we desperately need now is not some kind of a peace declaration or promises of reconciliation but specific and practical measures to build confidence. The United States is expected to turn in the future toward increasing security in its homeland. This is the first time since the War of 1812 that the U.S mainland has been attacked.

The future of the combined South Korea-U.S. strategic regime, including the tasks and size of the U.S. forces in Korea is a cause for concern. I hope the terrorist attacks will lead us to some self-reflection. Have we recently neglected the security of our homeland as we have looked toward reconciliation with the North?


The writer is a professor of political science at Kyonggi University.

by Nam Joo-hong

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