Why did the terrorists do it? What will happen next? How will the events of September 11 continue to resonate throughout our society—from the economic impacts to the buildings we build, the arts we create, the lives we try to live? In the weeks following the attacks on New York and Washington, we turned to Penn’s faculty for their thoughts.
“If You Want Security, There’s a Tradeoff”
If you read what Osama bin Laden has been saying for years and certainly in the fatwa he issued in 1998, he was issuing a call for a jihad, a religious struggle, and he was calling upon not Arabic or Islamic nations to band with him, but individuals.
That edict was a call to hit Americans and American financial holdings wherever they existed. Previously we had thought because of the bombings in East Africa and the actions on the USS Cole and other incidents that there really wasn’t going to be the prospect of a major event in the U.S. Now we know differently.
I do think there are going to be additional attacks. If you had his objectives, would you stop at this one event? He wants us out of Saudi Arabia and out of Jerusalem. It’s not about the U.S., but about the U.S. role in leadership as the head “Crusader.” In other words, we haven’t given [Islam] enough of a proper recognition, and we don’t respect its traditions and culture. We have troops there. Some of them are women troops. Some of the women go swimming.
As far as the kind of attack, you can dream up anything you want. I have enough expertise and I’m paranoid enough that I could come up with some beauts. I’d say the primary objective might be to cause enough random fear in the U.S. to make people change their way of life significantly. And second, to cut off the East coast so the government leadership, communications, and transportation networks are tenuous at best. All of the commercial sector and governmental sector rely on resources from the East Coast. Ninety percent of the pharmaceutical stuff in the U.S. comes from the East Coast. If you destroy our capability of replenishing our health-care supplies, what have you done? You’ve done some pretty nasty things.
The attack on September 11 was not a technically difficult action. It was disastrous, but it wasn’t technically difficult. Most of the information could be obtained off the Internet. You don’t need much pilot training if you’re not anxious to take off and land.
You have to ask not just what will damage the U.S., but where can they get the best bang for their buck. That’s really the way that terrorism operates.
As far as the threat of biochemical attack, my hope is that even in their lust for change in the world they behave a little more sanely than we have any right to expect right now, and that we will not face that kind of attack. You have to hope they will realize, “By God, we’ll kill ourselves too.” It’s uncontrollable.
This country has enjoyed a wonderful time of experimentation where everything was relatively open. If you want security, there’s a tradeoff. I’m not advocating it. I’m just saying that if you want security you’ve got to be willing to do other things. Would you be willing to see an event such as September 11 once every year? You’d be screaming for some sort of protection, government action.
But America is pretty resilient and I have great confidence in the American public. American citizens will run into a building and save someone. That’s really what it’s going to come down to, a lot of individual actions and individual vigilance.
Terrorism expert Dr. Stephen Gale is associate professor of regional science and director of the Organizational Dynamics Program.
G. RICHARD SHELL
“The Biggest Single Deficit in Our Negotiation Toolbox Is Knowledge”
When it comes to coalition-building, this is about the most complicated negotiation picture anyone could try to construct. To be successful it’s going to require not just perseverance and clarity, but probably a good deal of luck and timing.
The team President Bush has in place is about as experienced as anyone could ask for, so if anyone is going to be able to pull this off, it’s going to be this group of men and women who have been through similar experiences and have relationships here and in other countries with important political figures they can draw on.
Probably the biggest single deficit in our negotiation toolbox at the moment is knowledge, not just cognitive knowledge, but emotional knowledge and empathy for the problems of Islamic countries and the mindset of Islamic leaders. The danger as you go into these negotiations is you’ll see just enough of the other side’s interests to close a deal today, but not enough to make a stable deal for tomorrow. We allied with Pakistan when the Russians attacked Afghanistan, but as soon as the Russians disappeared, we disappeared, leaving a lot of people who supported the U.S. and who were hopeful for democracy high and dry—and we lost a lot of potential friends by the way we exited.
Finally, we need to take the time it requires to negotiate these issues on a person-to-person level. Most of the rest of the world except the United States and northern Europe are relationship cultures when it comes to negotiations. They believe in long-term trust and experience as the basis for negotiations. We tend to be much more transactional and look to immediate problems and interests. It’s going to be important to have specific individuals who can trust specific individuals over a fairly long period of time to stabilize this and understand what our coalition partners’ needs are as we advance our own goals.
Dr. G. Richard Shell is the Thomas Gerrity Professor of legal studies and management and author of Bargaining for Advantage.
