Wide Coalition Against Terrorism

Who could have imagined that Article 5 on collective defense of the “North Atlantic Treaty,” signed in 1949 and intended to defend Europe from the Soviet threat, would be activated for the first time 52 years later, after a terrorist attack against the the United States? The allies have demonstrated the greatest degree of solidarity in considering that this attack was against all, even though they retain their freedom of action. But the [American] president will be forced to manage the conflict with skill: This is not the Gulf War to liberate the territory of Kuwait.

Spain has shown its full solidarity. It also suffers the scourge of terrorism, one that does have a name: ETA (Euskadi Ta Askatasuna), the Basque separatist organization. Iraq did not join in the expressions of rejection and horror at what has happened, while Afghanistan claims it had nothing to do with the attack. A large number of Arab and Muslim countries have manifested their solidarity with Washington. But there is a major difference between expressing solidarity and supporting Bush in some modality of response. As occurred during the Gulf War, there is tension in many Islamic societies.
These signs of international solidarity ought to lead the United States to return to multilateralism and to stop acting, as it has done on too many occasions, as a lone ranger. The situation created by the atrocious attack has once more highlighted the need for an international justice system, with the creation of the International Criminal Court, which the United States has so far rejected.

At the moment, the coalition should serve, first and foremost, to unify the capabilities of the various intelligence or espionage services. It is rather unlikely that the response will require any direct military participation by the allies, but the fight against terrorism requires that the various secret services exchange all the available information, as this is the only way that the mobility and capabilities of these groups will be reduced.

The punishment should not turn into a crusade that spills over beyond the fight against terrorism. To choose the right measures will be more complex than planning the counter-offensive in the Gulf War was. More than a war, the United States and the international coalition must push forward global police action on an enormous scale, even though it might involve removing some regime that may have collaborated with the terrorists. On everyone’s mind is the Taliban regime.

But Bush must weigh the long-term effects. The French government is right in asking the United States to see to it that the world after the punishment will not be left even more dangerous than the present. It must be a world that is more free but also more secure.

The action must serve to put an end to terrorism and to generate an international movement against all its manifestations.