IR/PS forum addresses attacks

On Sept 17., panel of local experts on international relations and American politics addressed a capacity audience on issues about the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

Lyon Liew

About 300 members of the UCSD community attended the town hall meeting, hosted by the Graduate School of International Relations and Pacific Studies, looking for answers about past events and future action.

“”What we have to offer is how the United States positions itself in the world and how it moves forward,”” said interim IR/PS Dean Andrew MacIntyre, who mediated the meeting. “”I think that is what people are increasingly starting to wrestle with as we start to move beyond the first reactions of shock, disbelief, anguish and grief.””

Many came to discuss concerns about the increasing likelihood of war.

“”I’m concerned that we will have an overly aggressive retaliation on our part and end up slaughtering millions of people,”” audience member Lance Rodgen said. “”I came out here to educate myself about this global crisis. I feel like I am uninformed.””

For some, the attacks on the East Coast hit close to home. The meeting was intended to add perspective to the situation.

“”I worked on the 107th floor of the World Trade Center and I lost some friends,”” audience member Peter Baravsi said. “”Now we will hear a perspective from those who, while removed geographically, have an area of expertise that is at the center of the issue.””

Others just wanted reassurance that everything would work out.

“”I was hoping I would feel better after learning a little about the conflict from the experts,”” audience member Kirstin Mulvihill said.

The panel consisted of professors from IR/PS, UCSD and San Diego State University.

Miles Kahler of IR/PS spoke of using military force with discretion due to the fact that the impending battles will not be ones akin to other major wars.

“”Territory plays a very little role for [the terrorists],”” Kahler said. “”Their organizations are not hierarchical. Their resources come from many difficult-to-trace sources.

“”I would not say it is a new world,”” Kahler said. “”It’s a world that has been in some being for a long time, but now we must recognize it.””

Former deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs for the State Department and current IR/PS professor Susan Shirk said that for the United States to successfully combat terrorist organizations, it must have unusual allies.

“”This is not a moment to only cooperate with countries that are democracies and that have a clean record and human rights,”” Shirk said. “”Building this coalition is going to be very difficult. It can’t just be a U.S.-NATO effort. It has to involve Russia and China.””

Using the U.N. Security Council as a forum for building support is essential, Shirk said, referring to the Sept. 12 resolution as an example of a swift and unanimous agreement.

SDSU terrorism studies expert Dipak Gupta said he recognizes that internal political strife in many Middle Eastern countries contributes to terrorism. He said that calming those problems is the key to stopping terrorism in the future.

The current pro-U.S. government in Pakistan, according to Gupta, could easily fall to Taliban sympathizers if the situation is not handled carefully.

“”It is very difficult to find a common ground and a common will that will not upset [the government of] Pakistan,”” Gupta said. “”Pakistan is already being wracked by a tremendous amount of ethnic conflict. We need to think what it will do to Pakistan. We have to pursue the perpetrators, but at the same time we have to give [citizens of the Middle East] a stake in the outcome.””

Kahler echoed Gupta’s sentiments.

“”If we cannot align ourselves with those forces in the region that are seeking change of a democratic and peaceful sort, then we are going to make a big mistake,”” he said.

The panel agreed that reducing America’s involvement in the Middle East will do little to prevent terrorist attacks.

“”There is no way that Americans can live with themselves in terms of what they consider to be their minimum involvement in the world and not be at risk of breeding terrorism,”” said Peter Cowhey, director of the Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation. “”That is just a fact of life and we are going to have to live with it.””

Yet Shirk argued that the United States cannot achieve “”so low of a profile that it will not be vulnerable to terrorist threats.””

UCSD political science professor Samuel Popkin discussed President Bush’s dilemma of the short-term appeal of going after Osama bin Laden and his long-term goal of eliminating terrorist attacks.

“”At a time like this, Americans have a very high resolve for a clear goal, and they’re thinking that eliminating a single person, Osama bin Laden, and stopping terror are one and the same,”” Popkin said. “”Of course, they are very different.””

In terms of American politics, Popkin said that the winners are likely to be moderates, because a lack of sympathy will be shown to extremists.

Popkin noted that Bush’s decision to delay his immediate return to Washington on the day of the attacks is a signal of Bush’s desire to prevail in the long term and not worry about his short-term image.

Americans will have to sacrifice some privacy and other civil liberties if the war against terrorism is to be won, Cowhey said.

“”It will be very important in whatever type of oversight we create that we maintain mechanisms of democratic accountability,”” he said. “”That is going to be one of the biggest challenges we will have to watch for in the coming weeks.””

After the town hall meeting, some in attendance said they felt reassured and more knowledgeable.

“”I really liked what I heard,”” audience member Tyler Allen said. “”I thought a lot of their answers made a lot of sense. I was impressed with the quality of the discussion.””

The meeting was informative, but for some, knowledge just adds to the confusion.

“”A lot of my questions were answered but it just opens up more questions,”” said audience member Samantha Craig.

UCSD-TV will air the meeting on Sept. 24 at 7 p.m. and again at 9 p.m.

The program can also be accessed at

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