Comments: The Challenge of Terror: A Traveling Essay

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Jim Cory, Madison WI     10/30/01
questions about expectations
These terrorists hate us and therefore they want to kill us. But why don’t people ask “why do they hate us”. If it is because we are free and economically strong, then why don’t people ask “why are so many others not free and poor”. At the moment I feel helpless in the face of so much aggression and lack of understanding in my fellow citizens. For now, I continue to pursue my goals of compassion and sharing. If anyone knows of more proactive ways of bringing back the peace, I would like to here from them.

Kathleen , Martinez Ca   10/23/01
Your essay will resonate with people of good will who are sincerely interested in peace with justice. However, your argument ignores that the very real economic interests that underly much of our foreign policy and which are oblivious to moral arguments. In fact, policies actually promote factionalism in order to control resources.

Tom    10/15/01
Re: Sandra, Holualoa - essay on terrorism
It saddens me to see the anger from personal issues be transformed into violence towards terrorism. I can only hope that we can all temper our anger to see clearly the problem at hand and pursue a long-term solution.

With this hatred and violence towards the United States and the West, it should beg the question of why; why, beyond the simplistic excuse of political repercussions. Just as when a child misbehaves, the consequences should not be violent.

I agree that terrorism should be stopped; but stopped from happening in the future by all groups. By removing one group, you haven't solved the hatred towards the US/West. Let's stop beating our heads against the wall by resorting to military response. Terrorism has been here long before the Reagan era and military action failed then to subdue or eradicate terrorism... why would it now?

Jeff  , Austin TX   10/06/01
An interesting article from a well-credentialed and experienced individual. The flaw I see in the author's reasoning is that he assumes the adversary is willing or capable to take a reciprocal view. Has anyone identified a desire on the part of the groups of individuals responsible for the terrorist attacks to develop any "understanding" of the United States' viewpoint? The truth is, these folks engaged in an elaborate, well-planned and organized campaign to inflict mass destruction. They do not seem to be open to dialogue. In fact, no organization has even stepped forward to claim responsibility for the attacks of September 11. I strive to maintain an optimistic outlook in every ADR procedure in which I participate. That optimism is balanced by the realization that there are some disputes that cannot be resolved through negotiation. Some disputes must be determined by a court or jury. On a much larger level, some international conflicts will be resolved only armed conflict with the defeat and surrender of one side. The "virus" analogy urged in the paper is workable only so far. Once a virus has taken hold, the body should not stop fighting to prevent further damage. The President is taking a measured, systematic approach to combating international terrorism. The risk of "collateral damage" is not an argument against making a forceful response. I wish everyone the opportunity to continue discussing these important issues in health and safety.

Mary  , Stratford CT   10/06/01
I was especially interested to see about Prof. Lederach's background (someplace with the name of Joan Kroc......who is, I think, the widow of the man who founded McDonald's? And a Mennonite [another name for Amish?....non-violent, certainly] connection). I think it's interesting that most people who speak along these lines seem to think that we (the USofA) should be trying to alleviate the suffering of the poor (the breeding grounds for terrorists) in these countries. Of course we should give humanitarian aid to them, after all, most of us in this country have much, much more than we could possibly need. At the same time, and I only think I know this from reading, the rulers of those countries amass great wealth for themselves, often coming to power because of their family line, not because they were chosen by the people. The gap between the rich and poor is huge.........and I don't think that's all our fault, if one may speak of fault. The story of Malika Oufkir in

Elizabeth Rivers, London UK     10/02/01
Thank you for such a penetrating and hope-giving article, which tells the truth without blame or cynicism. I have forwarded it to over 200 people as I would like as many as possible to read it.

Richard Johnson, Manchester UK     10/02/01
the state we're in
Thank you for your thoughtful essay. I posted it on our local intranet. the state we’re in Over the last three weeks, I have hovered between shutting out news from across the world, and obsessing about it. Friends and not-so-close acquaintances have besieged my home email with requests for action, to sign petitions. They generally have a confidence in the rightness of their own viewpoint that I find hard to share. I did, however, find this essay useful. The Challenge of Terror Although the author uses long sentences, he has helpfully put his main points and suggestions in bold, so I could whiz through them. By the time I had scrolled to the bottom, I found myself misquoting from another age “Ask not what the world can do for you, but what you can do for the world”.

