The University Record, September 24, 2001

Terrorism and globalization panel review a changed world

By Dana O. Fair
News and Information Services

According to Kenneth Lieberthal, professor of political science and former Special Assistant to the U.S. President, terrorists’ goals are to make Americans feel insecure and demoralized, and to create conditions that will drive the U.S. out of the Middle East. “This is a dirty business,” Lieberthal said during a Hill Auditorium panel discussion on the terrorist attack. “Fundamental things did change on Sept. 11.”

Somber was the mood on Sept. 19, as nearly 800 members of the University and local community listened intently to panelist after panelist speaking about the effects of terrorism.

U-M’s International Institute organized the discussion—titled “Terrorism and Globalization: International Perspectives”—to examine the recent terrorist attack and its effects on critical world regions and global institutions. Michael Kennedy, vice provost for international affairs and director of the International Institute, explained that to understand the events of last week, America needs to move beyond its current level of understanding.

President Lee C. Bollinger commended the University on its response in the wake of this national tragedy. He also commented on the importance of freedom of speech. When asked if the U.S. might be entering an era of new McCarthyism, Bollinger responded that it is too early to tell, but that the environment is chilly.

Business School Dean Robert Dolan focused on what in the nation’s business practices brought an attack on the World Trade Center. Using business advertisements as examples, Dolan shared that while the international trend had been towards global markets and standardization, the attack could result in a localization of various business markets. The U.S., according to Dolan, needs to continue on the road to globalization of markets.

Controversial in his comments, Javed Nazir, Michigan Journalism Fellow and former editor of the Frontier Past, a Pakistan newspaper, shared how uncomfortable he is with America’s current interactions with Pakistan. Last winter, Nazir and a team at his newspaper ran a letter to the editor from a Jewish American decrying the dangers of Muslim fundamentalism. He and his wife—both Muslims—received death threats. Later, the paper was closed down and eventually torched. According to Nazir, America hasn’t always been morally right, often supporting certain groups and governments over the greater good.

Political scientist Ashutosh Varshney pointed out that Americans cannot make the assumption that Islam and terrorism are naturally connected, citing the IRA and Timothy McVeigh as two examples of terrorists not representative of the broader groups to which they belong. According to Varshney, Washington needs to take a wide stance against terrorism and become aware of the long-term implications of any actions it might take.

Michael Bonner, associate professor of Islamic history, dealt with the historical perspectives of the attack, suggesting that Americans generally don’t think the U.S. desires to dominate. On the other hand, for those in the Middle East, the very presence and influence of the U.S. can be a problem, he said.

Linda Y.C. Lim, associate director, International Institute, made resounding comments about South East Asia. According to Lim, after speaking with friends in South East Asia, many felt terrible about the attack. But, some asked: Why does America privilege its own terrorism over terrorism elsewhere? Why do Americans think so highly of themselves?

Making comparisons between the American attack and a 1999 terrorist attack in Russia, Alexander Knysh, chair of Near Eastern Studies, shared how the Russians became frustrated over time with their government’s inability to identify and locate the culprits of the attack. Most chilling was the realization that over time, except for the families of those killed, most people simply forgot about the attack.

The evening culminated in a dramatic reading by Glenda Dickerson, director of the Center for World Performance Studies. Dickerson selected poetry and prose from classic literature and personal experience. With hands extended wide, Dickerson ended her presentation and the program with a quote from the poem For My People by Margaret Walker, “Let a new earth rise. Let another world be born. Let a bloody peace be written in the sky.”