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 You are in: Bureaus/Offices Reporting Directly to the Secretary > Policy Planning Staff > Releases > 2001

The Bush Administration's Response to September 11th -- and Beyond

Richard N. Haass, Director, Office of the Policy Planning Staff
Remarks to the Council of Foreign Relations
New York, NY
October 15, 2001

There is little need for me to recite once again to people who live in New York the events of September 11th and the destruction that occurred in the financial district downtown -- where fires still smolder and the grim task of clearing the wreckage of the World Trade Center continues day and night.  The images of that terrible day are seared in all our minds. The import of the terrorist attack was perhaps best captured in the simple, heartfelt eloquence of Mayor Giuliani in his address to the UN General Assembly.  "This was not just an attack on the City of New York or on the United States of America," he said.  "It was an attack on the very idea of a free, inclusive, and civil society."

The barbarous acts of September 11th shocked us all.  They reverberated around the world.  They were intended to do just that.  They were designed as a warning, in the most brutal terms, that those who wish us ill can visit death and destruction upon us and our institutions anywhere in the world.  We cannot live in a cocoon even if we want to.  We did not seek a fight with the terrorists; they came to us.

International terrorism exemplifies what can be called the dark side of globalization. 

In international terrorism, we face a true transnational threat.  Al-Qaida and its cousin terrorist networks have twisted the benefits and conveniences of our increasingly open, integrated, globalized world to serve their destructive agenda. 

Usama bin Laden is a man without a country.  His al-Qaida network is a multinational enterprise with operations in over 60 countries.  Its camps in Afghanistan and its bank accounts have been a veritable trust fund for terrorism.  Its global activities are coordinated by not only personal couriers but also by the communication technologies emblematic of our era -- cellular and satellite phones, encrypted email, internet chat rooms, videotape, and laser disks.  Like a skilled publicist, bin Laden knows how to exploit the international media to project his image worldwide.

 Members of al-Qaida travel from continent to continent with the ease of a vacationer or business traveler.  In an age marked by unprecedented mobility and immigration, they readily blend into communities wherever they move.  They pay their way with funds raised through front businesses, drug trafficking, credit card fraud, extortion, money laundered from covert supporters, and possibly even the manipulation of stock markets.  They use ostensibly charitable organizations for funding and recruitment.  Money for their operations is transferred surreptitiously through numerous banks and money exchanges around the world -- some legitimate and unwitting, others not.  And in their hands the airplanes that connect families and businesses became human guided missiles that snuff out thousands of innocent lives. 

These terrorists are also transnational in another, more fundamental way -- their victims.  Belgium, El Salvador, Germany, Greece, India, Italy, Japan, Pakistan, Russia, Switzerland, Turkey, and the United Kingdom all lost at least 70 citizens in the September 11th attacks.   Some 80 nations suffered casualties that one horrific day alone. 

There has been confusion in some quarters about the basic causes of al-Qaida's ongoing campaign of terror and about the stakes in our conflict with international terrorism.  Let me try to clear up this confusion because it is fundamental to how the Bush Administration is responding to this threat.

Al-Qaida is not fighting for Islam.  Its victims have included thousands of Muslims -- in Afghanistan, Kenya, Tanzania, and the U.S. -- as well as Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, and Jews.  Islamic scholars and leaders throughout the world have condemned Usama bin Laden's perversion of their faith to justify his crimes.  Last week, for example, the final statement of the Organization of Islamic Conference's meeting of foreign ministers "rejected any attempts that claim a link between pure Islam and the acts of terrorism."  We understand this.  President Bush and Secretaries Powell and Rumsfeld have repeatedly emphasized that Islam is not our enemy, nor are the people of Afghanistan.  In the past decade, we have fought to protect Muslims in Kuwait, Somalia, Bosnia, and Kosovo.  Even before September 11th, the United States was already the largest donor of humanitarian aid to the Afghan people.  Our current campaign against terrorism will help Muslims and Afghans as well as ourselves and others who desire to live in peace and security.

