Overview: Rethinking Global Security After the London Bombings on 7 July
Dr. Roger Weissinger-Baylon
Director, Center for Strategic Decision Research
The London bombings of July 7 and 21 were harsh reminders that international terrorism (and potentially hyper-terrorism involving WMDs) together with ongoing insurgencies in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere continue to threaten our societies, economies, and ways of life. In order to fight terrorism and insurgencies at a distance from traditional areas of operation, countries are transforming their own militaries, the NATO Alliance, and the EU’s military dimension. They are improving capabilities for expeditionary warfare, with precision-guided munitions (to reduce civilian casualties), logistical capabilities, and network-centric operations, and joining in the development of an Allied Ground Surveillance system (AGS). It is equally important, however, to attack widespread poverty and other root causes of the various threats, break the patterns established in the Balkans and elsewhere of international interventions that leave societies dominated by international crime (operating in partnership with terrorism), and deal with serious and often unpredictable threats ranging from tsunamis, Darfur, or famine in Niger to global warming (a contributing factor in Hurricane Katrina). Yet these later priorities are only beginning to receive adequate attention.
In the face of such challenges, none of the principal actors (U.S., EU, NATO, or the UN) possesses by itself the courage and political, economic, and other resources to respond adequately. The U.S. has been weakened by the costs of its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, its growing budget deficit, its trade imbalance, and probably Hurricane Katrina; Europe by its too-modest defense budgets, failed constitutional referendums, and internal divisions; and NATO by U.S. dominance of the organization and the resulting decrease of the Alliance’s role as the main avenue for dialogue between the U.S. and Europe. Especially since the London bombings, there is a growing sentiment that the Iraq War is contributing to the terrorist risk rather than reducing it. At the same time, heavy casualties in Iraq are also making the war there increasingly unpopular. As a result, political leaders must either begin to withdraw (leaving a highly unstable situation that could spread more widely in the Middle East or even to Europe or North America), or keep forces in Iraq (with continued high casualties that will contribute to the war’s increasing unpopularity). There is probably no escape from the dilemma that does not involve enhanced international cooperation and, especially, a major effort to address poverty and misery in the world.
THREATS TO GLOBAL SECURITY AND THE WORLD ECONOMY
After the end of the Cold War, the spread of democracy and free markets promised advances in global prosperity, a broader and more equitable sharing of the benefits of development, and an end to the violent conflicts between superpowers. The future of the globe looked bright. But while it is true that whole nations—Brazil, India, perhaps China—now see a real chance to escape from the misery of poverty, Russians soon learned a painful lesson: Their newly-acquired freedom could not protect them from a precipitous decline in living standards. Recently, Americans also began to see that their growing national income and much-envied prosperity could not prevent increasing numbers of their fellow citizens from falling into poverty. As French Defense Minister Michèle Alliot-Marie has pointed out, the “success” of globalization (“mondialisation heureuse”) has brought us a world that is “fragmented, divided, torn apart” and in which many of her countrymen feel that “their nation is falling to pieces.”
Spreading Threats to Global Security
One of Minister Alliot-Marie’s gravest concerns is the spread of international terrorism that can “potentially hit each and every one of us.” She opened a panel of NATO Defense Ministers at this year’s International Workshop on Global Security with this warning:
The risks of crises in Africa, in the Middle East, and in Southeast Asia are growing. These continents or subcontinents are likely to drive peoples to flee and emigrate to other countries by tens of thousands or even millions. We may be affected in our ways of life. These crises may also have a major impact on the world economy. (Defense Minister Michèle Alliot-Marie)
Minister Alliot-Marie’s British colleague, Defence Secretary Dr. John Reid, agreed that some threats have the potential to “trigger a series of economic effects which are felt throughout the world.”
