Engineering and Public Policy

Attack and defense strategies are limited short-term responses. Given that there are 10,000 symbolic targets, largely indefensible, and a number of decentralized terrorist networks, these short-term strategies — while worth doing to some extent — can not be expected, by themselves, to produce an acceptable long-term solution.

These short-term strategies have the added risk of placing discretion in the hands of those (military, CIA, FBI) who to a large extent created the situation and who stand to profit from its escalation. As we provide such people with discretion over our resources and freedoms we should expect them to be what they are.

A colleague in the State Department, who taught politics at West Point for a few years, emphasized to me the divergence of State and Defense Department mentalities. The former, at its best, asks why, and move to create a positive win-win relationship with the main stream of the opponent's base.

Clinton gave a talk to a Jewish group in DC just after he left office. He spoke of two types of wounds. One should be left alone because it is healing. That is Northern Ireland — still difficult but healing. It is healing because the two sides have developed economic ties where each sees the success of the other as contributing to their success. The other type of wound needs intervention because it is not healing and could lead to catastrophic failure. That is the Israeli-Palestinian situation. Clinton pointed out that advancing technology made it unlikely that attack an defense strategies will succeed — for either side.

This latter type of wound is symbolic of the larger global situation that breeds terrorism.

The only realistic long-term strategy is to move to a new global socio-economic strategy, a new social contract between the developed and developing world. This is in everyone's interest. The wounds will — with difficulty — heal.

Without a convincing initiative along these lines the prospect is for the global stage to recapitulate the last forty years of the Israeli — Palestinian conflict — only at a more painful and destructive level.