Uploaded 28 October 2001
Professor Robin Theurkauf lost
her husband Tom in the attacks on the World Trade Centre on 11
September. She has spoken out against war and for justice, not
||'What we need
less of is war rhetoric and war against Afghanistan in particular,
and to explore the possibility of a judicial solution...
'The last thing I wanted was for more widows and fatherless
children to be created in my name. It would only produce a
'As the victim of violence, I'd never want this to happen
to another woman again.'
Professor Robin Theurkauf
Interview on the Today programme, BBC
Tuesday 2 October 2001
Are We At War?
[The Friend, 28 September 2001]
My husband, Tom Theurkauf lost his life in
the World Trade Center disaster. We all direct our grief in different
ways, this is mine.
I offer these thoughts both as a new widow
and mother of three fatherless boys as well as a scholar of international
law and politics.
We used to know what war was. It was the
opposite of peace. Wars took place between states each with armies
in uniforms and a hierarchical command structure. States went
to war over territory or more recently over ideology. It is a
legal status. One must declare it. At war's conclusion, we come
to a peace agreement and return to a non-war condition.
This seems different. The enemy stays in
the shadows even as they live among us, organised in loosely connected
cells. No state has declared war against us, at least in the familiar
way. The action was designed to spread fear and hate and so we
are not entirely sure what would be required to end this conflict.
As we assemble a military platform in the
Persian Gulf it is worth considering the fact that while political
scientists know very few things with any confidence, there is
substantial consensus on at least one relevant point. While this
attack was intended to provoke, responding in kind will only escalate
the violence. Further, if we succumb to the understandable impulse
to injure as we have been injured and in the process create even
newer widows and fatherless children, perhaps we will deserve
what we get.
Some have made the analogy to the attack
on Pearl Harbour and in at least one way it is appropriate. In
the aftermath of Pearl Harbour, thousands of young men volunteered
to join the military. I can only imagine the success of radical
Islam's recruiters after our bombs fall on their heads.
If not 'war', what words should we use? I
think a better name is 'international crime'. Restating the problems
refocuses the solution.
In the short term, the first priority should
be to hunt down and arrest the criminals with the goal of achieving
justice, not revenge. This is a task left not to the military
but to investigative police forces, who can prepare for a trial.
Ordinary Americans also can take steps to
fight back against this evil. We can combat fear and hate in part
by reaching out to Muslims in our communities and by patronising
Arab businesses. This show of solidarity will in part thwart these
criminals' purpose of creating division in American communities.
In the long term, eradicating terrorism will
require the elimination not of a group of people but rather of
a set of ideas. Paradoxically, eliminating the people will reinforce
and further legitimise the ideas. Terrorist impulses ferment in
cultures of poverty, oppression and ignorance. The elimination
of those conditions and the active promotion of a universal respect
for human rights must become a national security priority.
Finally, the United States as a matter of
policy must recognise and accept our vulnerability. In today's
hyper-niilitarised environment, no state can ensure security within
its borders without the cooperation of others.
The Bush administration's unilateralism has
been revealed to be hollow. Rather than infringe on our sovereignty,
international institutions enhance our ability to perform the
functions of national government, including the ability to fight
Bombing Afghanistan today will not prevent
tomorrow's tragedy. We must look beyond military options for long
Robin Theurkauf is a lecturer in the political
science department at Yale University.
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