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Robert Reich on War & Peace

Former Secretary of Labor; Democratic Challenger MA Governor


War against terrorism requires better intelligence-gathering

Even if we stamped out all global terrorist organizations, Americans still wouldn’t be safe from terrorism. With advanced technology, a lone psychopath can kill thousands. This doesn’t mean that we throw up our hands in despair and conclude that there’s no way to win against terrorism. But it does suggest that we have to be much cleverer. We’re so used to fighting enemy states, hitting military targets, and gaining geographic territory that we’re in danger of losing sight of the real goal. What’s most needed in a war against terrorism is better intelligence. That 19 foreigners were able to hijack and pilot four US jetliners simultaneously and ram three of them into their targets signifies an intelligence breakdown of breathtaking proportion. Gaining control over a country run by despicable people doesn’t necessarily improve our intelligence capacity. Bombs are no substitute for agents adept in foreign languages and cultures who can monitor and infiltrate terrorist networks.
Source: The American Prospect, vol.12 no.21, “Trouncing the Taliban” , Dec 3, 2001

Must examine terrorism’s context and US role

The righteousness of our cause shouldn’t prevent us from asking why so many people around the world who aren’t terrorists hate America. Finding means of ameliorating the hatred isn’t appeasing terrorists. Rather, it’s looking at terrorism’s larger context.

Of course, we must proceed against terrorists with full force. Yet it’s also important to understand that our checkered history has shaped the understandings of many poor nations whose cooperation we need for that force to be effective.

Source: The American Prospect, vol.12, no.19, “How to Be Tough” , Nov 5, 2001

Post-WWII pro-corporate foreign policy led to US wars abroad

[It was not] coincidence that the CIA discovered communist plots where America's core corporations possessed, or wished to possess, substantial holdings of natural resources.

In 1953, Guatemala's duly elected President, Jacobo Arbenz Guzman, initiated a program of land reform which included confiscation of the United Fruit Company's plantations; the CIA then bankrolled right-wing revolutionaries who, in 1954, helped the CIA pilots and aircraft supplied by Nicaragua dictator Anastasio Somoza, ultimately spared United Fruit so dismal a fate. Also in 1954, the US became quietly involved in Indochina, another area rich in natural resources.

That relations with Iran, Vietnam, and Central America became less than cordial in subsequent decades may have had something to do with America's unflinching eagerness during this era to use foreign policy in the service of the core American corporation.

Source: The Work of Nations, by Robert Reich, p. 64-65 , Feb 4, 1992

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Page last updated: Oct 10, 2013