WILLIAM M. EVAN
“The U.S. Should Mount a Global Marshall Plan”
The terrorist attacks on September 11 were massive crimes against humanity. For this reason they should be condemned by all human beings; and the perpetrators should be brought to justice, preferably in the International Criminal Court, which will soon come into force upon being ratified by 60 countries.
That there are many who rejoice at such a catastrophe points to a profoundly disturbing question of how deep are the roots of terrorism. A military response to apprehend Osama bin Laden and his world-wide network is, to be sure, necessary, but it is not sufficient. Supporting his network are impoverished, alienated, and enraged masses of people in the Middle East, Latin America, Africa, and Asia. Suffering hunger and poverty, these masses resent the burdens imposed by their totalitarian rulers. The United States, unfortunately, has often been perceived as propping up oppressive totalitarian regimes.
To counter this widespread perception, and to begin to eradicate the roots of terrorism, the U.S. should mount a global Marshall Plan. Diverting $20 billion from the annual defense budget of approximately $360 billion, for perhaps 10 to 20 years, for this purpose might make a dent in eradicating the roots of terrorism. The Marshall Plan and its equivalent for Japan (the Dodge Plan) not only revived the devastated economies of Europe and Japan after World War II but enabled them to advance to a position among the most productive economies in the world. If the U.S. were to initiate a Global Marshall Plan to eradicate terrorism, the European Union and Japan would undoubtedly join in such a noble endeavor.
Dr. William M. Evan is emeritus professor of sociology and management.
“A Fundamentally New Approach to the Middle East and Muslim World”
If we do not transform American policy in and toward the Middle East, we will be unable to mobilize the governments, armies, and police forces of the area to assist us in destroying the machine of terror. And even if we do destroy this one, we will in the process create conditions leading to the appearance of another, and perhaps “improved,” model.
To achieve the destruction of the terror machine and to prevent its reconstruction we must convince Afghans, Pakistanis, and most Muslim Middle Easterners that we are not their enemy; that we are prepared to live with governments produced by democratic elections, even if they are Islamic governments; and that we will use the full resources of our country to achieve a rapid, comprehensive, and just peace between Israel and the Palestinians. In other words, we need a fundamentally new approach to the Middle East and the Muslim world in general.
Without a comprehensive economic and political program of social reconstruction for wherever it is that we fight, and without American enforcement of a just and lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, we are doomed to suffer a fate similar to that we helped inflict on the Soviet Union in the 1980s.
The great significance of this issue lies in the way that a steady diet of images of Israeli oppression of Palestinians and American collusion in that oppression creates conditions among the masses that assure the terrorists of sympathy and support. No matter how barbaric the terrorists’ actions, when they occur against a backdrop of perceived U.S. partnership with Israel in the annexation of Jerusalem, the killing of Palestinians, and the suppression of Palestinian nationalism, they will, at some level, produce sentiments of satisfaction that redound to the political benefit of the terrorists.
As the “greatest generation” fought the heroic fight in Europe and Japan against fascism, so President Bush suggests this generation must now go forth to do the same in the Middle East. But we must remember that our victory over fascism was followed and consolidated by a massive program of aid in the reconstruction of European democracy and the foundation of Japanese democracy. Without that great political, moral, and economic effort, Soviet-backed communist regimes might well have supplanted democracy in many more European countries and in Japan. Our soldiers, and our murdered citizens in New York, Washington, and that field in Pennsylvania will have died in vain if we do not match the victory of our arms in Afghanistan or Iraq with the same kind of resources, political support, and respect for our Muslim allies and their deeply held beliefs that we showed not only to our allies in post-war Europe, but toward our former enemies as well.
Dr. Ian Lustick is the Merriam Term Professor of Political Science and associate director of the Solomon Asch Center for Study of Ethnopolitical Conflict.
ALVIN Z. RUBINSTEIN
“The U.S. Faces a Problem of Rising Anti-Americanism Throughout the World”
The declaration of the president of the United States—that the United States is at war, and that we’re going to wage a war against global terrorism—makes me uneasy. What do we mean by “global terrorism”? And are we really prepared to fight against all perpetrators of terrorism everywhere, and against those who harbor them? I would have been much more comfortable had the president and the U.S. Congress formally declared war on Afghanistan. I think it would have been simpler to digest for much of the world, including a good part of the Muslim world. But we are at war, and that will have meaning for how far we are prepared to go in terms of dealing with the opponent and also protecting ourselves.
I think that the Middle East understands power. America’s power has so far been primarily latent. The argument that Afghanistan is a poor country and that the Taliban have very few advanced weapons misses the point. The Taliban can be defeated. They not only can be defeated, they can be crippled, and maybe even destroyed.