On the same panel, Canadian Defense Minister Bill Graham foresaw an even broader array of challenges ranging from global terrorism, proliferation of WMDs, and cyber attacks, to refugee flows, environmental disasters and the spread of AIDS or other diseases. Calling failed and failing states “an insult to our values,” he warned:
They are the birthplace of threats to regional and global security, notably in causing refugee movements that weaken the stability of their neighbors and in creating new political problems for their regions…It is even more disturbing that the weakness of their government structures can make them fertile terrains or refuges for terrorism and organized crime. (Defense Minister Bill Graham)
Dangers Arising from Poverty, Inequality, and Injustice
Such terrorism does not typically arise in a vacuum—it develops under very particular and extreme circumstances: In addressing the International Workshop on Global Security, Slovenian Defense Minister Karl Erjevec saw the roots of terrorism in “the frustrations of poverty of a large part of the world’s population,” and Slovakian Defense Minister Juraj Liska warned that fighting terrorism requires “eliminating its roots and resources”—which means addressing “legality, justice, prosperity, wealth, and freedom.” According to French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy:
…when a human being has no hope left, he is vulnerable to messages of hatred and intolerance. He sees that the great democracies promote all day long the advantages of human values….without that changing anything whatsoever concerning his own destiny. He concludes that liberty, equality, and fraternity are not for him. (Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy)
Other senior world leaders are increasingly accepting such views: In a paper read on his behalf at the Munich security conference, German Federal Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said that “poverty and underdevelopment pose no less a threat” than WMDs or failing states; Prime Minister Tony Blair—at both the G8 Summit in Scotland and during the British EU Presidency—pushed for more international efforts to address poverty and underdevelopment; and, at the recent UN Summit, U.S. President George W. Bush proclaimed that “despair and resentment” create vulnerability “to violent and aggressive ideologies” that can “threaten the security of any peaceful country.”
Risks of Terrorism and International Crime
According to Minister Graham of Canada, poor or war-torn societies must frequently deal with an additional burden: International criminality. Slovenia’s Minister Erjavec has warned of “organized crime, drug production and trafficking, economic criminality, and…trafficking in human beings and human organs,” which Bulgarian Defense Minister Nikolay Svinarov has described as a “well planned marriage” between international terrorism and organized crime. Afghanistan’s warlords and drug traffickers, according to Minister Alliot-Marie, are “united by their shared hostility to any reconstitution of the state” which would be against their interests. In Columbia, there are similar alliances to block the creation of an effective government. In Kosovo, politico-criminal interests employ a “strategy of tension” that forces NATO and the EU to consume so much energy in putting out fires that they are frustrated in the mandate to organize a democratic transition.
Perhaps Afghanistan best illustrates the challenge. General Gerhard Back, whose role as Joint Force Commander Brunssum gives him responsibility for NATO forces in that country, reports that the security threats now are “illegal armed groups, criminality and the all-pervading narcotics trade.” Afghanistan is the world’s largest producer of opium, which represents more than half of the country’s national income. Since opium pays for almost everything—from rebuilding Kabul to financing arms and terrorism—it is difficult to fight drug-related criminality there without harming the country. General Back has given a crystal clear description of this dilemma:
A key problem is achieving the right balance between eradication, interdiction and economic alternatives. It is critical that we develop alternative livelihoods for those involved in narcotics. We should not try to impose a solution that puts ordinary Afghans in the impossible position of choosing between compliance with our wishes or feeding their families. Eradication of the opium crop without providing alternative livelihoods is a prescription for failure in this arena, and for alienating the very population we are there to support. (General Gerhard W. Back)
Afghanistan’s farmers are dependant on opium growing because it is not only the most profitable crop, but the only one for which they are able to obtain financing. And if the opium crops are destroyed, farmers cannot repay the loans—which can have severe consequences.
Unpredictable Threats—Tsunamis, Darfur, London Bombings, and Hurricane Katrina
The tragedies of the Southeast Asia tsunami, Darfur, and the Niger famine came almost unexpectedly to newspaper front pages. According to Defence Secretary Reid, “It is an environment presenting threats…that are far less predictable and more immediate than those of the Cold War” while Minister Graham has warned that many of the most severe threats are difficult to predict. Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope, speaking as NATO’s Deputy Supreme Allied Commander for Transformation, has said that “We live in a changing world which will continue to change” and, consequently, NATO’s transformation process is “a never ending journey.” In the view of Romanian State Secretary Ion Mircea Plangu, moreover, September 11 was once unimaginable, but an Iran War—while still hard to imagine—may well be around the corner.
Most unfortunately, many of these observers were right on the mark: Within a few weeks of their remarks, London was struck for the first time by subway bombings related to Britain’s role in the Iraq War. Less than two months later, New Orleans was devastated by Hurricane Katrina—a possible consequence of global warming and the worst natural disaster in the U.S. since the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.