TS Wu, Oakland CA   10/01/01
RE: the comment by Sandra, Holualoa HI, on 09/30/01 This post makes a strong analogy between the attack and domestic violence, or misbehaving children. It's compelling- but if we keep with the analogy, then should the wife just go right back and beat the husband up? That's essentially what those who advocate a military retribution are saying. I believe the essay does not advocate that we do nothing to make attacks of this kind less likely to happen. But what the author is arguing is that if you show the terrorists behavior that they recognize as simply retribution, then we don't get anywhere. If you consider how long we took to nab Timothy McVeigh compared to how little time it's taken for the US to declare OBL the culprit, it would not be hard for terrorists to construe our impending actions merely as examples that further their argument- we are bullies, might makes right, etc., and we deserve their wrath. The essay stresses that we understand the terrorist b/c we need to know what they will recognize as a violent threat to them- in which their violent counterattack will simply be a morally justifiable act of self-defense. When you lock up the wife-beater, we assume and hope he understands that his community is punishing him. I believe what the essay is saying is that when you militarily strike back at the terrorists- and with a lot of civilian deaths, you're not punishing them: you're just proving their point. The other point in this comment also deserves a response: You may be right that they have problems that aren't yours to solve. But like it or not, our system of government has made them our problems. I'm no happier than you. I mean, no one asked me what I thought about arming the Muhajadeen in the 80s that helped create Bin Laden. Or Iraq during the Iraq-Iran war; or Israel for that matter. Or any number of African and South American dictators. No one asked the average US citizen what they thought about exporting Hollywood movies to every corner of the world. So no matter what, what the US does every day is almost a foreign policy act, whether intended or not. Secondly, as the richest and most powerful nation still around, it's practically our responsibility to solve problems, and to do less would be immoral. To continue with the analogy you began, if you knew your neighbor was beating his wife, you would probably do something about it; to do nothing would be immoral. If you knew your neighbor's children were becoming malnourished for lack of food, you would do something about it; to do nothing would be immoral. In this day and age of the jet, the computer, the internet, who isn't our neighbor, in some shape or form? A recent article in the Sun NYT magazine by a former aid worker in Afghanistan describes the people there drinking MUD because they're so bereft of basic necessities. We have been doing some, and doubtless we could do more. Europe after WWII was in pretty sad shape, but the Marshall Plan made the forces of anarchy, terrorism, violence- all irrelevant. I thought this is a great essay. For anyone who wants a cogent argument to help support what they may feel deep inside, this is really helpful. I am so fortunate not to have suffered a personal loss in this attack, so it's easy for me to turn to this essay. I know otherwise it would be very difficult. It takes so much courage not to be like them, but we must. It's part of the grand experiment, the proclamation, the challenge that is this nation.

sunflower , Fremantle We   09/30/01
Have courage
You may be heard and disbelieved. but when your words struck my ears, i felt hope. Inside the complexity of your argument, lives truth. You speak of honouring simplicity and other words of possibility, by these tools, we will defuse the evil spell of retribution, which helps no one, and keeps us apart. All of us were once powerless and small, Let us remember that. Thank you for the courage of your words.

Sandra , Holualoa HI   09/30/01
essay on terrorism
Your essay seems high-minded, but the thoughts are actually destructive, because they invite further violence. "Understanding" terrorist acts is not different from "understanding" violence in family members. One cannot hope to stop violent behavior in families by addressing "the root causes and dissatisfactions." Husbands have no right to injure wives, regardless of how frustrated they feel. "Understanding" their feelings is an invitation to continued family violence. No, domestic violence must be stopped and punished, regardless of its roots. And so it is with the acts of September 11. "Understanding" children's misbehaviors, rather than enforcing rules with consequences, a sad state too often seen in so-called permissive homes, leads only to continued children's misbehaviors. First, one has to establish consequences for bad behavior, regardless of its "causes." Excusing violence, "understanding its roots", will not stop violence, which is not an acceptable response to frustrations under any conditions. International violence and terrorism must first be stopped and its perpetrators severely punished. Then, and only then, should one address what the perpetrators believe led to their violence. At this point, one should be exceedingly skeptical about their excuses for their horrible acts. Poverty is not an excuse for killing innocent civilians. Political grievances are not an excuse for killing innocent civilians. And so forth for all possible excuses we will be asked to "understand." I am afraid we will see more bleeding-heart crap like this essay in the months to come. I don't feel guilty about all the Arabs' problems, which are not mine to solve. I am just sad and angry at what a few of them did to my country. I'm with Pres. Bush -- let's get them, dead or alive.