Now what happens after that should not be an American problem but a UN problem or a regional problem. It’s evident by the events of the last 10 years that we are not capable of nation-building. We’re too arrogant. What we would like to do is too much a reflection of our own society, and it is not what other cultures are prepared to absorb.
The United States faces a problem of rising anti-Americanism throughout the world. The decade of the nineties was the decade of the halcyon days of American power, prestige, and capability. America bought into the notion that globalization will bring democracy; trade will bring with it a sharing of prosperity; human rights will come along in the wake and build civil societies. The notion that we are no longer in the era of war; America has won; the world is going to be liberal and democratic—it’s all wrong. That’s only part of the world.
The United States is the world’s revolutionary country. Revolutionary in the sense of overturning institutions and traditions and practices and beliefs. America is viewed as a godless society, as a corrupt society, as a materialistic society. A country without values.
Bin Laden came from a family that had all advantages of education, training, attitude—but he didn’t embrace the kind of thing that we are pushing.
So as we begin to look ahead to what our security is and to what our interests are, we have to think more clearly; we have to understand that the world is not going to be remade in our image; and that other parts of world will have to manage—with help but on their own—to develop their own kinds of societies.
Dr. Alvin Z. Rubinstein is a professor of political science and a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute.
“Change Criminals’ Morality, And You May Reduce Crime”
On September 11, I was in Leicester, England, on day two of launching a national field experiment for the British Government. The new idea to be tested was that reconciliation might work better than retribution in trying to prevent violent crime.
As I watched the WTC towers collapse, I began to see the broader implications of our experiments in “restorative justice.” For thousands of years, local communities have tried to prevent endless cycles of violence by repairing the harm caused by violent crime. Reparation agreements were the basis of English law until the Norman Conquest. Modern England will go back to the future with us in testing meetings between victims and offenders with their respective friends and families. These efforts to find voluntary ways to restore crime victims are designed to reduce repeat offending, as well as victim retaliation.
The theory draws on research showing that many criminals believe they are acting morally. Change their morality, and you may reduce crime. Our Australian experiment with restorative justice reduced repeat crime by 38 percent in a randomized controlled trial, one of the strongest tests in science.
Criminology has found increasing evidence that strongmoral beliefs may cause as much crime as weak moral beliefs. Yet my field has done little to apply these findings to the moral beliefs of terrorists. When 20 people are willing to commit suicide to attack our “evil” country, the rational-choice explanation of crime must be carefully reassessed.
Strong moral beliefs flourish in periods of “great awakenings” of religious belief, such as the one that led to Penn’s founding in 1740. Other great awakenings have led to the abolition of slavery, to women’s suffrage, and to social security. On a much smaller scale, restorative justice tries to cause personal moral awakenings in the lives of criminals. It is hard to find changes in people’s morality that have been caused by brute force alone. Whether terrorism could be stopped by great or personal moral awakenings against fundamentalist violence is an option that few have explored.
Dr. Lawrence Sherman is the Albert M. Greenfield Professor of Human Relations, director of the Jerry Lee Center for Criminology, and director of the Fels Center of Government.
Islam and the Middle East
“The Degradation of Women Happens in Every Religion, To Our Shame”
The suggestion that Muslim leaders need to be more outspoken in denouncing terrorism is somewhat disingenuous. There have been striking denunciations of the attacks from Muslim leaders, both in the U.S. and abroad. The demand for “more” seems to constantly move the horizon. Fortunately, President Bush has acknowledged these denunciations and has made efforts to include Muslims in discussions and in the international response. Less fortunately, Bush also made a significant misstep in using the word crusade. This has, in the Muslim world, connotations like those we attach to jihad, which is actually a broad term more accurately translated as struggle.
Americans too often associate Islam—especially the practice of veiling—with the degradation of women. The degradation of women happens in every religion, to our shame. We fail to recognize that even fundamentalist Islam includes well-known women leaders like Zeinab al-Ghazali of the Muslim Brothers in Egypt and that many women veil by choice as they do here in the United States. In this they resemble members of certain Christian denominations and Orthodox Jewish women who adopt clothing they believe to be more modest.
The Taliban is a very local phenomenon, not a movement found throughout the Muslim world. The Taliban would characterize themselves as strict followers of Islam, but they are regarded as provincial and inadequately educated by most Muslim authorities.
Dr. Anne Norton is a professor of political science whose research interests include race and gender and colonialism and post-colonialism.
