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Terrorist Attack on US: Turning-Point in Post-Cold War Pattern

The event of terrorists launching an unprecedented attack on the United States is attracting the attention of the world's people and has aroused their deep thinking.

The impact and influence caused by such massive attack are also unheard of before. This is not much different from launching a surprise attack on a hostile country and even an open declaration of war, the only difference is that the time taken by the assault was very short and there was no smoke of gunpowder as on the battlefield.

However, after the terrorists succeeded in their plot, the resultant effect was equal to completely mobilizing the US security and defense institutions and arousing the citizens of New York City, so it makes not much difference from coping with a war.

It has also caused corresponding reaction in other countries of the world, whether in political, military or financial fields. It can be said that the incident can be equated to a surprise war broken out at peacetime, it will also exert great influence on the post-Cold War political and strategic thought. Let's discuss the matter in the following aspects.

Escalation of Cultural Conflict of Power Politics

The handful of terrorists, after making careful and thorough planning, had been able, by a hijacking method, to launch so powerful attack on such a developed country as the United States, this has elevated terrorist activities to a new realm. In the past, terrorists threatened that they would carry out some sort of attack, but most people took a laissez-faire attitude toward them, but now it seems it is not exaggerate to say that such a terrorist move does suffice to bring about a disastrous consequence.

As far as the United States is concerned, in concept, it really did not take the terrorist threat lightly, scholar Samuel P. Huntington put forward his viewpoint as early as 1993, when he said: The world does not unavoidably embrace the Western concept of value as predicted after the West gained victory in the Cold War, on the contrary, the world is marching step by step toward the conflicts of various cultures. His idea about cultural conflict has become the cornerstone of the polices taken by the US government in recent years in dealing with the forces outside the Western world. On the strength of its economic and military superiority, the United States is rigidly pushing through Western cultures and values worldwide. Such cultural invasion built on the basis of power politics has gradually aggravated the contradictions between different cultures, while the most effective counter-attacking means adopted by weak cultural groups is terrorist attack.

In .its actions, the United States has also done much precaution work against terrorist activities, for this reason, the United States is willing to enter into cooperation and to make exchange of benefits on this matter with many countries, it has even tried to get into contact with certain countries it designated as "rogues" with the aim of containing terrorist activities.

After the occurrence of the incident, terrorist activities have become more clearly as the common enemies of the international community. Only when various countries strengthen cooperation among them, is it possible to more effectively stop such inhuman acts. As the victim of the incident, the United States inevitably finds it necessary to take the initiative to seek cooperation between nations. The emergence of this new factor will spur the United States and its traditionally alien countries to increase understandings and reduce frictions.

War Without Boundary

The event of attack shows that the war launched by terrorists has no boundaries. The surprise attack conducted by an unimaginable method and from an unimaginable direction by means of taking the destination by surprise, setting the few against the many and making a feint to the east but attacking in the east is even more difficult to cope with than the guerrilla war then facing the United States in Vietnam. The present incident proves that the precaution measures taken by the United States against terrorist activities are apparently far from enough, and its cooperation with other countries is merely formalistic. As we see it now, it is necessary for the United States and various other countries in the world to cope with such terrorist activities from a higher level, with more pragmatic and more effective tactics and through extensive and close cooperation, they also need to constantly improve their technique, particularly in metropolitan downtown areas, they should also make careful and thorough arrangements for coping with the incident before and after its occurrence.

The present incident has also brought up another problem: Out of his strategic needs, President Bush has spared no efforts to push his national missile defense (NMD) system since he took office. This defense thinking of the United States typically reflects the mindset of the Americans since the Vietnam War, that is, no matter what chaos of war may arise, it must not come at the price of the lives of the Americans, the conception of its NMD is to limit its external war outside the territory of the United States or in the outer space and thus it will not cause casualties to the Americans, this is precisely to seek a strategic conception that fits in with the above-mentioned principles. With the US powerful military, economic, scientific and technological strengths, it can be said that conditions are available to work out such a plan. However, the occurrence of the present incident has proved that the NMD completely cannot be put into use, the incident, which occurred within the United States, has no difference from war, because it suffice to cause the death of thousands of Americans.

NMD Cannot Cope with Terrorist Activities

Then, after fire broke out in its backyard, should the United States continue to defy world opinion and obstinately cling to its plan to develop its NMD? Or should it immediately take remedial measures to plug up various loopholes to be exploited for terrorist activities?

Obviously, NMD definitely cannot cope with terrorist activities, only there is absolutely no contradiction between the two, people can't expect that the United States will therefore give up its plan for the development of NMD. However, the occurrence of the present incident is bound to compel the US government to devote part of its effort to study ways to cope with the terrorist activities which are impossible to guard against, this will make it impossible for the United States to devote all its energy to developing NMD and to continuing its overbearing attitude toward other countries, this will play a role favorable to the international situation.

In addition, such serious terrorist activities are bound to spur the US government to adopt even more severe measures in the future to nip such activities in the bud, for instance, changing the past loose mechanisms in the aspects such as administration, rule of law and examination, and institute a more strict control system, it will take relentless measures against terrorists at home and abroad, such change may bring reproach from human right elements. To some extent, this will exert some influence on the American diplomatic policy, known as "human rights stand above sovereignty", adopted by the United States in recent years.

US Has Clearly Defined Adversaries

Since the conclusion of the Cold War, the powerful United States has all along been seeking its potential opponents, however, the opponents it has found, such as China and Russia, are all specious, which is entirely different from the situation prevailing during the Cold War period when the United States and the Soviet Union were diametrically opposed to each other, this has resulted in the consistent vacillation of US diplomatic policy. The present incident of terrorist attack clearly shows that terrorist activity is the current serious threat to American and international security, the United States should put it in the first place and handle it as an urgent task. In the past, the United States had all along been looking for imaginary enemies, this was really a spurious act, the United States should now do some practical things. With this clearly defined adversary, and when the United States put anti-terrorist activity in the priority position, it will naturally reduce its deeply concerned foreign threat and will thus ease its relations with China, Russia and some other countries.

To deal specifically with the incident, US President Bush indicates that the foundation of the United States has not been shaken. What he has said is really to the point. This time the terrorists finally succeeded in their evildoing which caused serious casualties and property losses, for sometime the United States was at a loss what to do, however, viewed from whatever aspect, the foundation of the United States indeed has not been shaken, to put it in vivid words, the United States only feels pain but is not injured. On the contrary, this incident has offered the Americans an opportunity for drill-a moment that displays cohesion. Considered from the angle of international diplomacy, even if there are changes in US future tactics and methods, that will by no means be an expression of the weakening of its strength.

(This commentary, written by Fang Siyong, is published on Page 2 of South China News, an affiliate of People's Daily, on September 14. )

(People's Daily 09/17/2001)

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