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Trying to understand this mess is a necessity. As I cruise through websites from The Nation, BBC, the Quakers, CNN, and my local papers, I am overwhelmed by the information. Digesting all of it is a constant and not so appetizing task. I am also overwhelmed by the scale of things, and of being one human being, still alive, in the midst of it. It is as if I see myself as standing in the debris field, constantly.

I believe that the ability of the US military to conceive of an effective response to terrorism is severely limited by the scope of current tactics. I have no personal experience of the military, I just see that the rhetoric points one way and the reality of the situation another. It is as if the government believes that sounding resolute and simply being the United States is enough; as if just being angry is enough; as if the military cannot imagine any other role than that of ground troops, specialized forces, and smart bombs. It really shouldn't be surprising that a small group of individuals could successfully attack the US by using tactics that, even to my very un-militaristic mind, seem remarkably simple.

I don't think the US is to blame so much as I think the US is accountable for pursuing and supporting policies that disenfranchise people, both inside and outside the US. This is not to say that extremist and repressive governments such as the Taliban are on the same footing as the US government--the playing field is hardly level--but that it's clear that Western ideologies are not sacrosanct. Understanding this mess first of all means understanding ourselves. It's a first lesson in most anger management programs, to take a step back, breathe, and think. Of all the polls I've read, the most positive results were that 78% believe it is more important to wait to take military action (NY Times poll on 9/20).


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