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Second CIS Talk Draws Crowd

Experts Discuss Implications of Tuesday’s Attacks, U.S. Response

By Vincent Chen

MIT’s Center for International Studies reconvened the discussion regarding the September 11 terrorist attacks at a forum yesterday afternoon.

“We began last week to try to make sense of what seems to be a new world order,” said CIS Director Richard Samuels.

Regarding Osama Bin Laden’s terrorist organization, Professor of Political Science and international security specialist Stephen W. Van Evera said, “I believe that the al-Qaeda organization is a very dangerous one, and unappeasable ... Thus, the only option is to defeat it.”

However, he stressed the fact that the United States must establish legitimacy in the eyes of the international community instead of brashly overreacting. “Al-Qaeda may be hoping to bait us into some overreaction, some blundering, thundering overuse of force,” he cautioned, urging the U.S. to instead first make it’s case to other nations of the world, especially those that may not see the U.S. point of view. “We have a very strong case to make that we aren’t making.”

Faculty stress cautious response

Van Evera suggested that the U.S. should conduct a media campaign to let others know our position before conducting a military campaign. Other recommendations included strengthening an alliance with Russia by stopping current efforts at NATO expansion, national missile defense, and attempting to change our foreign policy toward the Arab-Israeli conflict by urging Israel to make a more generous offer.

Likewise, Professor of Urban Studies Balakrishnan Rajagopal stressed the need for “abundant caution, restraint, and a step-by-step response.”

“My hope and plea is that responses to these attacks will not always be a violent one, but one of international law,” he said, suggesting that we should first ask ourselves whether a military response is needed, or a “moral” or “societal” response.

Attacks surprise terrorism expert

Professor of Political Science Barry R. Posen began by expressing surprise that such an event had occurred, voicing the formerly common viewpoint that large scale terrorism was unlikely because it failed to serve political purposes.

“These people are skilled, highly motivated, courageous, and they’ll try again,” he warned, “A big society like ours is like a big Maginot line, and they’ll keep on trying to find a way through.” He cautioned that it was inherently a result of an active foreign policy that we would have enemies, and that the only way to control them could be to destroy them.

He did however note the need to legitimize any actions we sought to pursue, and said that we cannot treat all states that host terrorists as enemies. Instead, we need to treat some as allies. He stressed that the United States needs to give the Taliban a chance to turn over bin Laden, but that the Taliban regime also had to recognize that failure to cooperate could lead to destruction of its government.

“You can’t get away with doing this to America,” he said, describing the events of last Tuesday as a “failure of deterrence.” He cautioned that to do nothing in response would lead to further such failures of deterrence.

Readiness for attacks debated

Gregory D. Koblentz G addressed the issues of the changing needs of domestic preparedness. He stressed the fact that this has opened our eyes to the possibility of new weapons, and new attacks on “soft” targets, such as skyscrapers, sports stadiums, power plants, and other high-impact venues. Koblentz suggested stricter airport security, the hardening of soft targets through physical defenses, greater intelligence collection, and the need to prepare for chemical, nuclear, and biological terrorism.

From the audience, Joshua Cohen, Head of the Department of Political Science and Editor of the Boston Review, responded to the points made by the panel with a statement met with widespread applause from the audience.

“The worst thing that can be said about the events of last Tuesday was that it was a slaughter of innocents,” he began. He stressed that the U.S. should not respond in any manner that involves the intentional slaughter of innocent people, saying that this was not just a cause of the U.S., but a cause of all people against the slaughter of innocents.

Forum continues to expand

Yesterday’s CIS forum was held in a packed 26-100, after the first exceeded capacity in a smaller lecture hall. The panel consisted of five faculty members and two graduate students. Ironically, Koblentz had been stranded in Miami awaiting a flight home after attending a conference on terrorism.