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Mediterranean Quarterly 15.2 (2004) 25-37



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Terrorism in the United States:

Revisiting the Hart-Rudman Commission


The terrorist threat to the United States was recognized before the horrible events of 11 September 2001 in the reports of the U.S. Commission on National Security/21st Century, commonly referred to as the Hart-Rudman Commission.1 This group identified the threat in its forecast of emerging global conditions and recommended strategies for dealing with it and other challenges, even to the point of making recommendations for reorganizing the federal government. There are two themes in these recommendations: (1) the United States must strongly support economic development and democratization on a global basis, and (2) the United States must counter—presumably by military and associated means—real dangers leading to violence and disintegration.2 Since 11 September, the first of these initiatives has been ignored in the development of U.S. national security policy, while [End Page 25] the second has become that policy's foundation. As a result, U.S. national policy to combat terrorism is incomplete and will not increase U.S. national security in the long run.

Hart-Rudman: Perceived Threat

The Hart-Rudman Commission recognized the terrorist threat to the United States as early as September 1999. Established by Secretary of Defense William Cohen and representing a broad swath of former U.S. national security decision makers, as noted in table 1, the commission unanimously and prophetically noted the following:

The United States will be both absolutely and relatively stronger than any other state or combination of states. Although a global competitor to the United States is unlikely to arise over the next 25 years, emerging powers—either singly or in coalition—will increasingly constrain U.S. options regionally and limit its strategic influence. As a result, we will remain limited in our ability to impose our will, and we will be vulnerable to an increasing range of threats against American forces and citizens overseas as well as at home. American influence will increasingly be both embraced and resented abroad, as U.S. cultural, economic, and political power persists and perhaps spreads. States, terrorists, and other disaffected groups will acquire weapons of mass destruction and mass disruption, and some will use them. Americans will likely die on American soil, possibly in large numbers.3

Hart-Rudman: Recommended Response

The last of the three Hart-Rudman Commission reports, published in February 2001, recommended responding to this broad threat with two complementary policy initiatives to be advanced simultaneously:

We believe that American strategy must compose a balance between two key aims. The first is to reap the benefits of a more integrated world in [End Page 26]

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Table 1
Members of the Hart-Rudman Commission

order to expand freedom, security, and prosperity for Americans and for others. But second, American strategy must also strive to dampen the forces of global instability so that those benefits can endure and spread. On the positive side, this means that the United States should pursue, within the limits of what is prudent and realistic, the worldwide expansion [End Page 27] of material abundance and the eradication of poverty. It should also promote political pluralism, freedom of thought and speech, and individual liberty. Not only do such aims inhere in American principles, they are practical goals, as well. There are no guarantees against violence and evil in the world. We believe, nonetheless, that the expansion of human rights and basic material well-being constitutes a sturdy bulwark against them. On the negative side, these goals require concerted protection against four related dangers: the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; international terrorism; major interstate aggression; and the collapse of states into internal violence, with the associated regional destabilization that often accompanies it.4

The first initiative, the commission said, should be positive, namely to raise living standards and encourage democratic political development throughout the world. But following the wrenching events of 11 September, this has been essentially set aside in favor of exclusive emphasis on the second...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-1935
Print ISSN
1047-4552
Pages
pp. 25-37
Launched on MUSE
2004-06-07
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Archived 2019
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