Hidden or “Politically Incorrect” Factors
Many of the most important root causes of terrorism or other sources of insecurity remain hidden, since for one reason or another it is considered “politically incorrect” to discuss or report on them. Experts, including Harvard University’s Mohammad-Mahmoud Ould Mahamedou, have suggested that a war against terrorism, like any other kind of war, cannot be won without understanding the enemy. Yet it somehow seems “insensitive” to consider seriously—and especially to act on—Osama Bin Laden’s claims that the attacks against the U.S. were motivated by support for “Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories, and the support of corrupt and coercive regimes in the Arab and Muslim World.”
The significance of Bin Laden’s frequent references to the U.S. as “Crusaders” is lost on Westerners who do not appreciate the deep wounds remaining from the Crusaders’ occupation of the holy lands that began 900 years ago. For example, Middle-East expert (and Goncourt Prix winner) Amin Maalouf has described Arab reaction to the British-French Suez expedition of 1956 as the equivalent of the Crusaders' invasion in 1191. He also reminds us that Mehmet Ali Agca, who attempted to assassinate Pope Jean-Paul II, described his attack as an attempt to kill the “Commander-in-Chief of the Crusaders.”
There are many other “hidden” critical factors in understanding terrorism—U.S. and Europe farm subsidies that drive world markets prices so low that farmers in poor and developing countries cannot compete; World Bank and International Monetary fund policies that have been accused of not only giving poor advice, but imposing financial solutions that protect banks and the international financial community at the expense of developing countries; efforts by the Catholic Church that condemn millions to HIV/AIDS by discouraging contraception; or policies of international mining and energy companies that destroy the environments of large regions or spread international corruption that cripples the governments of developing countries.
Overstretched Key Actors
In these critical times, many key actors (U.S., EU, NATO, and UN) are overstretched. The U.S., for example, is weakened by its continuing casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq, its crippled response to Hurricane Katrina, and a resulting decline in confidence in both executive and legislative branches of its government. While recognizing the U.S. as the “dominant and indeed the only global power,” former NATO Military Committee Chairman General Klaus Naumann has described the U.S. dominance as “acquired by leaving huge domestic and social problems unresolved and…paid for by borrowing money from foreign nations, in particular from Eastern Asia.”
Europe has been weakened by defense budgets that are too modest, relatively limited military capabilities, failure of the French and Dutch referendums on the European constitution, and politically fragile governments (largely due to unemployment) in France, Germany, and other key countries. According to General Naumann, the votes on the EU referendums are by no means the end of the EU but “do mark the end of the plan to enlarge the Union while simultaneously deepening its integration.” Adding new members will now be difficult, even though integration “is the approach that may help to solve the troubles in the Balkans, the powder keg in the Caucasus…[and] the difficulties in Ukraine.”
By supporting the Iraq War, the Blair government in the U.K. may have further deepened the splits among European countries, between Europe and the U.S., and within the United States. NATO, as a result of its domination by the sole superpower, is slowly losing its role as the principal forum for discussion of security issues between the U.S. and its European members. And the UN, the only global organization that is capable of handling security issues, is under sharp attack from the U.S. administration and its credibility damaged by the scandal surrounding the oil-for-food program.
FACING THE CHALLENGES
In the face of an extremely broad range of grave threats that are both highly unpredictable and difficult to engage directly, countries are seeking to be as effective as they can be despite overstretched resources. Consequently, they want to increase their own capabilities, strengthen NATO and the EU’s military dimension, encourage these important institutions to work together more effectively, develop the capacity to fight at a distance, and build up their capabilities in such key areas as air and sea transportation, aerial refueling, network-centric operations (including a new allied ground surveillance system) and space.
Fighting Terrorism at a Distance
The Iraq and Afghanistan wars are currently dominating the international responses to terrorism, which reflect a widespread belief that fighting insurgencies at a distance will protect countries from terrorist attacks at home—or perhaps that only military solutions can be effective in the short-term. In his final public address as NATO’s most senior military leader and Chairman of the NATO Military Committee, General Harald Kujat endorsed exactly this vision: “…the risks know no boundaries and are as fluid as sand through your fingers, dealing with them requires innovation, creativity, and a strong desire to take the fight to the source.”
Among defense ministers, Minister Reid has given similar emphasis to Britain’s need “…to operate outside NATO’s traditional areas in places like Afghanistan,” and Minister Graham has said that operating in Afghanistan is a high priority for Canada, too. Many senior military and industry leaders agree: According to Italy’s Chief of Defense Staff, Admiral Giampaolo Di Paola “…our forces [in Europe] need to include expeditionary forces;” and Jean-Louis Gergorin of EADS argues for “…developing far better, far more flexible, and far more effective projection capabilities for peacekeeping, or neutralization actions out of area.”
