A first-ever Elliott School town hall meeting among professors Tuesday addressed responses to terrorism and warned against adopting past mistakes of U.S. foreign policy.
The meeting, titled “Terrorism: The Challenge and Our Response,” drew 90 people to listen to the six Elliott School of International Affairs professors in Lisner Auditorium. Each panelist presented a lecture on the cultural, psychological, diplomatic, economic and security aspects of a new era of terrorism.
Audience members asked panel members questions, turning the discussion to an inability of Americans to understand why such attacks took place.
ESIA Dean Harry Harding, a professor of political science and international affairs, said the question perplexing Americans is: “How could they do this to us when we mean so well?”
“There is a very powerful national myth – the idea that America means well. Do good, and the world appreciates us for it,” Harding said as the audience erupted in laughter.
Ambassador Karl F. Inderfurth, a Raymond and Juliet Bland professorial lecturer in international affairs, said although military strikes or economic sanctions are instituted, America continues to provide humanitarian aid worth millions of dollars to countries in need. Before the Sept. 11 attacks, the United States was the largest contributor of humanitarian aid to Afghanistan, Inderfurth said.
Inderfurth said it is important for the United States not to make the same mistake twice in Afghanistan.
“In 1989, when the Soviets left Afghanistan, so did the international community. We cannot make the same mistake again,” he said.
Inderfurth commented on the creation and sustenance of coalitions that focused on military, diplomatic, humanitarian and terrorist efforts.
“Patience was shown following the attacks and it needs to be shown in the weeks following,” Inderfurth said. “Even though there will be most certainly civilian casualties, it is important to see the Afghani people as allies.”
Both William Wise, a professorial lecturer for the Elliott School, and Inderfurth stressed that diplomatic means and mutual cooperation between countries are the only ways to prevent future terrorism.
Inderfurth said the military action was against the Taliban and not the Afghan people. There are attempts to reinstate the rule of King Zahir Shah, the last king of Afghanistan, he said.
Jerrold Post, a professor of political psychology, addressed the psychological reasons a person would commit an act of terrorism.
Post said terrorists categorized their actions not as weakness but martyrdom in the name of Allah. He said the Fatwa declared on the United States by Osama bin Laden in 1998 tried to impose itself as a moral obligation and duty upon Muslims.
“There are no moral red lines in jihad,” Post said, of the holy war some Muslims believe they must fight.
Wise called for a two-pronged strategy of short- and long-term effects.
Wise recommended the immediate securing of U.S. harbors and ports through “heightened law enforcement tools to do the job, while still preserving our civil liberties.”
“Military force alone is not enough for this problem,” Wise said. “This initial phrase is designed to gain supremacy of Afghanistan to allow the U.S. to perform other tasks such as intelligence operations.”
Supremacy in Afghanistan would also allow the people of the country to dissent under the Taliban, he said.