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US will fail in bid to go it alone
Yang HongxiChina Daily  Updated: 2004-09-18 09:52

It has been three years since the Pentagon was slammed into and the World Trade Centre Twin Towers collapsed. Under the unilateral anti-terrorism strategy, the United States has become deeply bogged down in the quagmire of the Iraq War.

The War on Terror impasse has resulted in many harsh accusations of policy mismanagement among the Bush Administration.

The neocon faction in this administration has decided to choose an aggressive rather than diplomatic approach to its foreign affairs in dealing with a series of further setbacks in its war.

If the Democratic candidate John Kerry can kick George W. Bush out of the White House in the forthcoming general election, it is likely that the new administration will re-shape its anti-terrorism strategy.

But if Bush gets a second term, the prospect of US anti-terrorism efforts is far from optimistic. Judging by the Republican National Convention and the 2004 Republican Party Platform, neo-conservatism still has overwhelming influence over the Republican Party of the United States.

Fortunately, international society in the aftermath of September 11 has had to become increasingly committed to a policy of multilateralism when it comes to anti-terrorism.

In recent years, important international organizations such as APEC and the EU have held ad hoc meetings to discuss the issue and released anti-terrorism statements. Counter-terrorism exercises have also been launched on a frequent basis around the globe.

But despite several years' efforts to eliminate the threat, it has grown rather than decreased.

Iraq has become a hotbed of killings and terror. The Taliban and al-Qaida still make their killings. Africa has come darker under the shadow of terror, while Southeast Aisa has seen its share of terrorist bombings.

There have also emerged some worrying new trends. Not content with traditional killing methods, terrorists are making links with transnational crime organizations. It all just makes the campaign against them much harder.

The world, in summary, is no safer than it was before the New York and Washington attacks.

This is why lessons learned by countries who have experienced prolonged onslaughts of these terrible acts should be spread around the global community.

First the world needs to learn why it has come about.

Its objective is to induce fear in target audiences that transcends the physical harm caused to immediate victims. In fact terrorism is not new, and was widely employed in ancient times. But modern terrorism has unique characteristics.

Political repression, religious persecution, racial discrimination and poverty all ferment terrorism.

Domestic reforms aimed at social justice and international efforts to narrow the income disparities between nations are steps that can soothe a troubled people.

The legacies of colonialism and imperialism - territorial disputes, ethnic conflicts and religious quarrels - are often the seedbed of modern terrorism.

Since World War II, the United States has taken it upon itself to police the world, which inevitably means that America has to choose one side to support in economic, political or military conflicts in other lands. In the eyes of the other side, the US naturally constitutes the enemy.

In the aftermath of the attacks - which were terrible - the Bush administration has adopted a tit-for-tat strategy which has unfortunately perpetuated rather than stemmed the tide of violence.

At the same time, a lack of international co-operation has overstretched US forces. It is time for America to reflect on its anti-terror policy.

There is no clear-cut solution. Terrorism is invisible until it strikes. It has no shape or tangibility.

But the anti-terror campaign could at least move in the right direction.

A pure use of force will not help dig up the roots of terrorism.

For the sake of multilateral harmony, the United Nations, rather than a single country, should wield the ultimate authority and play the dominant role.

The era when the United States dominates anti-terrorism policy decisions for the international society should be brought to a close.

There were in fact organizations set up after September 11 to deal with terrorism, under the auspices of the United Nations.

But the US-led coalition waged its war on Iraq were both carried out without the UN's sanctions, leaving the US to "go it alone."

This simply showed how little credibility the UN had.

There has aroused a tension between the US and its former European partners, France and Germany, as to how far the UN role should go.

Although the United States is beginning to cede the United Nations some authority on the issue of nation-building in Iraq, the US shift in attitudes towards the United Nations is tactical more than strategic.

In other words, the US mentality of self-preservation, absolute sovereignty and freedom of action at the expense of the marginalization of the United Nations will not change meaningfully.

The UN's role must be strengthened and greater collaboration forged between all nations in politics, economics, the law and technology.

Only in these circumstances can a way of winning the cause be found. A unilateral approach cannot work for long because of the high cost of "going it alone."

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