Pacific Perspective


Friday, September 14, 2001

New world will make
demands on all of us

By this morning, now three days after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, it seems almost trite to say these attacks have changed the way we will live. Trite or not, the world will never, never be the same.

The events in New York and northern Virginia have been compared to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. But the change that has occurred is more like that which stemmed from the first use of nuclear weapons in 1945. The nature of human warfare has shifted to a new plane. Military personnel and their machinery and technology are not the targets of warfare. Destroying the physical means of production is not the objective. Instead, the targets are now civilian populations, economic and financial systems, and cultures. The means of warfare are civilian aircraft, SUVs, backpacks and cargo ships. The weapons are airplane fuel, chemicals, disease and radioactivity.

What occurred on Tuesday was an attack, a single battle, conducted by roughly 18 men, with the support of others but, even so, small numbers. How many are in that army? Hundreds? Thousands? Suicide bombers in Israel and Palestine seem to be drawn from an unending supply of people willing to die for a cause. Whatever the numbers, they are nothing like the millions we count in standing armies. With modern technology, the few can destroy the many. As the world's population continues to grow, those few will increase in numbers and therefore in opportunity.

Who is arrayed on the other side? Here is where the greatest change has occurred. Those who will be responsible for stopping terrorism number in the billions. The Air Force, the NSA and Air Marshals on our airplanes cannot stop terrorists. You and I have to be involved. In Hawaii, that involvement will be greater than in many other places.

One story reported in Internet news yesterday indicates passengers on United Airlines Flight 93 from Newark joined together to try to stop the hijacking, having realized that perhaps the plane would be used like those they had heard crashed into the World Trade Center. Whether they succeeded or other events were a part of the premature crash, in the future this is what will be expected of all of us. In terrorist war, we must all understand that in attacks on systems and cultures, the few may have to die to save the many.

Some of our involvement will be tolerance. Our seating may be changed on aircraft. We can't bring our tons of luggage as carry-ons. Check-in times will be longer. Because Hawaii is so dependent on air travel for military personnel to come and go, for the tourism industry, and for Hawaii's increasingly important role as a business center, slowdown and inconvenience will strike at Hawaiis competitive advantage.

Some involvement may be active. At the initiation of anything that looks like a hijacking, passengers -- not Marines -- will need to immediately intercede. There should be no expectation that the plane is being hijacked to Havana. A hijacked plane is a bomb. Every one of us is responsible for preventing the deaths of thousands of others. This is nothing like warfare of the past. It's a new world.

Llewellyn D. Howell is director of executive masters programs at the University of Hawaii College of Business Administration and president of Howell International Inc., a political risk consulting firm.

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