“Islam Is a Way of Organizing This World, As Well As Preparing for the Next”
The Taliban, insofar as they are successful, are an inspiration to people in neighboring countries desperate enough to want to fight against perceived deprivation and discrimination, especially in Pakistan, Kashmir, and Tajikistan, which have the same historical traditions. The current Afghan borders date only from the 1870s.
Islam is a very different sort of phenomenon than Christianity, which makes it difficult for most of us to understand what’s going on. Islam is a way of organizing this world as well as preparing for the next. It began to serve as a banner for political revolt against alien domination a long time ago. In Arabia, against the Ottomans in the 18th century. In India, against the British in the 19th century. The Taliban trace their thinking back to these movements. In any Islamic population there is fertile ground for this sort of thinking.
American support for Israel against the Palestinians is a real grievance, as is the presence of American military forces in Saudi Arabia, the country that contains the main Islamic religious sites. [Many Muslims view the U.S. as the enemy of Islam] because America supports (a) Israel, and (b) corrupt, unrepresentative, undemocratic regimes in Islamic countries. [To counter fundamentalist hatred for the U.S. and the West, the U.S. should] stop supporting unrepresentative regimes and making it difficult for the local people to change them.
Dr. Brian Spooner is a professor of anthropology and Curator for Near Eastern Ethnology in the University Museum. His work focuses on the Islamic countries of West, South, and Central Asia.
BARBARA VON SCHLEGELL
“Modernization Seems to Come in the Package of Globalization”
Islam is a religion of law and how to live one’s life in a way that is pleasing to God. There is nothing in the sacred traditions of Islam that promotes terrorism or any violent means toward achieving a violent end. The Koran only sanctions killing people in a defensive posture, during war, or when someone is guilty of a capital crime. But no religion has been completely free of violence. There have been strange and violent uprisings in the name of religion all over the world—the Tamil separatist movement in Sri Lanka, the conflicts in northern Ireland, to name a few. And the early European colonists and latter settlers in America, in the name of Christianity, exterminated many native Americans.
I think any sacred scripture is, by its very nature, open to interpretation. But Muslims will give 10 different interpretations of a single passage in the Koran. It’s one of the beauties and also one of the problems of the religion. There’s no clerical structure that dictates correct beliefs, so there is the possibility for this grassroots reading of the scripture where you are encouraged to make your own interpretation. When a rogue person like bin Laden makes his interpretation, that’s a disadvantage. And there’s no central authority to say, “You’re excommunicated.”
I think bin Laden does feel like a soldier for Islam. He frequently mouths words like “Thanks God,” but he doesn’t have any spiritual depth. There’s the feeling that there is this great secret that only he and his followers are in on…that they are committing these actions for some sort of cosmic reason. This is obviously the use of religion for his own geopolitical ends, and it’s the most acute example of the misuse of religion for a very angry political stance.
Within each of the Muslim countries in the Middle East, there is such a wide range of stances vis-a-vis America, modernity, the women’s movement… It’s impossible to make it a monolith. If it were possible for Muslims to unite, it would have happened already. There are 1.2 billion Muslims in the world, and Islam is the second largest religion. They share some basic beliefs, but it ends there. However, this conflict threatens to unite them in a way that nothing else has.
No Muslim country is against modernism. They’re all for things like better medicine, technology, and better education And almost everyone but the Taliban is for women’s rights. The problem is that modernization seems to come in the package of globalization, which means Americanization and the invasion of the western way of life. So it’s viewed more as a cultural invasion.
They are used to nature programs and informative shows, what we would think of as PBS-style programming. We talk about family values, and we have violence and borderline-pornographic images on TV, violence against women, astronomical rates of women raising children on their own, and high crime rates. These are things that Muslims have never seen. If that is their overall impression of our society, then it’s easy for them to demonize our society as extremely corrupt.
Dr. Barbara von Schlegell is an assistant professor of religious studies with a secondary appointment in history, specializing in Islamic religion and history.
“Terrorism Is As Representative of the Middle East As Baywatch Is of America”
Since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, most of these predominantly Islamic countries have been on the defensive. There were many promises made to Arab leaders that were not fully kept. At the end of World War I, many of these countries got a taste of quasi-independence under the auspices of the western world.
With little political tradition of power sharing, open political dialogue, or checks and balances on power in the region, individuals will take power into their own hands. There is a great deal of authoritarianism, oppression and lawlessness. The most important thing these people need is law. Since the 19th century, Islamic modernists have been advocating a more effective, representative government.
The Middle East has a love-hate relationship with America. It’s convenient to make America a scapegoat because America is thriving. Look at the refugee crisis in Afghanistan. Many in the Middle East aspire to America. American pop culture is alive and well there. But in terms of politics, there is the popular perception that America is a bully, and they want to crush the American bully.