It is absolutely vital to strengthen the Alliance and, especially, its transatlantic link. It is a stark reality that NATO is the only international security organization with the military capability of addressing global threats, and the U.S. is certainly the only practical partner for its NATO allies. Yet, the U.S. cannot be a fully effective partner until it learns to listen effectively to its European and other allies, consider their views, and take their interests into account. Certainly, the U.S. has much to gain from a stronger relationship: If the U.S. had achieved closer cooperation and coordination with Alliance members during the run-up to the Iraq War, in fact, it might find itself today in a more enviable position in the Middle East.
In order to make NATO more effective and to make its desired expeditionary capability a reality, the new NATO response force is a priority. According to General Kujat, it is also vital to make improvements in “intelligence, logistics, and resource planning, force designation, force activation and deployment procedures,” which are key areas that have been designated by NATO’s Chiefs of Defense. Together with other NATO leaders, he has also called for improvement in funding mechanisms, since the current “costs fall where they lie” system is seen as inequitable. It means that countries are less willing to contribute to the NATO Response Force or to other areas. According to General Kujat, NATO’s political-military processes can also be greatly improved, and one way is “by providing more transparency earlier.” Better defense industrial cooperation can also have a high pay-off: Key areas are precision-guided munitions, the Alliance Ground Surveillance system, with its TIPS solution, as well as space.
Perhaps NATO should add a political dimension to its military role: General Naumann believes the Alliance should be able to act across the “full spectrum of political options.” The EU, in fact, already has such a broad capability (at least in theory) but cannot fully benefit from it since the U.S. is not a member. If the full range of political options were available to NATO, it would be able to prevent or mitigate many crises before they explode into violence, and it could act more effectively in post-conflict reconstruction and peacekeeping. NATO might recover its former place as a center for dialogue among members and countries would presumably cooperate more effectively if they had a greater voice in decision-making.
Closing the U.S.-Europe “Capabilities Gap”
Europe has an important role to play. The EU and NATO are both working hard to cooperate with each other, which will benefit both organizations. The “Europe de la défense,” with the new EU battle groups and the European Defense Agency are welcome steps forward. According to General Kujat, the EU Battle Groups can help NATO, too, since they will complement the NATO Response force. Lack of European national will and, consequently, of financial resources are blamed as the causes of serious problems ranging from the military “capabilities gap” between the U.S. and Europe to a wide range of other issues including force generation for NATO operations. For several reasons, however, Europe’s limited financial resources may be more symptom than cause. In the first place, the defense industry can actually help economies by providing vital jobs at a time when unemployment is one of the most serious challenges. As Minister Alliot-Marie said, “European nations which spend about 160 billion euros a year on defense are not sufficiently aware of its economic potential.” Secondly, Admiral Stanhope points out that Europe often gets more for its money: The U.S. will often focus on a more or less gold-plated, “technology solution” for many problems while Europe often seeks a “more pragmatic and cheaper way of doing business.”
Bridging the “Understanding Gap” by Learning U.S. Values and Political Decision Processes
To be effective partners of the U.S. and negotiate successfully with that country, Europeans also need to close the “understanding gap” by learning and appreciating the U.S.’s values, its political decision-making processes, and the many ways that the U.S. contributes to Europe. If there is any doubt that Europe has much to learn, the Blair government’s so-called “pillion passenger” approach to influencing the Bush administration decision making over the Iraq War does not seem to have achieved the success that was anticipated. The “soft-balancing” attempted by France, Germany, and Russia was probably even less successful. Perhaps these approaches all failed because they did not take into account the influence of U.S. domestic politics on the U.S. Middle East strategy. On the other hand, many groups such as the Israel lobby and the evangelical Christians have been extremely successful in influencing the Middle East policies because of their ability to influence U.S. election outcomes. If Europe wants to influence the U.S., it needs to learn more about U.S. society, the levers that influence it.
Engaging in the Broader Middle East
A successful security strategy for engagement in the broader Middle East requires understanding the central importance of the Israel-Palestine issue—which is at the heart of the international terrorist threat—and the need for the international community to be seen as a disinterested party. In this respect, as NATO becomes involved in the Iraq War via the training of Iraqi troops, it runs the risk of becoming associated with Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse; and to the extent that it increases its cooperation with Israel, it runs the risk of being biased against Palestinians, Iraqis, and other Muslim countries. On the other hand, Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza definitely gives reason for hope for which there are already positive signs.
