[OUTLOOK]Drop the attitude and talkIt will soon be the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. U.S. President George W. Bush defined Al-Qaeda’s terrorist attacks, which cost the lives of 2,792 people, as an attack against the United States and declared a global war on terror. The enraged eagle unsheathed its talons and flew to Afghanistan and Iraq.
Five years later, Ground Zero, where the World Trade Center used to stand, has regained its peace. But questions are coming up one after another. Has the world become a safer place? Have terrorist attacks declined? Is there an end to this war in which it is unclear even who the enemy is?
It is hard to say yes to any of these questions. From Baghdad to London to Madrid, terrorist attacks assault people’s minds. People all around the world still feel insecure, although the 9/11 attacks took place five years ago.
According to the Independent, a British newspaper, over the past five years 72,265 people have lost their lives in the “War on Terror.” Iraq Body Count, an international private project, estimates that 41,639 to 46,307 of these were Iraqi civilians. So far, 2,658 U.S. soldiers have died in Iraq. This figure is almost equal to the number of victims killed in the 9/11 attacks. How can one explain the paradox that a larger number of people are dying in the war on terror?
The United States swore that Iraq would be a good example of democratization in the Middle East, but the country is going into deeper and deeper trouble. Despite the $320 billion that Washington has poured into the country, conflicts between different religious denominations have been leading to civil war.
The United States is facing a dilemma. As the Taliban, which Washington thought it would suppress with ease, spreads its influence, Afghanistan is becoming the epicenter of terror and confusion. Osama bin laden is still elusive. Iran is still pursuing its nuclear ambitions, making a mockery of the United States.
What went wrong? How can we fix it? The United States needs to take a fresh start on the issue. President Bush recently used the expression “Islamic fascism.” To deepen hatred against Islam with inaccurate political rhetoric and to justify suppression against it are not the right ways to solve the problem. The distorted perception that Islam means fascism is extremism in reaction to extremism.
The United States should abandon its obsession with spreading democracy. It would be ideal to stop terror by spreading democracy and freedom. However, policies must be based on reality. Democracy is not like a tree from which you take a branch, plant it and watch it grow. A tree planted on dry land will soon wither. The planter must labor, watering and fertilizing it in order for democracy to take root.
Spreading democracy is not something that can be pushed forward. It takes time and patience. It requires good intentions. If a weak person holds out his hand, that is cowardice, but if a strong person does it, it is tolerant and brave.
It is folly to believe the United States will forever enjoy its status as the world’s greatest superpower. It is arrogant to believe it can do everything on its own. The current era requires coexistence and cooperation.
Nobody would laugh at the United States if it withdrew from Iraq. Nobody would criticize its irresponsibility and nobody would call it a defeat. To be able to step back when needed is bravery in the truest sense. Take a look at what happened in Vietnam.
If Washington approaches the nuclear issue through direct talks with Tehran, nobody would make a mockery of Washington. It is never too late. If it knows there is something wrong but sticks to its methods because it does not want to show its weak spots, that is cowardice. Tolerance is a virtue that only the strong are privileged to have.
The United States should drop its arrogant attitude and hold out its hand with good intentions in order to rescue the world from chaos. That is the fate of the United States in the 21st century and that is the right way to console the souls that are hovering over Ground Zero.
* The writer is an editorial writer and traveling correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Bae Myung-bok