A friend of mine recently asked me what I would recommend the President
of the USA to do regarding the September 11th attacks if I were one of his
top advisors. Here is my answer.
Date: Mon, 17 Sep 2001 11:34:13 -0500 (CDT)
From: Jesus Ortega
To: Tim Kramer
Subject: US response to terrorist attacks
Well, a few minutes ago you asked me what I'd do if I were the President
right now. OK. Let's give it a try, but please do _not_ come up with all
that anti-European speak. I'll try to be rational, so I'd expect the same
from you without any anti-anything rhetoric.
So, said that, let's get into the real issue. What would I do if I were
the President of the USA?
First of all, the very same thing that George W. Bush has been doing in the
last few days. Comfort the relatives of the victims, assure Americans that
this is not the end of the world and that their Government will respond and
defend them, and make it clear to whoever supported this attack that they
will have to pay for it. As I said during our short conversation this
morning, I simply cannot find anything wrong with the President's position
so far. If I ever do, I also think it is anybody's duty in these circumstances
to downplay the differences. I don't mean to silence any criticisms, but to
at least be careful, responsible, and always stress that even in those cases
where I might disagree with the President on something, we're both in the
Second, the Administration should also be respectful of the American
traditions when it comes to criminal acts. This is not a normal criminal
act, and therefore there will be many exceptions to the rule, but the
President should make sure that the FBI and the CIA can investigate this
and figure out who is responsible for the attacks without any sort of
political interference. I believe he's already doing that, and the
investigations appear to point to Ossama bin Laden as the one behind the
attacks in one way or another. Therefore, this is another point where I
think the President has done what he should do.
Third, once we find out who is responsible for the attacks and where he is
sheltered, the US needs to request their _inmediate_ extradition within a
couple of days or so. It should also be made clear that a failure to
extradite the individuals will also be interpreted as assisting them in
their activities. I also believe the President has already done this or
is in his way to do it anyways.
Fourth, in case the leaders of the country that provides shelter to these
individuals refuses to cooperate, the USA should build a broad coalition
of countries including not only NATO members but also other countries
from different continents, religions, etc. That coalition should step in
and topple the leaders of the country, which in this case appears to be
Fifth, since this is going to be a long war that will definitely have other
battles and American will suffer other terrorist attacks on American soil,
the US Administration will also need to continue these actions. This is
what I propose. The broad coalition that I mentioned in the previous
paragraph should be formalized or at least it should be agreed that it is
_not_ an "ad hoc" coalition to attack Afghanistan. This coalition will
make it clear that it will respect national sovereignty and therefore
any country in the world can choose their own political system, be it a
Western-style democracy, Communism, Fascism, a Muslim state... whatever.
However, there are two exceptions to the rule. In those cases where a
given regime either starts a genocide or clearly supports terrorism and
provides shelter to terrorists, this coalition will step in and topple the
leaders. Again, national sovereignty should be respected, but it has a
limit. The line I draw here is pretty clear, so nobody can claim to be
deceived. Of course, the _only_ way to carry out this policy without
being accused of simply pandering to the American interests is by gathering
together the support of a wide group of nations.
Sixth, the attacks that the US suffered last week definitely call for a
different type of reaction than the ones taken against a regular attack.
Issues like tightening internal security measures, controlling the borders
and perhaps even chaning the immigration policies to specifically address
the immigrants from certain nations, increasing the budget of some
Government organizations in charge of internal security, etc. are a
necessity now. We should nevertheless be careful not to build a police
state that goes against the very core values of the American system, but
I also understand that giving up some freedoms that were considered
inalienable until very recently is not a choice anymore.
Seventh, far from pulling out of the international scene, the USA should
actually take the lead in all fronts. This also includes a direct
involvement in the resolution of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict in a
manner that does not appear to be obviously biased. I think it is safe
to assert that the US has so far been too biased in favor of Israel in
most cases. Now, I am _not_ taking an anti-Israeli position here. I do
agree that they have a right to defend themselves, and do _not_ oppose
the targetted attacks against Palestinian activists that they carried out
in the last few months. That's not my point. My point is that the US has
always been on their side no matter what, and didn't appear to make any
effort whatsoever to assist the Palestinians either. Yes, I do understand
the Palestinians have done _nothing_ to gain the support of the American
people, but that's no excuse for the US not to do what it should do.
Eighth, the whole American foreign policy should be redesigned so that
the realities of a new global world are taken into account. During the
discussions we had on the anti-missile shield I stressed how a direct
attack against the US would most likely come by means of a well organized
terrorist attack. Last week's events do nothing but to confirm that my
assessment was right. There is no reason whatsoever to believe that
future attacks will not take a similar shape, especially now that a
weakness has been put in evidence. It's simply too easy for anyone to
move to another country these days and organize an operation like this.
The political events taking place in Burma or Sudan affect us as much as
the ones happening in Mexico or Canada, and perhaps even as much as the
ones taking place in a state within the US. We need to realize that and
adapt our foreign policy to that new reality.
Let me know what you think about all this, but please let's make sure we
have a civilized debate instead of an exchange of insults or accusations
of being anti-this or anti-that. The kind of debate we had regarding the
reparations issue should be a good model.