[OUTLOOK]U.S. response confuses ends, meansA year has passed since the United States was devastated by the Sept. 11 attack. Since then, the United States has declared war on terrorism and made strenuous efforts both nationally and internationally to strike at the forces behind terrorism. Has it succeeded?
The fact alone that the United States has not had any other terror attacks since then is a success to a certain extent. The problem is, will there continue to be no terror attacks?
Terrorism goes a long way back. It is not a new phenomenon and the United States is not the first to have been subjected to it. Nevertheless, the Sept. 11 incident shattered Americans' belief that their homeland at least was safe. Their reaction, in consequence, was intense.
As is known, President Bush declared war on terrorism and pronounced anyone who was not on the side of the United States to be an enemy. The war against terrorism called for a stricter coalition logic than the Cold War, and the United States seemed to set aside the values of humanitarianism and democracy in its determination to eliminate the threat of terrorism.
The war against terrorism caused an unexpected transformation in international relations. First, relations between the United States and Europe became strained. Europe seems to think that the United States has set an oversimplified policy objective and that it is using drastic methods to achieve this simplified objective. The discrepancy between the United States and Europe appears nowhere as clearly as in the issue of whether there should be a war against Iraq. Seeing European leaders openly criticize the United States, it is clear that the Cold War era has passed.
In contrast to Europe, Russia and China have rather improved their relations with the United States since the Sept. 11 attack. Previously, the United States had made Russia and China uncomfortable with its open concerns about human-rights issues affecting the minorities living in Chechnya and in China. Since the Sept. 11 attack, Russia and China have defined the Islamic minorities in their countries as terrorist elements and gained the agreement of the United States, giving the impression that they are more positive about the war against terrorism than Europe.
In other words, while the relations of the United States with its Cold War era allies have cooled, it has developed more peaceful relations with Russia and China, its ideological enemy states of the Cold War, than ever before. It is fair to say, this is not the Cold War. As President George W. Bush pointed out in his speech at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, the most important thing during the Cold War was to contain the Soviet Union and maintain nuclear deterrence. Now, the most important task is learning how to cope with the threat of a nonstate terrorist group or a dictator with weapons of mass destruction.
However, it is dangerous to totalize this war against terrorism. There are numerous other issues in international relations than the issue of terrorism. A blind persistence in the war against terrorism would lead to perversions in international relations. Seen from a geopolitical point of view, pursuing a closer relation with Russia than with European countries could not be seen as a rational choice for the United States. The same would go for eastern Asia. The United States should see the issue of geopolitical balance from a long-term perspective.
As the 19th-century German strategist Karl von Clausewitz pointed out, war is the continuation of politics by a different method. The effort to eliminate terrorism is ultimately a political act. War against terrorism is not the objective, merely the method. The United States' objective is the situation to be created as the result of the war against terrorism.
However, once the United States starts a war, there is a tendency to see the war objective not in the desired postwar political situation but in the absolute surrender that produces military victory. It seems that the United States is pursuing as a first priority the elimination of terrorist elements in its war against terrorism.
Of course, eliminating terrorist elements is important. However, should the United States define the objective of the war as military victory and adopt excessive military measures, it would not be able to acquire the international support and consensus that would be needed to successfully maintain the war against terrorism.
The Sept. 11 terror attack was an attack against the United States and the shock of it was the shock of the American people. The United States must see that other countries could not but be affected in different degrees depending on their particular situations. In order to attract an effective coalition for the war against terrorism, the United States needs to read accurately the nuance of the reaction of each different country to the Sept. 11 attack. The war against terrorism has only just begun. It will take patience and understanding to steadfastly carry it on.
The writer is the president of the Social Sciences Institute.
by Kim Kyung-won