Islam has become a culprit [in the terrorist activities] because political fanatics have used Islam as a way of garnering greater support for their causes. Islamic text, like any text, can be misinterpreted to further a political cause and win over more followers. For example, the whole concept of suicide is against Islam. Yet some very conservative scholars have argued that these suicide bombings are not technically suicides, but martyrdom. The terrorists are using what they can to further their lust for power. You have people who will use whatever means they can in order to gain power and put into place a vision of society that is contrary to our American views of freedom and civil liberties as well as to Islam’s fundamental teachings about respecting the value of human life.
There are basic beliefs that all Muslims uphold, like the five pillars of faith. But within Islam, there are many sects and offshoots of sects. Islamic fundamentalists are on the outer fringes. They are in no way embraced by any Islamic orthodoxy. It’s easy for conservative religious factions to appeal to certain groups suffering from socioeconomic oppression. Many view [these radical ideologies] as a last resort to win back the “war,” to enfranchise themselves. It fills a void in their lives and gives them the hope for a better future. Islamic fundamentalism is no different from other ideologies in that respect. But this is a unique opportunity for other Muslims to take a stand against Islamic radicals and say, “We will not give in to these fringe groups.”
Terror has existed at many different points in history and in many different societies. There have been political assassinations and killings to further various ideologies, so it definitely is not fair to single out the Middle East as the area to which terrorism is more endemic than other areas. Terrorism is as representative of the Middle East as Baywatchis of America.
Dr. Firoozeh Kashani-Sabet is assistant professor of history. Her research deals with the modern Middle East, the Ottoman Empire, and Iran.
The U.S. After the Attacks
“Viewing the Event As We Did Was Therapeutic”
In times of crisis, the media are there to comfort, to console and to provide us with a collective frame of reference, a sense of community. We’ve known for a long time, at least since the Kennedy assassination, that what we do in times of crisis is we collect around our television screen. It offers us not only a meeting place, but also a kind of shared frame of reference. The visuals we get help us deal with an event and help to offset our feelings of helplessness, give us a sense of control, bring us together with significant others and keep us informed.
I think that viewing the event as we did was therapeutic. It was important to be able to see the planes hitting the towers, to see the destruction, at least for that first stage of the event. Because what television helps us do is move from the chaos of the first few minutes or first day-or-so to a place of resolve, and then to a place of resolution to grieve and then put this behind us.
After that first day, we looked to newspapers, which offered us the ability to view the still images, pausing and reflecting on them, even saving them. We have a different relationship with newspaper and magazine images than with television images. Certain images are easier to take when they move on, and other images can be better understood when they appear as still photos. All of the media come together to give us a more comprehensive encounter with the event.
We have to make a distinction between the events and the images of the events, because you can’t get caught in blaming the messenger. The visuals weren’t horrible. What was horrible was the event. [And] there was a definitive sense of limitations in what we weren’t shown. The images of the people jumping out of the building were yanked off the air in the first hour, I believe. We were not shown bodies, even though we know people were hit by body parts.
There is a certain therapy involved in the repetition of these images [such as the second airplane crashing into the Tower] as we move through our acceptance of what’s going on. For many of us, seeing is believing. Also, not everyone disengages at the same time. It’s almost like it’s television’s obligation to keep that setting going for as long as people need it to be there. And people started turning it off at different times. Some people had had enough after one day. Some people kept watching television obsessively for three or four days.
I think that the media did an exemplary job in covering what was a complicated and unprecedented event.
Dr. Barbie Zelizer is the Raymond Williams Associate Professor of Communications and author of Remembering to Forget: Holocaust Memory Through the Camera’s Eye.
“A Televised Tutorial by the Government”
The media have been a mobilizing force by concentrating collective public attention on a particular fact of American life in a particularly riveting way that we’ve never seen before. About 80 million Americans viewed the attack coverage in prime time that night on the major networks. Through television, the government was able to shape public opinion about the event and help people respond to what had happened.
In some sense, the public was a blank slate during this event. Historically, the American media have brought an abysmal lack of attention to the international arena. So our nation is so ignorant in terms of the goings-on in other countries. People had to get up-to-speed about countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan … As a result, the government had the ability to impress upon people a new understanding, to mold public opinion in ways they wouldn’t have been able to with domestic issues. Except for their disdain of terrorism, people have had very little opinion about foreign affairs. It was, in a sense, a televised tutorial by the government.
