The events of Sept. 11 have made the United States acutely aware of its vulnerability to terrorist attacks, said Aaron Friedberg, professor of politics and international affairs. He pointed out that the magnitude of death and destruction on Sept. 11 "raised the standard for future terrorists. Those who want to make an impact will feel they have to kill thousands."
Jeffrey Herbst, professor of politics and international affairs, said Sept. 11 has thrust the United States into a conflict that "is more complex ... in its threat and in the necessity of its responses than anything any administration has ever encountered before." He predicted that President Bush will alter American foreign policy in significant ways because of the terrorist attacks, but implementing those changes will take a long time.
"What have been the results (so far)? I think slow and halting," Herbst said. "American foreign policy is an enormous machine, our interests contradict at times and the best-laid plans don't exactly produce results in the short term."
Kathleen McNamara, assistant professor of politics and international affairs, pointed out that the conflict has given rise to rhetoric claiming that a rift is developing between the United States and Europe, and that Europeans view our country as engaged in reckless unilateralism. "How serious is this transatlantic rift?" she asked. "Not as serious as the rhetorical claims make it out to be." She added, however, that Europe is developing its own political identity.
Terrorism is often linked to poverty and lack of education in the minds of Americans, but that link is elusive, pointed out Alan Krueger, the Lynn Bendheim Thoman Class of 1976 and Robert Bendheim Class of 1937 Professor of Economics and Public Policy. "Any connection is indirect, complicated and probably quite weak," he said. He presented data demonstrating that members of some terrorist groups were better educated and held better jobs than their peers who were not engaged in terror.
Frederick Hitz, lecturer of public and international affairs, described the ways that civil liberties in the United States have been compromised in the cause of fighting the perpetrators of the attacks. He also responded to a question about the connection between Sept. 11 and Iraq in light of the looming possibility that our nation will go to war with Iraq. "If we did have evidence connecting Saddam (Hussein) to the terrorist acts, we would have seen it by now," he asserted.
Anne-Marie Slaughter, the new dean of the Wilson School and the panel's moderator, said she believes the Bush administration needs to ask the United Nations to back action against Iraq "for political reasons." She predicted that the United States would win the approval of the United Nations. "We might get some strings," she pointed out, "but as George Bush Sr. understood, those strings are well worth the benefit of that kind of legitimacy."
The panel was held in memory of Joshua Rosenthal, who earned his master's degree from the Wilson School in 1981 and who perished in the attacks.