AFTER THE 7 JULY LONDON SUBWAY ATTACKS
In response to the London bombings on 7 and 21 July, the U.K. and other countries, too, may be forced to rethink their strategies for dealing with international terrorism.
As already noted a year ago by Bruce George, then Chair of the House of Commons Select Committee on Defence, the U.K.’s expeditionary policy of “fighting terrorism at distance” in Iraq and Afghanistan is not an adequate means of fighting terrorism at home, because it assumes that terrorists are willing to fight where we wish them to, rather than fight on their own terms. According to a report posted on the website of Britain’s MI5 security service in July 2005, in fact, MI5 believes that the Iraq War is actually a “dominant issue” for some extremist groups and therefore puts the U.K. and Europe at risk:
Though they have a range of aspirations and “causes,” Iraq is a dominant issue for a range of extremist groups and individuals in the U.K. and Europe. Some individuals who support the insurgency are known to have travelled to Iraq in order to fight against coalition forces. In the longer term, it is possible that they may later return to the U.K. and consider mounting attacks here.
Since Ken Livingston is the Mayor of London—where the recent bombings occurred, it would be a mistake to dismiss his assessment on how to deal with terrorism: (a) by effective policing, (b) by treating Muslims with genuine respect (so they will provide information flows needed by the police and reduce the pool of the alienated on which terrorists draw), and (c) by withdrawing from Iraq.
Former U.K. Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon, who was at the center of decisions that led to the current British involvement in Iraq, has offered the following assessment, which somewhat clarifies how the situation in Iraq developed as it did:
What we didn’t do, I accept, was properly anticipate the level of violence people were prepared to use to oppose the creation of a democratic society….I don’t think we appreciated the level of fanaticism and sheer violence that people were prepared to employ. We were planning on making sure the Iraqi people had enough food, access to oil that would generate wealth to stimulate the economy, power stations, power lines, making water safe to be drunk…with the benefit of hindsight, I don’t think we quite anticipated that insurgents were prepared to stop people having clean drinking water, were prepared to shut down power supplies, and damage the future of Iraq’s economy. (Former U.K. Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon)
Pulling Back from Iraq
Since the Iraq War is not making the U.K., the U.S., or other coalition members safer, countries seem to be considering a pullback. In Iraq, growing casualties suffered by both the U.S.-led coalition and Iraqi civilians are contributing to a significant drop in public support for the fighting there. U.S. losses have now reached 2,000 while deaths of Iraqi civilians are already estimated to be more than ten times higher i.e. at least 20,000. According to former SACEUR General George Joulwan, moreover, the numbers of wounded are so great and the wounds are often so severe that a project of vast scope—perhaps a 21st century version of the WWII Manhattan project—is needed to address the problem of IED (improvised explosive devices) which are often the cause of the casualties. NATO’s former Deputy SACEUR General Sir Rupert Smith believes that, by the very act of conducting patrols in armored vehicles, the U.S.-led forces in Iraq are sending signals to Iraqis that they are the enemy and, “If you treat folk like enemies, they become enemies.”
Given the gravity of the situation—comparisons are beginning to be made to Vietnam—many hope that the U.S., U.K., and the coalition will begin to withdraw troops soon. In recent speeches, however, President George Bush has said that the U.S. will not withdraw from Iraq until the Iraqis are able to handle the insurgency on their own—a situation that appears to be a long way down the road. The U.S. Army’s Chief of Staff General Peter Schoomaker recently announced that as many as 100,000 U.S. troops may need to remain in Iraq for up to four years. These assurances, however, are at odds with a number of reports leaked during the summer of 2005. According to the reports, U.S. planners would like to reduce overall troop levels in Iraq by more than half—perhaps down to 66,000, while the U.K. would like to reduce its forces in that country by nearly two-thirds to about 3,000. Likewise, Newsweek has reported that the U.S. plans to cut back troops in Iraq down to “80,000 by mid-2006 and down to 40,000 to 60,000 troops by the end of that year.” Defence Secretary Reid recently told The Observer that he believes that the withdrawal of British troops from Iraq “could begin in some parts of the country as early as next July.”
In order to achieve the various troop reduction goals of the U.S.-led coalition, NATO will need to play an important role in training Iraqi forces to take over. And it may not be an easy role, since the Iraqi government—which depends on the U.S. to help it retain power—may want to slow withdrawals as much as possible by making sure Iraqi troops are not ready to take over quickly from the Americans.