It’s a little disingenuous to say [the major networks] were objective [in their coverage]. There’s no such thing as news objectivity. Take, for instance, the titles of the programs. We see a branding mechanism that cued us about how we should view the events: Attack on America, America at War, America Recovers. In the beginning, the titles were incredibly similar across networks, but then they started to change. These titles were all attempts to package the story and structure our sense of what was happening.
The media try to be dispassionate, but they are part of the establishment. To say that any established media should stay on the outside of society is an extremely tall order. [Reporters who revealed on-air emotions] is not a new phenomenon. Walter Cronkite cried when he announced that Kennedy died. I have the feeling that MSNBC and other networks are encouraging reporters to be a little more “out there” in terms of their feelings. There’s a whole history of the American news that emphasizes straight fact-telling. But it’s useful to know what the biases are rather than pretend they don’t exist. You can then take these stances into consideration to evaluate what reporters are saying.
Dr. Joseph Turow is the Robert Lewis Shayon Professor of Communications, specializing in media industries and social influences of the media.
“The Long Run Remains As Bright As It’s Been”
One thing we’ve always known is that the market hates uncertainty. Certainly the level of uncertainty in our economy and in our lives has increased markedly since the September 11 attacks, and it had a predictably depressing effect on the markets. It’s hard to see the market recovering rapidly without some relief of that uncertainty in terms of political and military and security developments.
The economic impact is certainly devastating in the short run. It was coming at a very bad time. The economy was already slipping into a recession. The long run, I believe, remains as bright as it’s been. We will have a shift, obviously, toward more security and more defense, and there will be industries that will thrive from the shift in the pattern of expenditures.
Certainly travel and tourism will be hurt for a while until Americans can feel more secure. What concerns me is international trade and integration and the globalization of the world economy. If that progress is significantly hampered for long periods of time, that will have a negative effect on growth around the world. We had a situation where not only the U.S. economy, but the Japanese and European economies, were also very weak before these attacks.
The good news is the Federal Reserve is providing a lot of liquidity. But it will be very hard for these lower rates to increase spending by as much as how spending is going to be curtailed in the short run due to economic uncertainty. Clearly we’re going to have a rising unemployment rate and we will have to measure that impact on consumer confidence.
It would seem to me that without some favorable developments in the war against terrorism it would be hard for the market to make much progress over the next six-to-nine months. In the second half of next year, we hopefully will see some improvements. If you’re a long-term investor, this is not necessarily a bad development. You’ll be able to pick up shares at prices which in the future will probably enhance your wealth even more. Clearly if you’re a short-term investor there are a lot of risks out there.
Psychology can swing prices far more than the economic justification. So, I could make a very good case that could be correct for the market not falling much as a result of this, but if people get very discouraged or fearful, the market could fall much more.
Dr. Jeremy Siegel is a professor of finance and author of Stocks for the Long Run.
“To Certify that You Are You”
Biorecognition, face recognition, fingerprint recognition, and retinal recognition to certify that you are you. You’re going to see that develop over the next few years. I could see an airline developing a card for its frequent flyers [to go through special] security lines.
Or to use an e-ticket, you’ll need a positive ID. That whole field will probably blossom. And you’re going to see a lot of software that’s used to detect trends, where it takes a database and tries to predict bad actors. The airlines already do a bit of that now, identifying people who should be looked at a little more carefully. That will spread across the board.
I’m not saying I like any of these things, but that’s probably what will happen.
I think the performance of the Net during the crisis will drive a lot of people to expect to get their news and really current stuff on the Internet as opposed to TV. On September 11 people turned to the Net both for communication with relatives, if they couldn’t phone them, and news. I think that will become more ingrained in people’s minds, so use will increase.
Internet pioneer Dr. David Farber is the Alfred Fitler Moore Professor of Telecommunications Systems and professor of computer and information science.
“Attention to Urban Issues and Social Welfare Policies Is Another Way to Respond to Attacks”
Generally speaking, I am concerned that the terrorist attacks will affect our domestic welfare policy in two ways: one, the attention focused on defense and anti-terrorism efforts is likely to take needed attention away from other domestic-policy and social-welfare issues. The second is that the attacks are having a negative impact on the domestic economy. Increases in unemployment in particular affect a wide range of social-welfare problems.
The 1996 Welfare Reform Act has to be reauthorized next year. It will be an interesting time to review the policy if unemployment levels are rising. For example, will our sympathies for those who have lost their jobs as an indirect result of the terrorist attacks extend to those facing their five-year lifetime limit for welfare? Ironically, because of the weakened economy and the greater appreciation of the federal role in setting national priorities, this may be a more favorable climate for revisiting the adequacy of welfare reform.
