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On Point

The Formula for Hell in the 21st Century

by Austin Bay
February 12, 2003

Sept. 11 made it impossible to tolerate the wicked linkage of terrorists, rogue states and weapons of mass destruction. Terrorists plus rogue states plus WMD -- that's the formula for hell in the 21st century.

Breaking the fatal linkage -- stopping the proliferation of WMD, eliminating terrorists and reforming rogue states -- should be the civilized world's common goal. But if the goal is too difficult for a civilized world undermined by malcontents and criminal autocrats, then for the sake of a safer, more peaceful century, America must take it on alone.

The Hell Formula exploits a weakness in the nation-state system. In too many hard corners of our planet, the foundation for a modern state never formed, but the trappings -- a capital, an army, a seat in the United Nations, International Monetary Fund loans -- can be acquired.

Legitimate authority? Rule of law? Forget it. The bayonet to the throat remains the only process for establishing authority, making "sovereignty" within the hard corner's Rand McNally borders a constantly contested notion. In such tribal, feudal and anarchic quarters, lip-service may be paid to common humanity, but the implementation of laws protecting basic human rights is rare.

For centuries, the fake nation-states didn't matter too much. Tribal battles remained local horrors. Not any more. Enforcing local dictatorial control with arrows or assault rifles is one scale of horror -- but now the rogue rulers use nerve gas. With ballistic missiles at hand, with terrorists willing to fly commercial jets into skyscrapers, rogues possession and use of chemical weapons is no longer a local matter. We learned, at a terrible price, that Islamofascist plotting in Afghanistan produces terrorist crime in New York and Washington. To return to an era where distance made a difference requires ditching essential technology. Ban the Internet? Ban the 747? Ban satellite television?

Moreover, rogue states -- these criminal syndicates or tribes with flags -- tend to disdain their own people. One estimate saddles Saddam with the deaths of a million Iraqis (peace marchers take note -- that's the brute you protect). North Korea has starved two million of its citizens, as its ruling clique builds ICBMs.

Small men like Saddam and Kim Jong Il harbor large goals, and WMD are their means of escaping tinpot status. Nukes ARE different. Very small numbers can waste very large chunks of humanity. Saddam intends to "burn Israel" -- he said so in June 1990. In February 1990, he gave a speech in Amman, Jordan, where he said he intended to challenge the United States (and a fascinating speech it was). North Korea's Kim sees Los Angeles as Ground Zero for political and economic leverage. Deter these small men with huge ambitions? Blarney. The Clinton administration offered Kim Jong Il light reactors and heavy oil. Kim took the goodies and continued to build nukes.

In 1991, Saddam agreed to live with U.N. resolutions that required the elimination of his WMD. As Tony Blair said last week, every nation with an intelligence service knows Iraq has WMD. Smoking gun? It's set to blaze.

Terrorist organizations, propelled by megalomaniacal myths, are beyond deterrence. However, the description that they are "virtual organizations" is too pop. Men have to sleep, and they don't sleep in virtual space. Terrorists have to organize, train and acquire weapons. The shady financial networks that support terrorists require cooperative banks.

Rogue states are the gutters that supply and support global terrorists -- though plenty of greedy Western companies have entered the gutters. Those corporations face a terrible reckoning when Saddam falls.

Breaking down the Hell Formula will take time. The police work fundamental to counter-terror war is a painfully slow process. Curbing WMD proliferation requires cooperative diplomacy, as well as bombs. As for the rogue state component of the equation, Iraq goes first because Saddam was internationally sanctioned and the sanctions must finally be enforced. The United Nations does matter, but for a safer future it must be a United Nations with teeth. Trust North Korea will have its own moment of intense focus.

Removing Saddam begins the reconfiguration of the Middle East, a dangerous, expensive process, but one that will lay the foundation for true states where the consent of the governed creates legitimacy and where terrorists are prosecuted, not promoted.

A large order? So was World War II, when heavy history fell on The Greatest Generation. It's this generation's turn to accept the challenge or face the Hell of destructive consequences.

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