- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 8, 2004

Beslan, Northern Ossetia: 340 dead, among them about 150 children; 700 wounded. Once again terror hit innocents. The will to be free and live in peace is threatened. It is time to shape a strong global policy to free us from terror.

Being wrecked by terrorism, the international law set up by the United Nations has come to an end. The 21st-century warfare has outdated this set of rules created at the end of World War II and used during the Cold War, a time when states used to fight against states.

Today the enemy is as a virus: It cannot be spotted or eliminated by usual means. No states are officially supporting terrorists, meaning there is nobody to talk to. Armies are useless, because there are no armies to fight — only one man or small groups, using conventional weapons, cars or planes, targeting whatever may cause maximum deaths. This is international terrorism as military strategy; this is assymetrical warfare.

Against this unusual warfare, a new global strategy must be thought out: To be efficient, it has to attack not only terrorists themselves, but the ideology they are proclaiming, the economy they are living in, the political structures they are using, basically the context in which they are rooted. This requires the free-world strategy to be simultaneously military, economic and political. If we want to be free from terror, a global policy using all the free-world resources aiming at destroying terrorism must be enforced to build a secure and prosperous world in which democracy would flourish. Some key elements can be pointed out:

First, security guaranteed by an international “big-stick policy.” International laws must take into account that since September 11, assymetrical warfare has changed foreign relations. The United Nations should be able to move fast with real retaliatory power if needed. If countries suspected of hiding or training terrorists show no willingness to comply with inspections or provide documents, then military interventions should be allowed faster, thus putting more pressure on them. Those countries cannot be let loose, because the price for non-intervention is high: As with a disease, it is easier to cure at the very beginning, not after neglecting it for some time.

Second, prosperity guaranteed by breaking down the barriers. It is the economic side of the struggle. Let’s be clear about this: The perfect ground to recruit terrorists is poverty. It is an ideal context for fanatics to incite resentment against a rich Western civilization, and to build up resentment, anger and violence. Isolation from global prosperity increases poverty, it is essential to promote free trade in sensitive areas as the Middle East or Africa so that prosperity can be shared. When there is hope of earning money to get out of poverty, people are busier working than bombing. Globalization already benefits poor nations, but it is just a beginning. And free trade always leads to building free and open societies.

Third, democracy guaranteed by respecting a country’s political traditions. As we know, free trade is not only a matter of economics, it is also a matter of ideas — particularly ones which aim to enlighten mankind. Yet, we must not act as colonizers and expect Middle Eastern or African nations to adopt our way of conducting politics. If we want democracy to be part of their politics, we must let them produce their own democracy, because instituting the American version out of the blue in Iraq, for instance, could result in failure. That might result in Iraq’s returning to dictatorship.

A huge effort of the whole free world is needed to build this new world order using such global strategy, relying on the only superpower left since the end of the Cold War: the United States. A new global war has begun, in which the military will not be the most decisive element. Indeed, security, prosperity and democracy are the three weapons the civilized world must fight with to defeat terror.

Sylvain Charat is director of policy studies in the French think-tank Eurolibnetwork.

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