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Does the Bush administration have a choice? 18/9/01
I am joined now from New York by
Tony Judt of New York University,
who was an eye witness to one of the
attacks on the World Trade Center,
and here in the studio by Max Hastings,
the editor of the Evening Standard and
military historian and Terry Waite,
former Archbishop of Canterbury's special
envoy who spent the best part of five
years in captivity. Tony Judt, we are a
week on. President Bush appears to
be deliberating. Many people have
been calling for instant action. Do you
get any sense at all that anything of an
alternative to military action is being
No. I don't think so and I think you can
see behind me, I am sitting in Times
Square, a very large flag. It is one of
thousands draped all over the city and
this was by no means the most gung ho,
patriotic city in the States. It would be
hard for the President, after all he's said
in the last week, now to go on television
and say to people, "actually, we have found
a different way of deal with this." I don't
mean there wouldn't be people in the
country who wouldn't like that, but I think
he would find it politically very difficult
There is a contradiction at the heart of
the American position, isn't there? They
need to gather evidence to secure the
support of other members of the coalition,
while you say American public opinion
is demanding action whatever?
Yes. There are two problems. One is that
around the rest of the world, and you are
better placed to know than I am sitting here
in New York, there is still a degree of
scepticism about this particular American
Government's capacity to build a convincing
and enduring coalition, given the stance
it took over the past few months precisely
on questions of international alliances,
coalitions and so on. But domestically, it
is exactly the reverse problem - Bush has
to convince a large section of the American
population that he need hang around, as
it were, for the rest of the world before
doing something. How he balances that may
have something to do with the relative weight
of the advice he's getting from different people
within the government, which I think is
I spoke to a friend of mine this morning,
whose judgement on all things military
I admire and respect, and he said he was in
a very gloomy frame of mind because at
the time of the Gulf War he'd felt that what
the United States and the allies should and
could do, whereas now he finds it difficult
to see the way ahead. I would suspect that
the advice that President Bush is receiving
today is that he'd better be clear in his mind
that almost any credible form of direct
military action is unlikely to have great
immediate effect on terrorism. What it is
going to amount to is a military demonstration
by the United States, which I am one of
those who still believe is essential and that
the American public will accept nothing less.
What I am sure that we are all vigorously,
passionately hoping is that the United
States stages a military demonstration which
does not cost a lot of innocent civilian lives
and does not create a whole new generation
of Muslim martyrs.
Terry Waite, is there any alternative to what
Max Hastings calls a demonstration?
Yes. I think a military demonstration is a
disastrous policy. First of all you have to
make a very careful analysis of the situation -
recognise that terrorism is symptomatic of a
much deeper disorder, that that deeper
disorder lies in Islamic communities who
have banded together around Islam for
solidarity. Islam then becomes hijacked by
these terrorists. The way to deal with the
problem is in fact to form such an alliance
with the Islamic communities that they
themselves deal with the terrorists, and they
will. If you begin to attack them in a military
way, you will in fact provide more terrorist...
Where has this strategy worked?
I don't think it has been applied. I don't think
there's been sufficient political will. I think
we have seen the United States increasingly
withdraw, as we have just heard from Mark
there, withdrawing into that insular position,
withdrawing from international agreements
and treaties and saying "we are the controllers."
That is deeply, deeply resented across the
Islamic world, across the Third World.
Max Hastings, you are shaking your head.
I can't accept anything Terry Waite has said.
Of course it's true, we all know about the
degree of resentment, but intelligence people
have been warning for years now, even for
decades, that we are going to be faced with
a new world in the 21st century in which rogue
states, as well as terrorist groups, are going
to be in possession of weapons of mass
destruction and are going to be weighing very
carefully the charms of using them against
the West. I don't doubt anything you say
about the degree of resentment. I think at the
moment that while the military dilemma is very
acute for the United States, the practical difficulties
are very large. The worst possible signal will be
sent out to rogue states and to terrorist groups
if the United States is obliged to say, because it
is difficult to do something we will therefore
do nothing. Some message has got to be sent,
not only for the sake of the American people
but a message has got to be sent to Iraq, to
North Korea, to Libya, to all the other states
which we know have been sponsoring terrorism
for many years.
One of the reasons you might argue that Libya
has sponsored terrorism, that Gaddafi has sponsored
terrorism, in the past is precisely because he
was isolated and excluded. He was not included.
