Editorial: 10 years after 9/11, chains of enmity must be severed

Tomorrow will mark the 10th year since the United States suffered the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, which claimed nearly 3,000 lives. These attacks, where airplanes were deliberately crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York, as well as the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., have changed the world in fundamental ways.

With a mighty military force behind it, the administration of George W. Bush responded to 9/11 by waging war in Afghanistan, which harbored the terrorist organization responsible for the attacks. It then followed by dispatching an overwhelming number of troops to Iraq, justifying this incursion with suspicions that weapons of mass destruction were being developed by that nation.

But the war in Afghanistan has turned into a quagmire, and the fighting still goes on today. In Iraq, terrorist bombings continue and security remains precarious. The death toll in the two wars is estimated to be over 250,000, including both soldiers and civilians.

Terrorist acts, of course, must never be condoned. It can be presumed, though, that the use of force in these situations has, in the end, only sparked a chain reaction of enmity.

It seems that the Arab people and Muslims continue to hold bitterness toward the “war on terror” and the citizens of the United States and other nations that have backed this campaign.

For instance, in the case of the terrorist attacks in London in 2005, these acts were committed by Muslims who were born and raised in the United Kingdom. No matter how much security is put in place, the minds of the public cannot be constrained in the same manner.

Osama bin Ladin, the suspected ringleader of the terrorist attacks in the United States, was killed by U.S. forces in Pakistan this past May. But even though Al-Qaeda, the international terrorist organization he headed, has lost its leader, remaining are the root causes which could produce further figures like Osama bid Ladin.

What we seem to have learned over the past ten years is how foolish it is to look upon others as enemies while waving a banner for “the ideals of freedom and democracy.” Aggressive distinctions, dividing everyone into allies or enemies, has stirred baseless prejudice and discrimination against Muslims.

It might be difficult to move toward a mutual understanding with terrorists through dialogue. But without efforts to change the breeding grounds which bear hatred, we may never eradicate terrorism from the world.

Relations among nations have changed as well. Two wars have exhausted the United States, shaking its position as “the sole superpower.” In Europe, though nations in the region are seeking a unity beyond national borders, worsening financial conditions in some countries have created disarray.

Emerging nations have gained momentum by exploiting their economic might as leverage, but the shadow of a worldwide recession now looms. Meanwhile, China's military expansion has come to pose a particularly grave concern to the stability of the Asian region.

As the world becomes a multipolarized place, it appears there is no choice but to reinforce cooperation through mutual respect, rather than getting trapped in unilateralism.

Against this backdrop, where does Japan stand? Japan offered its full support to the U.S. war in Iraq, though it was not grounded in U.N. resolutions. Gaining the trust of Middle Eastern nations is a dubious task when the decision to wage this war still lacks rationale and reflection.

Since early this year, surging waves of public sentiment have toppled dictatorial regimes in the Middle East. This so-called “Arab Spring” has engulfed such nations as Egypt.

But unless stable new governments are formed, fears remain that the region will become a hotbed for terrorist activity. Support from major nations, including Japan, may be asked to guard against the backsliding of democratic rule in such countries.

Racism, hunger, poverty, and economic inequality compose the breeding ground of terrorism. Fixing our sight on these challenges, what practical actions can we take to effect solutions? This is the real “war on terror.”

(Originally published on September 10, 2011)