Sept. 11 is a date in history that will be remembered for a tragic loss of human life juxtaposed by unselfish acts of heroism. Perhaps what makes it so memorable is the sheer surprise and unexpected execution of this crime against humanity. Nearly 3,000 innocent people murdered on a beautiful fall morning in a city that epitomizes the height of modern achievement. The dead mostly from a socio-economic class that rarely feels vulnerable to terror in a country that is very rarely made to feel a victim. No amount of rationalizing will make sense of this tragedy. How do we respond? What has lead to this tragedy? Is it possible to understand the intense hatred that motivated the maniacal individuals who perpetrated such a heinous crime? Why did some take pleasure in our grief? Can military force protect us from such hatred? I wish there were obvious answers. One year has transpired. Are we in a better position to prevent and/or respond to the possibility of future attacks? Somehow I am skeptical that a new government agency or a multibillion-dollar investment in the latest set of jet fighters is going to provide the only means necessary to protect us from the "evil" in this world. Given the 30,000 deaths that result from crimes perpetrated by and against Americans every year in this country, we have an intense amount of work to do here in our own communities. International diplomacy requires statesmanship. Is the world willing to confer the United States with the title of "good" in the battle against "evil"? Will allies commit their lives, honor and fortunes to a war where they are simply "for us" or "against us"? Does the rhetoric of "good" against "evil" serve us in the pursuit of justice in an international arena? What happened on Sept. 11, 2001, was a crime against humanity. Crimes against humanity are best prosecuted by an international police force created through the consensus of civilized nations. The notion that the U.S. can act unilaterally as judge, jury and executioner in an ongoing worldwide "war against terrorism" is unsustainable. It is a risky and inefficient use of our defense systems and it makes us more of a target for future crimes. As difficult as it may be to let go, a John Wayne mentality will not serve us in this new frontier. We need a much more sophisticated approach to global security. A spirit of cooperation among sovereigns is necessary to forge alliances based on shared principles. Multinational, well-equipped forces must be deployable to seek out and bring justice to any group intent on using terror and coercion to advance their cause. Instead of fearing the United Nations, we should exploit it for our greatest gain. The United States should use its unique position as world leader to stand with the U.N. and eradicate land mines and nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, implementing a strategy that will multilaterally eliminate the threat of weapons of mass destruction forever. We must also realize that most of the financial resources used by terrorist organizations have come from our continued dependence on oil. Rather than base economic growth on increased oil consumption, we should engage American ingenuity and innovation to create super-efficient machinery and lead the world in an industry that will rival Silicon Valley. In this effort, each of us can play a significant role by demanding higher fuel efficiency standards, better public transit and public policies that promote conservation. How would Indianapolis compare to other metropolitan areas if an oil crisis resulted from the tensions in the Middle East? Locally, it would be a great benefit if we had a more diverse transportation infrastructure. Not only would we reduce our dependence on oil, we would also improve our quality of life by reducing traffic congestion and unhealthy emissions. The United States plans to spend over $350 billion on defense in the next year, more than the next 20 countries combined. We are better equipped to defend ourselves than any nation on earth. The time has come for us to stop being the largest importer of oil and the largest exporter of military hardware. It is incumbent upon us to exhibit the leadership that will usher in a new era of international cooperation. Just as America led the way to create peace and prosperity after WWII by implementing the Marshall Plan, we must now lead the way in eliminating the desperate conditions of disease, poverty and illiteracy that breed hatred and give root to terrorist agendas. The world will become a safer place when we, the most powerful country on earth, realize that our future security is not only linked to our ability to defend ourselves but on the health, safety and well-being of all people throughout the world. I love this country, I am proud to be an American and I am enthusiastic about the opportunity to play a small role in realizing the magnificent potential the future holds. As American citizens, the best way we can memorialize the tragedy of Sept. 11 is to be vigilant about making our greatest achievements focus on constructive rather than destructive efforts in managing the challenges that lie ahead. Charlie Wiles is executive director of the Peace Learning Center; he was a combat medic in the USAR 1991-"99.

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