A strong economy is also very important to the growth of cities and to reducing poverty, which has grown increasingly concentrated in cities. Our recent period of economic growth has played a major role in the revitalization of cities. The fact that these attacks occurred when we were already in a weak economic environment could bode poorly for cities, and for the tourism sector on which many of them have come to depend. Moreover, the attacks on New York City may raise a new set of fears about urban living (and working), just when fears about street crime seemed to be allayed and interest in re-urbanization among middle-class professionals was growing. To the extent that an economic-stimulus package softens the blow, it could help, but many of these issues go beyond the reach of public spending.
One indirect effect of the terrorist attacks is that people may better appreciate the value of the federal government and public infrastructure, and be willing to make investments beyond anti-terrorist measures. A lot of the benefits of economic growth to cities and the success of social-welfare programs depends on a strong federal role and on a solid public infrastructure, not just for providing aid to disaster victims but for business development, transportation to centers of job growth, etc.
It is also worth noting that there are a host of potential negative ripple effects of the attacks, and that people who aren’t necessarily going to be eligible for direct emergency relief may still be adversely affected. So attention to urban issues and social-welfare policies is another way—beyond anti-terrorism measures—to respond to the victimization from these attacks.
Dr. Dennis Culhane is an associate professor of social welfare policy whose primary research areas include homelessness and housing policy.
“The Arts Remind Us of Just How Much Is at Stake”
What does literature teach us about terrorists and their actions? In novels such as Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent and Henry James’s The Princess Cassamassima, each of which portrays terrorist conspiracy and violence, we learn something about the inflamed zeal and the all-devouring outrage that can lead to the destruction of innocent lives. The books of Thomas Pynchon and Don DeLillo are shaped by the conviction of universal conspiracy that leads their characters to lives of bottomless dread and an absorbing, sometimes perfected paranoia. These are, I suppose, the sorts of fiction that might be considered relevant to our current situation.
However, I think a more instructive text is to be found in the last scene of Shakespeare’s King Lear. The aged king enters, carrying the body of his murdered youngest daughter, the blameless Cordelia, whose death seems a rebuke to any possible conception of divine or earthly justice. Unable to revive her, Lear falls to his knees and begins to howl like an animal. In this heartbreaking moment, Shakespeare seems to acknowledge that language itself may crack under the strain of extremity. And about justice, he is silent.
When I’ve taught this play to undergraduates at Penn, some of them have asked how Shakespeare could have been so cruel: Why would he inflict such unmerited punishment on the most virtuous character in all his plays? The great 18th-century critic and scholar, Samuel Johnson, had a similar response. “I was so shocked by Cordelia’s death,” Dr. Johnson said, “that I know not whether I ever endured to read again the last scenes of the play till I undertook to revise them as an editor.”
The answer to my students, and to Dr. Johnson as well, is that Shakespeare’s job is not to offer comforting resolutions, or to reassure us with conveniently happy endings. On the contrary, the play’s unforgettable achievement is to portray the depth and power of Lear’s suffering with such truth and ultimately with such grandeur that we share in his pain, his loss, his anguish.
What all of this suggests, quite accurately, is that literature and the other arts do not “teach” us much of anything, certainly not in any simplistically didactic way. Art does not tell us what particular choices we should make as we respond to the tragedy of the World Trade Center, or to any other calamity. Instead, art recalls us to our humanness, enacting our deepest moral and emotional experiences in languages that transcend our own paltry powers of expression. In short, the arts remind us of just how much is at stake.
The attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon represent an eruption of evil that all of us, as citizens, must confront. But the arts will offer no formulas or recipes to assist us in that urgent practical task. Rather, in the face of barbarism, art reaffirms humanity’s capacity for integrity and endurance and exaltation and beauty—exactly the worlds of value and meaning that wanton acts of violence seek to deny, and even to destroy. In this profound sense, art is not ornamental but necessary. As we look into the frightening abyss that these actions have left in their wake, we need to immerse ourselves in the richness and vitality, the satisfaction and—yes—the joy, to which the artistic imagination gives us access.
Dr. Peter Conn is the deputy provost of the University and the Andrea Mitchell Professor of English.
“The Fittest Memorial Would Be Office Buildings Filled with People, Working Together, Carrying On”
Buildings are routinely designed to resist fire, and to minimize the damage caused by hurricanes and earthquakes, but what about terrorism? The imagination of terrorists is diabolical (and unpredictable), and while no building can stand up to the impact of a fully fueled 767, that does not mean that we are powerless. United States embassies abroad are designed to withstand truck bombs, snipers, and other assailants. Structures are reinforced, shatter-proof and bullet-proof glass is substituted, entrances are secured with surveillance cameras and metal detectors. Many of these practices will undoubtedly become commonplace in future commercial buildings.