Al-Qaida is not fighting for the Palestinians.  Bin Laden's recent opportunistic attempt to drape himself in the Palestinian flag should fool no one.  He was never before committed to helping the Palestinian people find peace.  And even if he had been, his crimes could never find justification in the Palestinian cause or any other.  The Palestinian leadership does not welcome him.  As Yasir Abu-Rabbuh, the Palestinian Authority Minister of Information and Culture, explained last week, whatever may happen in the West Bank or Gaza, it "doesn't justify or give a cover for anybody to kill or terrorize civilians in Washington or New York or any other place."  

Al-Qaida is not fighting for the poor.  Usama bin Laden, his lieutenants, and many of those who conducted the terrorist attacks of September 11th certainly are not of the poor. They are educated, some at universities in the West.  They tend to come from the middle-class or, like bin Laden, from some of the world's wealthiest families.  They did not strike at America because they were deprived of life in the suburbs; indeed, some of them enjoyed such a lifestyle along with afternoons at the gym, rum and cokes by night, and trips to Las Vegas.  Moreover, al-Qaida has not focused its resources on alleviating the suffering of the poor masses.  Rather, it has spent millions of dollars in fueling hatred and spreading its web of destruction, mayhem, and murder in the Middle East, Central Asia, and around the world to further its quest for power.  If anyone doubts this, just ask one of the thousands of Kenyans or Tanzanians injured or maimed or left orphaned by the bombings of our embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam.

The causes of al-Qaida's terrorism won't be found in scriptures, the Palestinian cause, or poverty.  Instead, they are political and ideological.  We are attacked because of our political, economic, and military power and because we stand by our friends in the region, Israeli and Arab alike.  We are also targeted because of our ideals.

We should take Usama bin Laden, his minions, and their Taliban supporters at their word.  They seek to drive the United States out of the Middle East so that they can topple regimes throughout the region and destroy Israel; then they aspire to impose their rule.  They cannot abide the personal freedoms we take for granted -- freedom of speech, freedom of religion, even the freedom of women to be educated.  They want to make Afghanistan under the Taliban a model for the rest of the Islamic world and beyond.  They call for planes to fall from the sky and for innocents to be murdered because they believe such acts will advance their hateful, destructive ambitions. 

The threat posed by al-Qaida and other such terrorist networks is existential and their goals cannot be met by the traditional foreign policy means of negotiation or compromise.

Our response to this challenge, therefore, is two-fold.

In its first dimension, we are focusing our campaign against terrorism upon al-Qaida and its Taliban sponsors.  President Bush demanded that the Taliban regime turn over the leaders of al-Qaida and dismantle its terrorist network in Afghanistan.  The Taliban refused repeatedly.  Their intransigence is hardly surprising.  Long before September 11th, the international community had branded the Taliban an outlaw regime.  The Taliban have waged war on the people of Afghanistan and their neighbors, impoverished them, and denied them the most basic human rights.  And the Taliban have accepted substantial financial support from and proved themselves subservient to the ambitions of a foreign terrorist -- one who has been repudiated by his family and stripped of his citizenship by his native land.

The first dimension of our campaign, therefore, will root out the al-Qaida terrorists, punish those who aid them, and ensure that Afghanistan will no longer be a haven for terrorism.  Furthermore, we want to ensure that conditions inside Afghanistan do not generate millions of refugees in the future.  Again, our fight is not with the Afghan people but with the terrorists and their supporters.  We hope a government emerges in Afghanistan that both represents the interests of its people and does not threaten its neighbors.  This is the goal of our integrated operation of non-stop diplomacy and relentless military strikes.  And that is why we have begun marshaling international humanitarian aid and working with our partners to develop strategies to assist the Afghan people rebuild their society so that it never again becomes a sanctuary for the likes of Usama bin Laden.  We cannot yet say when this first set of operations will end.  But it will.  And it will be a success.