There was deliberate policy to isolate him. I am
not suggesting for one moment that Gaddafi is
an easy man, a straightforward man to deal
Tony Judt, I want to just bring you back in here
because there is a contradiction, isn't there, in
the way that the Americans look at the desire
to form international alliances at times of crisis
like this and the way they behave towards
international treaties at other times?
Let me explain it if I can, in these terms.
Americans - I speak as someone who is not an
American but has lived now here for 16 years -
Americans think in terms of international
politics, if you put it in terms of a game, as
poker. You get involved in a particular game,
you play your hand as well as you can, you
try to guess what the other guy's hand is, you
then at the end show your cards - whoever wins,
wins and you get up and walk away with your
winnings. Whereas I think much of the rest
of the world, in particular precisely the people
we are talking about now, think in terms, if
you like, of chess - it is a game which goes
on a very long time. It is not immediately
obvious at which point you're on the way
to winning and it may not even be clear that
the game is about winning as the only
possible outcome. There is a huge gap in
understanding between the American and the
rest of the world's way of thinking about
international relations, not merely about fighting
a particular war. The default position, as it
were, the standard position in the States is,
"if we have to do it, whatever the 'it' is, we
go in, we do it, we get out and we go back to
where we were before". I don't think that is
going to change overnight, even with what
has just happened. I worry that of all the
administrations which might have been able
to lead the American people and the American
political culture away from that way of thinking
about dealing with the world, this is the least
You see, Max Hastings, it is a very selective
interpretation of what constitutes terrorism,
As we all know, we've not much heard from
the United States when Britain was suffering
at the hands of the IRA.
We posted the sort of wanted poster for Gerry
Adams in his murdering days - that has now
been posted in the United States for Bin Laden
well the Americans would have been very
distressed. Two points. One - I do think that
everybody from President Bush downwards
has been using the word "war" very ill-advisedly.
This is not a war situation, this is a rather different
problem. It is an enormously complex and
different problem which is about policing,
and to suggest war has not been helpful to
this debate. The second point, that I do think
is fundamental - it seemed a huge mistake to
regard what has happened to the World Trade
Center as a one-off, never to be repeated. I
believe those of us who have argued first that
weapons of mass destruction are going to be
the great problem of the 21st century and second
that terrorism is going to be much more of a
problem than war between states. We have to
consider how we respond, in light of the fact
that the terrorist threat in the years ahead is going
to be very great. The threat of this happening
again is great and we have to think how best
we can prevent this from happening again.
Don't you accept Terry Waite's argument that
you can't begin to address this question
without addressing the initial grievances.
I entirely agree.
and certainly involves addressing the whole
question of the relationship with Israel, for example?
We all have to be utterly aware of the depth
of cultural resentment. I've always been a
great admirer of that book published a few
years ago, The Wealth And Poverty Of Nations,
which helps to explain an awful lot about the
deep cultural resentments in the Middle East
and so on. So all that, I don't disagree with
Terry Waite. What I do disagree with him
about is that I believe that inaction by the
West at this stage will be interpreted as
weakness by a great many undoubtedly evil
and potentially dangerous people.
I am not talking about inaction. I am talking
about not using that type of violent action,
but forming an alliance, a relationship, with
nations and bringing them on your side, so to
speak, so that they themselves will marginalise
the terrorists. The only way to deal with
terrorists is to marginalise them. If you do
not do that, they are protected by the countries
from which they spring.
What kind of relationship could America have
with the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, for example?
I have to say, that is a particular acute, difficult
problem, I agree with that.
Well, it's the one at the moment.
It is at the moment, indeed.
Let's look at this question. Let's accept the
language at face value. If this is a war against
terrorism, Tony Judt, how do we judge when
the war has been won?
Like Max Hastings, I take the view this¿
It is a big mistake to think of it as a war.
The language is moving around over here at
the moment. The last reference a day or two
ago was to a crusade, which is an astonishingly
mistaken and dangerous way of talking about
this. But it is clearly not a war because a war
presumes not only a visible and reachable
enemy target but some final goal - you beat him or
if you lose, he beats you. But there is no one out
there who's going to beat you. This is not a war
with an end. Therefore it's not a war in the
first place. This is part of the danger of the
American way of approaching this kind of
international crisis. It can only mobilise people
here, or the Government feels it can only
mobilise people here, if it calls it a war.
Max Hastings, very quickly, last word?
I entirely agree with what Tony Judt has said.
I think we've got to see this as a long-term
problem of international order in which there's
going to be a military ingredient. But where
I do agree with Terry Waite is that the
military ingredient has to go hand in hand
with diplomatic and cultural advances.
Thank you all very much.