In the light of the events at the World Trade Center, it is likely that the safety standards for tall buildings will be reevaluated. For example, while fire-stairs are chiefly intended for emergency egress, as we have seen they are also the only means of access for rescue teams, since ladders are useless in high-rise buildings. More and larger staircases, located at the periphery of buildings not only in their inner cores, would help. More attention will be paid to evacuation routes, which can be strengthened, and pressurized to reduce smoke. The large expanses of glass that characterize modern architecture will likely be decreased to reduce the amount of falling fragments. None of this need produce unattractive buildings.
But there will always be a self-imposed limit to architectural hardening. The J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building in Washington is, I assume, extremely secure. However, it is also particularly unsightly, with blank walls at ground level that create a dismal experience for pedestrians. Cities thrive on openness and human interaction, and a city of bunkers would be a contradiction. Architects will have to learn how to incorporate security measures unobtrusively, the way that they have learned to deal with handicapped access, and energy conservation.
These issues will come to the fore when plans are drawn up for the World Trade Center site. Already, some are demanding a vast memorial commemorating the victims and heroes of this tragic event. There has been a recent trend toward larger and more elaborate monuments, as in Oklahoma City in the wake of the bombing of the federal building. Clearly a memorial is needed, but occupying the site in this way strikes me as inappropriate.
New York City is a hard-headed town, not given to sentimental gestures. As the admirable public reaction to the disaster showed, this is a place where people roll up their sleeves and do what needs to be done. The fittest memorial to those who lost—and gave—their lives would not be trees or sculptures or monuments but office buildings filled with people, working together, carrying on.
New York is a vertical city, and the new buildings will be tall. Some may protest that this is tempting the devil. But, as the attack on the six-story Pentagon shows, low buildings are hardly immune from terrorism. In any case, there is nothing more American than a skyscraper. The beauty of a tall building, as the Chrysler Building and Rockefeller Center demonstrate, is its proud expression, a sense of soaring into the sky. This is not simply a function of extreme height, and the replacements for the World Trade Center need not be 110-stories. In truth, the twin towers were always an awkward presence. More an act of hubris than poetry, the minimalist shafts were an intrusion on the skyline. While New Yorkers came to terms with them, they were hardly beloved. The new buildings should be built to the scale of the neighboring World Financial Center, filling a void and complementing the lower Manhattan skyline. Larry Silverstein, the leaseholder of the destroyed World Trade Center, says that he plans to rebuild. I hope that he sets his architectural sights high. The new towers must be outstanding buildings, for they will not only be a proud rejection of terrorist intimidation and an affirmation of faith in the city’s future. They will also be a cenotaph.
Dr. Witold Rybczynski is the Martin and Margy Meyerson Professor of Urbanism and director of the Urban Design Program. His books include Home and City Life.
“What Has Changed Most Is My Sense of What Is Important”
Like others on the Penn campus, my emotions since September 11 have raced from horror at the death and destruction, to wonder at the heroism, to elation at patriotism aroused, to fear of the continuing threat, to worry that the government’s response would create more problems than it solved by not being sufficiently subtle or patient. I told my class that I hoped the terrorists had gotten America wrong by attacking the World Trade Center rather than the Statue of Liberty, the Pentagon rather than the Houses of Congress.
My lingering thought is that the attacks remind us in brutal fashion of how mutually dependent we are, and what a huge role the government must play in organizing those networks of self-help that we call society. For some time I have thought and taught that the “American identity” is to be found neither in the self-regarding individualism on which our economic system is theoretically based, nor in the various kinds of utopian communities that have borne our dreams (including the utopian community of the nation), but rather in the conversation between individualism and community in our daily lives.
Our world may well return to the outer semblance of the familiar patterns of daily living, but for me, each of those trivial transactions of family, friends, and humdrum sustenance will henceforth carry a new and deeper significance. What has changed most is my sense of what is important.
Former chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities and Penn president, Dr. Sheldon Hackney Hon’93 is professor of U.S. history.
Gazette editors Samuel Hughes, Susan Lonkevich, and John Prendergast, and freelance writers Joan Capuzzi and Mark Bernstein worked on this article. Responses were received both via e-mail and through telephone interviews and for the most part were completed before the U.S. air strikes against Afghanistan began on October 7.