Here’s what a future fight could look like for the United Nations (UN). Only one EMP burst is needed and the world goes dark by either a natural catastrophe or a terrorist manipulation. EMP or Electromagnetic Pulses are oversized outbursts of atmospheric electricity, whether powered by geomagnetic storms or nuclear blasts. The resultant magnetic fields can induce ground currents strong enough to burn out power lines and electrical equipment. There is talk of catastrophe ahead, because the threat of an EMP triggered by either a super sized solar storm or terrorist A-bomb, both of which are capable of disabling the electric grid that powers modern life. The sky erupts; cities darken; food spoils and homes fall silent; civilization collapses. Is this an End-of-the-world novel or a video game (USA Today)?
It was a beautiful fall-like day with brilliant sunshine and cool winds. The trains were on time and even the foot traffic into lower Manhattan, NY seemed efficient and lighter. Walking a well-beaten path to the World Financial Center took me across the World Trade Center (WTC) Plaza, to a day of total destruction and incomprehensible loss. On September 11, 2001, New Yorkers and all Americans witnessed one of the deadliest terrorist attacks in history as the world looked on in disbelief - a day the world stood still. According to NY’s mayor Giuliani, “It was an attack on the very idea of a free, inclusive, and civil society; a direct assault on the founding principles and places in jeopardy the whole purpose of the United Nations (UN)”. The UN with its combined power of multi governments to back it has exhibited very little effort in the fight against terrorism, with an even smaller footprint that defines its power. Is it possible to acknowledge and follow through on some of what is asked of the UN or maybe they do not have the power to fulfill on much? Not for the lack of trying, but because of the sheer magnitude of such an endeavor (Shanti).
Consider the precision of the coordinated kamikaze style attacks on 9/11. The terrorists boarded four flights bound for California, chosen because the planes were loaded with fuel for the long transcontinental journey, transforming ordinary commuter jets into guided missiles (History Channel). They intentionally crashed two of the airliners into the WTC in New York City. A third crashed into the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, and the fourth into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, none survived (NY Daily News). According to Giuliani, "On September 11th, more lives were lost than on any other single day in America's history, more than Pearl Harbor, and more than D-Day"(Gothamgazette) .
Is it the lack of a definition for the term “terrorism” that limits the United Nations as international peacekeepers? The UN General Assembly has been attempting the task of a definition on terrorism since early 2000 and the UN Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism’s currently has only a draft resolution that defines it(Logan). A proposal for a definition is “Terrorism is any act intended to intimidate a population or to compel a government or an international body to act”(BBC World News). A Lebanese diplomat and scholar, Sami Zeidan, explained that, “The difficulty of defining terrorism lies in the risk it entails of taking positions, and that the political value of the term currently prevails over its legal one. That terrorism can easily fall prey to change that suits the interests of particular states at particular times” (Wikipedia - Definitions of terrorism).
What is the United Nation and how did they evolve? According to Winston Churchill in his Sinews of Peace, (the Iron Curtain Speech), at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri on March 5, 1946 –
“A world organization has already been erected for the prime purpose of preventing war. UNO, the successor of the League of Nations, with the decisive addition of the United States and all that that means, is already at work. We must make sure that its work is fruitful, that it is a reality and not a sham, that it is a force for action, and not merely a frothing of words, that it is a true temple of peace in which the shields of many nations can someday be hung up, and not merely a cockpit in a Tower of Babel. Before we cast away the solid assurances of national armaments for self-preservation we must be certain that our temple is built, not upon shifting sands or quagmires, but upon a rock” (Churchill historyguide.org).
To understand the issues of fighting terrorism requires us to understand present day United Nations? The United Nations consists of 192 member countries. They meet in the General Assembly, which is the closest thing to a world parliament. Each country, large or small, rich or poor, has a single vote; however, none of the decisions taken by the Assembly are binding, nevertheless the Assembly's decisions become resolutions that carry the weight of world’s governmental opinion. The UN Headquarters is in New York City, but the land and buildings are international territory. They have their own flag, post office, postage stamps and six official languages (UN Publication). The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC), a branch of the UN possesses significant advantages for delivering assistance in counter-terrorism and combines a range of expertise in the related areas of crime prevention and criminal justice, yet it seems that the definition of terrorism has held back any real progress towards that goal(UNDOC - Role in Terrorism).
