With a provocative title like "If this is World War III, how do we win?" one might have thought a forum on terrorism would have presented a unified vision of what’s in store for the world in the face of rising militant Islam and an imminent regime change in Iraq.
But there were glaring differences among such ex-heads of state as Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, Prime Minister Ehud Barak, Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt and Jordan’s Crown Prince Hassan about how to view the world terror threat and, indeed, what is responsible for the current situation.
Also participating in the first conference on global terrorism sponsored by the new Strategic Dialogue Center of Netanya College in Israel were former directors of the CIA, FBI and Israel’s Mossad, Netanya Mayor Miriam Fierberg, and terrorism experts Jessica Stern, Steven Emerson and Jules Kroll.
Gorbachev, who is heading the executive committee of the new center, roundly criticized the Bush administration while rejecting the notion that the world is engaged in a third world war. Barak later countered that we are in a world war to the death with global terrorism.
Gorbachev warned of a new cold war if the U.S. policy against terrorism continues as a series of military actions.
"The fight against terrorism should proceed from the logic of peace, not of war," Gorbachev wrote in a statement read by his representative to the 200 participants at a daylong conference on Sunday at the Waldorf Astoria. (Gorbachev said he could not attend because of "unforeseen commitments.")
"Either this or we could witness something similar to what happened after the victory against the enemy of humanity in World War II, which instead of a long-awaited peace and joint efforts to build a better world was followed by a cold war."
Gorbachev disputed the title of his own conference.
"I am convinced that global war between states and their armed forces involving in one way or another millions of people in vast continents is no longer possible," he wrote. "So let us not whip up an atmosphere of pervasive fear."
Gorbachev said that to confront terrorism, which he called "a vile and ruthless force," an uncompromising battle must be waged targeting the "terrorists themselves and at their bases, sources of financing and networks" using intelligence coordinated on an international scale using the "most sophisticated technical means."
Knocking the Bush administration’s Iraq war and its dismissal of the United Nations, the former Soviet leader said that only political pressure and sanctions should be employed against states that nurture and harbor terrorists.
War, he said, "does not bring us closer to victory in the battle against terrorism. Rather it could result in spreading evil even further, making it more virulent."
The center’s deputy executive, Crown Prince Hassan, raised the "Palestinian-Israeli conflict" as a root cause for global strife, even as he seemingly criticized the U.S. attempt to link the Iraqi war with terrorism. (Hassan also did not attend in person; his lengthy statement was read by a representative.)
"The Iraq war has overshadowed the tragic Palestinian-Israel conflict," he wrote. "Yet when all is said and done about the many issues involving the Middle East, there is still nothing more fundamental nor more compelling in terms of our future security than the need to address the Palestinian-Israeli dispute."
Hassan contended that the present cycle of violence in the conflict started in September 2000 after a visit to the Al Aqsa mosque by then-Gen. Ariel Sharon. But Barak later countered that the "intifada" had nothing to do with Sharon or the "occupation."
"It’s about terrorism and the deliberate attempt to dictate to Israel using suicide bombing as a diplomatic tool," he said.
Hassan called for creating a "regional security regime" for the Middle East, including Israel, the future Palestine, Jordan, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq with joint monitoring and inspection capability. He called for the elimination of weapons of mass destruction in the region. (Israel is clearly the nuclear power in the region.)
Unlike his colleagues, Barak called the response to global terrorism either "the third world war or the first world war of the 21st century.
"This war will be a marathon and not a sprint with success and setbacks," he cautioned. But, Barak added, "We must destroy world terrorism or be destroyed by it."
Abdurraham Wahid, the former president of Indonesia, which has the world’s largest Muslim population, said he didn’t call the present situation a world war "of the sort we have been confronted with in the past."
Wahid said Israel is being used as a scapegoat by radical Muslims, and is being blamed for the poverty and repression in the Islamic world. What is needed, he said, is for Islamic leaders and youth to face modernity and reinterpret its sacred texts and tradition to better the lives of its people.
"Islam has to come of age," Wahid said. "If it fails we are heading for terribly troubled times."
Bildt said much more had to be done to eliminate poverty as part of the battle against terrorism. Regarding Iraq, he cautioned that "you can’t govern a place only by coercion, especially if it is seen as foreign."
Also speaking at the conference were former CIA director James Woolsey and Louis Freeh, who was the FBI director during the Clinton administration and on Sept. 11.
Woolsey, named in news reports as a possible candidate for a key position in postwar Iraq, said the United States is engaged in World War IV, and it will continue for years.
He called the Cold War World War III. He said WWIV, a war to democratize the Middle East, is against three enemies: the religious rulers of Iran, the fascists of Iraq and Syria, and the Islamic extremists like al-Qaeda.
"The U.S. will have to behave like after the Second World War, with the Marshall Plan. And for a start, we have to stop regarding the Middle East principally like our gasoline station."
- Mikhail Gorbachev
- Ehud Barak
- Eric J. Greenberg
- crown prince
- James Woolsey
- Steven Emerson
- Jessica Stern
- Abdurraham Wahid
- Carl Bildt
- Miriam Fierberg
- Jules Kroll
- George W. Bush
- New York
- Staff Writer
- Middle East
- Prime Minister
- United Nations
- Federal Bureau of Investigation
- Central Intelligence Agency
- deputy executive