America 10 years on: Fight terror, but correct mistakes
What could be the single-most profound fallout of the September 2001 attacks, or 9/11, ten years on? It is the surreal state of permanent war, intermittent peace. In a way, the events wiped out the last remaining vestiges of universal innocence.
America responded to the events of that day with an “industrial-scale counter-terrorism war”. In these ten years, it launched two wars, in Iraq and Afghanistan. Deadly bombings in these countries and elsewhere by terrorists have combined with America’s own operations to kill countless soldiers and civilians.
According to the Brown University’s “Cost of the War” project, the cost of wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan have been estimated at 225,000 lives and up to $4 trillion in US spending. This is many times the current US Budget deficit.
Because the war has been financed almost entirely by borrowing, $185 billion in interest has already been paid on war spending, and another $1 trillion could accrue in interest alone through 2020, according to the “Cost of War” project’s findings.
This makes me suspect that, if a serious study were to be undertaken, there will be found a link between the economic downturn and the war on terror.
It is time Western powers started winding down the specific wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan. But the long-term fight against al Qaeda must continue. In this, our singular goal should be to single out terrorists.
This war against terror has to be non-partisan, one that does not blame any community and religion. We also cannot afford a war on terror that is indiscriminate or one that divides this world in clear halves. According to a recent Pew global poll, Muslims and the West view each other as extremely violent.
If the broader effect of this war means that Muslims are subjected to ridicule, suspicion and hate, then they are likely to be alienated further. Many of them may come to sympathise more with terror than counter-terrorism.
On the other hand, in Muslim nations like Pakistan or Iraq, the situation is so delirious that nothing makes sense anymore. Take for instance the suicide bombings outside a Shia mosque in Pakistan during Eid. To end this anarchy requires a ‘reboot’. I do not know what exactly it will take. But I know where to start: at the mosque and at homes. There’s no better place to tell the kids that killing of innocents is un-Islamic.
This conditioning must start at age zero. So, as they grow up, they will deepen — not weaken — their stake in their society, religion and their own future. Western powers too must devote serious thought to assessing their role in global affairs, where their mistakes have fed terror. Nobody can correct their mistakes, but their own selves.