The Forgotten Side of the War on Terrorism

During the past decade – particularly since the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States – Westerners have generally considered international terrorism to be the most urgent threat to human security. Accordingly, vast resources have been mobilized and expended to counter its many forms.

Unfortunately, however, the US-led invasion of Afghanistan and the subsequent invasion – without UN authority – of Iraq underscore the primacy of military solutions in the strategic thinking of affluent nations. At the same time, developing countries have continued to grapple with the persistence of mass poverty, endemic disease, malnutrition, environmental degradation, and gross income inequity, all of which have caused a degree of human suffering that far exceeds what has been caused by terrorist attacks.

We need, therefore, to revisit today’s global challenges from a Third-World perspective. Indeed, a fundamental lesson of terrorist attacks and insurgencies, we now know, is that no nation, however self-sufficient, can afford to remain heedless of whether others sink or swim.

For much of the developing world, the basic instability of international relations – owing to terrorist strikes, guerrilla warfare, and the preemptive wars that America threatens on its enemies – is aggravating socioeconomic anxieties and fueling doubts about the benefits of globalization. Certainly, we are all beginning to realize how precarious that process is – how easily market mechanisms can be rolled back by cultural resentments stemming from economic exploitation, political oppression, and social injustice.