Shoring Up Afghanistan
The U.K.’s pullback from Iraq might permit a strengthening of British forces in Afghanistan, where the failure to capture Bin Laden is a concern and international public support for the fighting there is consequently much greater. In fact, Minister Graham believes that, without international military involvement, “the country risks a situation where local warlords, financed through drug operations and with equipment that outstrips that of the state, become effective rulers of vast parts of the country.” For these reasons, Minister Graham believes that Afghanistan should be Canada’s principal military operation for many years.
According to Afghanistan’s President Hamid Kazai, however, it is time to rethink the approach to terrorism in his country and to redirect efforts to the sources of terrorism, and “where terrorists are trained, where terrorists are prompted up.” In particular, President Karzai believes that air strikes are not very effective, and he would like to see an end to house-to-house searches unless approved by Afghanistan's government.
Despite efforts to support the political process in Iraq and achieve stability, political leaders in the U.S. and other Alliance countries must face the realities in Iraq.
The Iraq War, rather than decreasing the risk of terrorism in both North America and Europe, has actually increased the danger. Moreover, the heavy casualties and financial burdens are making the war increasingly unpopular and politicians will be under pressure to withdraw troops.
On the other hand, withdrawal from Iraq might increase the turmoil in that country, which could become a staging ground for attacks against Israel, regional allies such as Jordan or Saudi Arabia, and against continental Europe or North America.
In short, political leaders face only two options: Stay or withdraw. While no one can predict the choice that they will actually make, it is most likely that—in the context of political weakness on both sides of the Alliance—the choice will be in favor of a partial withdrawal while U.S. and coalition forces stay in Iraq on an essentially permanent basis.
If U.S. and coalition troops do stay on, they will face many challenges: How to be perceived as something other than occupation forces during a prolonged presence; how to achieve stability in the country while avoiding the killing of Iraqis (a cause of massive ill will among the Iraqi people); and how to find better ways to deal with IEDs which are the cause of more than half of the casualties there.
Is Katrina a Wake-up Call?
Perhaps the tragedy of the Katrina hurricane is a wake up call: Dr. Dale Klein, who is U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s principal advisor for nuclear, chemical and biological threats, has warned that the danger of a clandestine nuclear or other hyper-terrorist attack is still present. Noting the ineffectiveness of the responses to Hurricane Katrina, U.S. Senator Susan Collins wonders how the U.S. federal, state, and local government agencies would have “coped with a terrorist attack that provided no advance warning and that was intent on causing as much death and destruction as possible.”
Addressing Misery, Poverty, and the Development of Poor Countries
There is probably no way out of the current dilemmas that does not involve enhanced international cooperation and, especially, a major effort to address poverty and misery in the world—for the security and prosperity of wealthy countries depend on that of the poor and underdeveloped ones. According to the UN Millennium Development Goals established in 2000, rich countries would contribute .7% of their GNP to halve extreme poverty in the world by 2015. The UN Summit meeting in September 2005 suggests that the world may not yet be ready to take such necessary steps.
Even though some rich countries may be unwilling to make the necessary sacrifices to reduce world poverty, at least the wealthy oil producing nations should find it to their advantage to act in regions of their own geo-strategic interests. World political leaders should insist that the oil-rich countries begin to share more of their vast revenues in order to contribute to possible solutions. If oil-rich countries do not face up to the challenges of global poverty and underdevelopment, they are likely to suffer severe consequences as international terrorism increasingly learns to attack them more directly and more effectively.
Ultimately, it may be necessary to reduce aspirations. To choose an analogy from the American game of baseball, this may not be the time to seek “home runs.” Instead, it may be best to get on base with a few strategically-planned “bunts”—in other words, small, affordable initiatives costing a few billion dollars each that can do authentic good for the world despite their modest scale. (Britain’s Gordon Brown has advocated a vaccination program for underdeveloped countries which could save the lives of millions of people; the World Bank and IMF are close to approving up to 40 billion dollars in debt forgiveness for the world’s poorest countries; saying “We will never arrive at anything by habitual means,” French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin places his hopes in new, innovative approaches such as a tax on commercial airlines tickets.) While such programs will barely scratch the surface of the world’s problems, they can have symbolic importance by demonstrating to underdeveloped nations—including the radical elements in these countries—that large and prosperous Western nations are willing to contribute cooperatively and positively to their welfare.