[NOTEBOOK]Effective anti-terror weaponsWas it because Spanish voters succumbed to terrorism by Al Qaeda? Or, was it because they were furious at the lies of their ruling Popular Party?
In the United States as well, there were demonstrations against taking violent measures against terrorism right after the Sept. 11 attacks. The reason was that when violence is countered with violence, the chain of violence will never be broken.
But as time passed, such voices were silenced. The United States punished the Islamic terrorists severely and Americans gave their government their full support. In this regard, although Spanish voters appear to have given in to terrorism right now, it is hard to tell whether they did entirely succumb to it. Also, it is hard to jump to conclusions over what the voters will do as they recover from the shock of the terrorism.
There was circumstantial evidence that the ruling Popular Party tried to secretly manipulate information on the terror attacks, thinking that if Al Qaeda was known to have carried them out, it would lose votes in the parliamentary election. Therefore, it is too early to interpret the results of the Spanish election as the voters’ subjugation to terrorism.
But one thing is clear. Al Quaeda achieved its goal because the Spanish ruling party, which had decided to join the war in Iraq and actively supported the United States, was ousted.
The message this incident sends to other governments in a similar situation is quite obvious. Anther thing that became clear is that globalization has not just changed our lives but also changed a substantial part of dynamics of international politics.
The defense expenditures of the United States are 38 percent of the defense expenditures of all other countries in the world combined. The U.S. defense expenditures also equal the expenditures of the next 11 largest defense budgets of other countries combined. By 2006, U.S. defense expenses will have increased to half the world’s total defense expenses.
Still, the ratio of the U.S. defense budget to the U.S. gross domestic product is less than the ratio during the Cold War. The American economy has grown that much.
But this powerful country, the United States, cannot stop the followers of Osama bin Laden, who manages to survive in the backlands of Afghanistan. The biggest reason is globalization.
As the international exchange of people, materials, and information become freer, terrorists can circle the world within 24 hours. But it takes at least three to four days for the United States, the world’s single superpower, to move a brigade to the Middle East.
So trying to fight against terrorists only by resorting to overwhelming physical power is nonsense. This is like the recklessness of attempting to rule the 21st century with the traditional power of 20th century.
The greatest reason that the United States waged a war against Iraq was to overthrow Saddam Hussein regime. For this purpose, the United States spent more than $20 billion per month after it began the war. Recently, it had to spend $4 billion per month to maintain order in the region.
But Al Quaeda replaced the Spanish government with just a couple of bombs.
The United States now has to think about more effective anti-terror measures. A start would be to ask itself why “they hate us.” If the United States cannot give a fundamental answer to this question, it will be impossible to suppress terrorism to a “tolerable level,” however much the country reinforces security checks at the borders and asks its allies for help.
Terrorists are driven by faith. It is impossible to crack down on them with a stick alone.
We learned from the experience of former President Park Chung Hee’s military regime and Chun Doo Hwan’s Fifth Republic the difficulty of dealing with dissidents who based their action on firm beliefs. Of course, fighting for democracy and fighting against terrorism are not the same.
A stick is needed to fight terrorism, but the stick should be the last resort. Terrorism cannot be stopped with a stick alone.
* The writer is international news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Lee Jae-hak