Grossfuss-Buerk Detlef, Offenburg Ge     09/30/01
common responsibility
I very much agree with what the author says. But we also have to understand that we - or our part of the world - are not only victims of terror or

Candy , Fort Lauderdale FL     09/29/01
Building New Views
Dr. Lederach: Thank you for expressing so eloquently your views on our current situation. I think many people in the US/World realize that this is a crucial point in global history. What ever approach is taken will set the stage for future generations.

JoKeliipio , Kailua-Kona Ha   09/29/01
Change the game
Thank-you JP Lederach for inspiring us to think I wonder how we can get GW Bush to change the game?

Claudia  , Guatemala Gu   09/28/01
On a totally different position Thomas Friedmas said today in the New York Times "The more frightened our enemies are today, the fewer we will have to fight tommorrow". How do you permeate this positions with arguments like those brilliantly presented by John Paul?

Alison , London U.   09/28/01
This is wonderful stuff. Please try and get a hearing with the powers that be. You speak what should be common sense, but our leaders and far too many of our people have scarcely moved beyond games of 'cowboys and indians'.I should like to hear Bush and Blair's argument against yours....

Julia , Granville Oh   09/27/01
Taking action
Please find a way to get this to the DC decision makers, soon.

Nathan , champaign IL     09/27/01
Thank you for the article. For the last couple weeks I have been trying to put into thoughts and words how, as someone devoted to conflict resolution, we can begin to respond to this without resorting violence. easy.

Anne , Phoenix AZ   09/27/01
Context for Giving
A wonderful explanation of the issues we are facing. I would add something regarding the three proposals: part of the current hatred of the west and Americans is our patronization of the cultures we say we want to help. Yes, we should become active in the Israeli/Palestinian peace process, but as neutral facilitators, not rule-makers and enforcers seen to favor one side over the other. Yes, we should provide food, educational assistance, and other aid to underserved populations in the world, but only with respect for local cultural traditions regarding "charity," without promoting our own cultural values over those already in place, and without demeaning the recipients. While political realities make some of this difficult, we can at least try to provide assistance of all kinds within a context which respects the values of indiginous cultures.

cherilyn , Sacramento ca   09/26/01
Powerfully affirming of the unprecedented possibilities that currently exist - both for healing our wounds and for shifting into a world view that embraces all. Nobel Peace Prize thinking to my mind.

John  Helie   09/26/01
Learning New Ways
It is so difficult to learn new ways when our minds are clouded with anger and fear. We must continue to teach these ways, so that the next time we are pained in conflict, we can consider new ways.

Bill Withers, Collingswood Ne     09/26/01
a wider audience?
To Professor Lederach: Thank you for your article. A friend emailed it to a group of us from around the world who have been talking about this. You have added much clarity to the discussion. I hope that you have plans to publish this for a wider audience, as an op/ed piece in a major newspaper perhaps, or that you have some contact in Washington that can get this seen by decision-makers. thanks - Bill Withers

Thomas , Grand Forks ND No  Thomas_Fuchs@UND.Nodak.Edu     09/26/01
Congratulations on a great article. The question is, are we developed enough in humankind to end the cycle of violence that has existed since the beginning?... I do hope so! The clarity of which you write and speak is a refreshing in our search for Justpeace! Thank you.

vickie , hampton va   09/25/01
it is hard
your article made perfect sense, but it is so hard you see , even though i believe what you say to be true, as my classmate lost her son in this maddness and now i see how very hard it is to separate the emotion from the core issue which is peace not revenge...i know the difference but it is really hard to seperate the two..thank you

patricia lane, Victoria BC   09/25/01
I have seen lots of material circulating on the internet - this tied it all together for me. Thanks!

Catherine Morris, Victoria BC     09/25/01
Thanks to John Paul Lederach for this very helpful piece, and to for publishing it online.

Hanan , Princeton NJ     09/25/01
RE: Professor Lederach's Article
Thanks to for publishing Professor Lederach's brilliant analytical piece. As a dispute resolution community, we need to do ALL WE CAN to encourage just and peaceful outcomes around the world. We need to speak truth to power, including most especially our U.S. Congressional leadership, about legitimate and illegitimate uses of force. I also commend your readers to the October 8, 2001, issue of The Nation Magazine, called "A Just Response", devoted to the national and international political fallout from the WTC and Pentagon bombings. You can also see excerpts online at