However, as President Bush has stressed from the beginning, "Our war on terror begins with al-Qaida, but it does not end there."  We cannot become fixated on one person or organization.  The threat is not just Usama bin Laden or al-Qaida.  It is much broader and we will still confront it even after we have completed our operations in Afghanistan.  This means that the scale and scope of the campaign against terrorism will change.  In addition to the al-Qaida-Afghanistan dimension, we will direct our efforts at other terrorist groups with global reach -- as well as their supporters wherever and whoever they may be.  We have already begun.  For instance, our attack on terrorists' financing has not been limited to al-Qaida alone. The second dimension of the campaign will last for years or even decades.

We must therefore begin creating the machinery to fight, in President Bush's words, "terrorism in general."  We must work to establish the frameworks for cooperation that will make us and our partners less vulnerable to terrorism in the future and better able to fight it when it does appear.  We must be prepared to use the full range of tools of statecraft -- from law enforcement and diplomacy to intelligence and military operations -- now and in the future.  The challenge of terrorism is not transitory.  Neither can be our response.

We have demonstrated that we will act alone when necessary.  Our right to self-defense is unquestioned.

But we recognize that despite our immense power, we will not be able to achieve our objectives -- ending the threat from those responsible for the September 11th attacks and those who aided and abetted them, destroying root and branch al-Qaida's global network, crushing other terrorist organizations with global reach, and keeping in check future terrorist threats.  We won't be able to do all that without the help of others.

The terrorist threat is global.  It demands a global response.

And the campaign against terrorism must be multidimensional.  It will be waged on many fronts -- diplomatic, military, intelligence, legal, economic, technological.

That's why forging a worldwide coalition to combat terrorism is critical.  Quite simply, in such a broad, global effort, we will need lots of help.  Coalition-building is not an end in itself, but it is a necessary means to our ends. 

American leadership will be critical.  In building this coalition, we have shown clarity of purpose and firm resolution combined with an appreciation of others' interests.

We are trying to forge a coalition that will be as broad as possible.   As the President has said: "If you want to join the coalition against terror, we'll welcome you in."

This means that we are open to discussions with countries that have had, shall we say, a checkered past when it comes to support for terrorism.  For instance, President Bush explicitly acknowledged in his news conference last Thursday night that we have been talking with the Syrians, despite some of their past conduct, about how they can help in the campaign.  As he said, "We take that seriously and we'll give them an opportunity to do so."

The President's bottom line is simple: he's "more interested in action and results."

We do not expect every country to make the same contribution to the coalition.  Differences in capabilities, location, foreign policy outlook, and domestic concerns make this impracticable.  Great Britain and Greece, for example, can't offer the same kind of support.   And the coalition will be dynamic and flexible.  It will evolve as the campaign progresses and the fronts change. 

Again, no single tool will define our approach, as President Bush and Secretaries Powell and Rumsfeld have all stressed.  Different tools will be used at different times as this sustained campaign progresses in the months and years ahead.

We are using all the tools of statecraft in an integrated manner for maximum impact.  The campaign began with intelligence and law enforcement cooperation; information was shared and suspects interrogated in the United States and abroad.  We moved to choke off the financial lifeblood of terrorist networks.  At the same time, we advanced on the diplomatic front, forging a robust, broad-based international coalition, opening lines of communications with the Afghan opposition to the Taliban, and laying the foundations for our military response by securing basing and overflight rights around the world.  Eight days ago our military began striking al-Qaida and the forces of the Taliban inside Afghanistan in conjunction with a redoubling of our humanitarian assistance to the beleaguered Afghan people.

We are now engaged in -- in President Bush's words -- a "different kind of war.  It's not the kind of war that we're used to in America."  So our traditional language of "war" -- and the images, metaphors, and memories it conjures up from a previous era -- does not fully capture the challenge posed by international terrorism.  A decisive, permanent "victory" over international terrorism is unlikely.  The language of war might lead some to unrealistic expectations and sow the seeds of later frustration.  Moreover, it implies that we will use primarily military means to confront this challenge when other tools of statecraft will sometimes predominate.