There is no one definition for “terrorism” in the USA either. Each agency sets its own such as the Department of Defense, Federal Bureau of Investigations and the State Department. Fighting terrorism is tough for any one country, but when it is so hard to define terrorism, how do you identify, fight or prevent it? And are terrorists always seen as terrorists? According to the Economist, the problem as governments have frequently discovered, is that one person’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter. America considered the Afghan mujahideen to be “freedom fighters” in their battles with the Soviet Union in the late 20th century, but called the same mujahideen “terrorists” when they turned against American and NATO troops in the early 21st century (Andrews).
Poverty and lack of education will continue to promote and propagate vicious cycles and addressing the conditions conducive to its growth is a necessary first step. A deadly plan by al Qaeda to attack targets across Europe was uncovered and this change in tactics indicates that it is evolving. Also evolving are threats against the US, homegrown terrorists with a greater diversity in the scope and methods of attack makes it more difficult to prevent (CNN World). Should stricter international policies be mandated by the UN? Or should fighting terrorism be an effort left at the direction and expense of individual countries? The Terrorism Prevention Branch of the UN can respond promptly to requests for assistance, but many poor countries cannot afford to build the capacity they need- they need help (BBC World News).
How has the UN progressed so far?In 2009, 11,000 terrorist attacks occurred in 83 countries, resulting in more than 15,700 deaths (US DOS). The list of attacks continues to grow and is available for analysis from several sites including the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, ODNI (ODNI). As the list grows alarmingly long, some cities experience nightmarish attacks multiple times over such as in Dar-es-Salaam, Nairobi, Tel Aviv, Bali, Istanbul, Riyadh, Casablanca, Baghdad, Somalia and Mumbai.
UNs Kofi Annan suggested a comprehensive strategy to study global threats and recommend changes. He compiled the 5 D’s strategy – Dissuade, Deny, Deter, Develop and Defend (Secretary-General).
1 -Dissuade groups from choosing terrorism as a tactic to achieve their goals
2 - Deny terrorists the means to carry out attacks, making it difficult to travel, receive financial support, and acquire nuclear or radiological material
3 - Deter states from supporting terrorists
4 - Develop state capacity to prevent terrorism
5 - Defend human rights in the struggle against terrorism
Yet terrorism flourishes unchecked because everything seems to be plans and strategies. Witnessing the brutality of these attacks just a few blocks away gave me a close up view of - billowing black smoke from burning vehicles and buildings; deafening sounds of alarms and sirens; screams of the crowd as yet another body plummeted to the ground; the thunderous roar as the first building collapsed, floor after floor in slow motion, and then, deathly silence as if you had suddenly gone deaf.In all it was a nightmare that didn’t seem to end (Shanti).
The power to create such devastation required an amazing coordination of planning, access to money and information along with an incredible sway over human life and of poverty and promises. Only by breaking that circle will the playing field be leveled. Until terrorism is not defined into a common language, and its laws are not fully enforced it will continue to create barriers that even the United Nations will hesitate to cross. To fight any future injustices hopefully does not involve more of the sights, sounds and smell of human suffering to fully recruit the help of the United Nations into defining their roles as international peacekeepers. The UN has the ability to recruit and fight back on a massive scale, although it is politics that keeps them tied to just bandaging wounds instead of healing them. The opportunity for a resolution is within reach with a membership of 192 nations, but who are they going to make a stand against, themselves in a way, it would seem. The UN will have to effectively evolve to keep abreast with change. Change and growth goes hand in hand, we continuously need to redefine who we are and then stand for something or fall for everything (Shanti).
If all else fails, then according to Fung Shui consultants - with the East River behind it and tall apartment buildings in the front, the United Nations headquarters building has only limited opportunities to truly progress. SUGGESTION: A 180° rotation and move toward the rest of the skyscrapers increases power (Urban Fung Shui).
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