|11 September 2001>Commentary>Destroy the Network
Destroy the Network
Henry Kissinger . Washington Post . 11 September
An attack such as today's requires systematic planning, a good organization, a lot of money and a base. You cannot improvise something like this, and you cannot plan it when you're constantly on the move. Heretofore our response to attacks, and understandably so, has been to carry out some retaliatory act that was supposed to even the scales while hunting down the actual people who did it.
This, however, is an attack on the territorial United States, which is a threat to our social way of life and to our existence as a free society. It therefore has to be dealt with in a different way – with an attack on the system that produces it.
The immediate response, of course, has to be taking care of casualties and restoring some sort of normal life. We must get back to work almost immediately, to show that our life cannot be disrupted. And we should henceforth show more sympathy for people who are daily exposed to this kind of attack, whom we keep telling to be very measured in their individual responses.
But then the government should be charged with a systematic response that, one hopes, will end the way that the attack on Pearl Harbor ended – with the destruction of the system that is responsible for it. That system is a network of terrorist organizations sheltered in capitals of certain countries. In many cases we do not penalize those countries for sheltering the organizations; in other cases, we maintain something close to normal relations with them.
It is hard to say at this point what should be done in detail. If a week ago I had been asked whether such a coordinated attack as today's was possible, I, no more than most people, would have thought so, so nothing I say is meant as a criticism. But until now we have been trying to do this as a police matter, and now it has to be done in a different way.
Of course there should be some act of retaliation, and I would certainly support it, but it cannot be the end of the process and should not even be the principal part of it. The principal part has to be to get the terrorist system on the run, and by the terrorist system I mean those parts of it that are organized on a global basis and can operate by synchronized means.
We do not yet know whether Osama bin Laden did this, although it appears to have the earmarks of a bin Laden-type operation. But any government that shelters groups capable of this kind of attack, whether or not they can be shown to have been involved in this attack, must pay an exorbitant price.
The question is not so much what kind of blow we can deliver this week or next. And the response, since our own security was threatened, cannot be made dependent on consensus, though this is an issue on which we and our allies must find a cooperative means of resistance that is not simply the lowest common denominator.
It is something we should do calmly, carefully and inexorably.