Another way of looking at the challenge is to view international terrorism as analogous to a terrible, lethal virus.  Terrorism lives as part of the environment.  Sometimes dormant, sometimes virulent, it is always present in some form.  Like a virus, international terrorism respects no boundaries -- moving from country to country, exploiting globalized commerce and communication to spread.   It can be particularly malevolent when it can find a supportive host.  We therefore need to take appropriate prophylactic measures at home and abroad to prevent terrorism from multiplying and check it from infecting our societies or damaging our lives.  We need, for instance, better border control regimes and improved international counterterrorism cooperation across the board.  We also need to make sure that the virus does not mutate into something even more deadly through the acquisition of nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons of mass destruction.

The challenge of terrorism is thus akin to fighting a virus in that we can accomplish a great deal but not eradicate the problem.   We can take steps to prevent it, protect ourselves from it, and, when an outbreak occurs, quarantine it, minimize the damage it inflicts, and attack it with all our power.  Therefore, the ultimate goal of our campaign is progress through the steady accumulation of individual successes.  Patience and persistence will be the watchwords for this campaign.

American leadership will be key.  As the campaign progresses, we will work with our coalition partners to develop long-term strategies and mechanisms to address the terrorist threat in all its forms.  Our approach will be comprehensive.  We will use all the tools in our tool kit.  And we will tailor our response to the diverse challenges that we will face in this sustained and shifting multidimensional campaign.  Our goal is to foster a world where terrorists find it hard to ply their trade and where people can lead their lives in peace, without inordinate fear. 

We are working with our allies to ensure the alliances forged in the past century continue to be relevant and powerful in this one.  Witness NATO's unprecedented invocation of Article 5 of its Treaty, Australia's invocation of Article 4 of the ANZUS Treaty, and our Western Hemisphere allies' invocation of the Rio Treaty.  And witness our allies' active support of the military operations now underway in Afghanistan.

We are also working to integrate countries like Russia, China, India, and Japan, as well as the European Union, into the international campaign against terrorism.  Similarly, we are seizing this opportunity to recast our relations with Pakistan and other frontline states in this campaign.  Together, these efforts are helping to redefine key relationships in terms suited to this post-Cold War, global era.

We will strive to integrate the world in such a way as to protect our interests and ensure that the values we believe in are embraced as standards, not exceptions.  And by integrating new partners -- countries like Russia, China, and India -- into a shared international order, we will expand the reach of practices and institutions that both uphold our values and interests and, at the same time, protect against those actors and forces that threaten our peace and prosperity.

Stepping back from the challenges immediately before us, we see how the campaign against terrorism provides a model for U.S. foreign policy in this new century.  American will continue to lead.  But no matter how much we may want to solve all the problems we face entirely by ourselves, we cannot single handedly triumph over enduring, transnational challenges like international terrorism.  We will, therefore, forge coalitions to respond to such transnational challenges.  We will seek to bring new partners into our efforts to create a better future. "Results," President Bush has stressed, are what matter.  Countries' and organizations' willingness to work with us in the future -- not the animosities of the past -- will guide our efforts.  And just as the challenges we face will not be surmounted quickly, we will build structures of cooperation that will last for the long haul. 

I have, therefore, one final thought I want to leave you with.  Counterterrorism is our top priority -- but it cannot be our only priority.  We simply don't have the luxury of ignoring important parts of our foreign policy agenda.  So even as we confront the challenges ahead, we cannot lose sight of the opportunities of this era.  We must use the cooperation against the threat of international terrorism to find common ground on how to respond to a host of other bilateral and transnational challenges and opportunities, such as developing a strategic framework that transcends the legacies of the Cold War, stemming the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, fighting infectious diseases like HIV/AIDS, and promoting world trade.  We also now have real prospects for making meaningful progress in ameliorating tensions between regional rivals in South Asia and the Middle East.

As President Bush said during his recent visit to the State Department, "In our grief and in our sadness, I see an opportunity to make the world a better place for generations to come.  And we will seize the opportunity."

Thank you.

Released on October 23, 2001

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