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Homeland Security

Washington File

10 June 2003

"Free Markets and Fighting Terrorism," by Congressman Christopher Shays

(Connecticut's Rep. Christopher Shays op-ed in The Washington Times) (880)
(This column by Rep. Christopher Shays, a Connecticut Republican, was
first published June 10 in The Washington Times. The column is in the
public domain. No republication restrictions.)
(begin byliner)
Free Markets and Fighting Terrorism
By Christopher Shays
In the fight against global terrorism, broad-based free expression and
free markets are not only necessary, they are inevitable if we are to
build and sustain a safer world.
In the course of more than 40 hearings on terrorism issues by the
National Security Subcommittee that I chair, this hard lesson emerged:
We have been at war for some time and were unable, or unwilling, to
admit it. For too long, the world tolerated the Taliban in Afghanistan
and allowed Saddam Hussein to toy with U.N. mandates to disarm Iraq.
Malevolents in the Mideast, frustrated by an inability to achieve
their goals under the watchful eyes of authoritarian regimes, shifted
the battlefield by attacking softer targets in the West. In
dispatching 19 Saudis to attack the United States in September 2001,
Osama bin Laden knew he would impact Riyadh as well as New York and
Washington; the Saudi regime's precarious balance between Wahabi
orthodoxy and Western alliances came under unprecedented, unwanted
scrutiny in the Arab world and the West.
This is not the Pax Americana we expected. The Cold War is over, yet
the world is a more dangerous place. Instead of a "New World Order" of
growth and cooperation, intractable regional conflicts and the rise of
radical Islamic militancy have brought the prospect of chronic, even
cataclysmic, disorder. The Iron Curtain has been replaced by a Poison
Veil that threatens to shroud the world in dread and horror.
Piercing that veil will require not one military thrust, but millions
upon millions of daily pinpricks in the ancient fabric of Arab
resentments. Those small stabs at self-reliance and self-esteem will
come in the form of new ideas and economic choices knit tightly into
civil and political life.
If destiny is, in fact, written in demographics, the ticking time bomb
of the Mideast population can only be defused by broadening
participation in the creation and consumption of wealth.
The fact is, a man or woman with a job, with food on the table, with a
stake in the economic status quo, and with opportunities to improve
life for their children, their tribes or their sect, will have neither
the time nor the inclination to succumb to the terrorist recruiter's
siren song. Or, as President Woodrow Wilson put it, "Business
underlies everything in our national life, including our spiritual
life. Witness the fact that in the Lord's Prayer, the first petition
is for daily bread. No one can worship God or love his neighbor on an
empty stomach."
Yet, with the exception of Norway, no nation dependent on oil for the
bulk of its national income has been able to develop the economic
diversity which fuels pluralism and tolerance in civil and political
realms. And concentration of wealth breeds concentration of power.
Once consolidated in a family or region, that power is difficult to
redistribute, particularly when the oil money used to buy off or
suppress popular yearnings dries up. When the oil is flowing, there is
no incentive to share power. After the wells are capped, even a
willing government lacks the means to ease the transition to more
participatory, entrepreneurial systems. Faced with the apparent choice
between survival and chaos, between the rule of law and civil war,
entrenched interests will opt for further repression, not
Of course, oil wealth must be exploited to rebuild Iraq's physical
infrastructure. But that infrastructure must move more than oil. It
should facilitate the movement of ideas, people and goods into and out
of a diversified marketplace.
In the United States, our politics often look fractious and indecisive
on television. But it is a mistake to equate a diversity, even a
cacophony, of views with a lack of strength or resolve. Political,
social and economic outlets for expression and dissent draw energy and
adherents from destructive, violent modes of participation in the
affairs of state.
But democracy and free markets are not Western cultural idiosyncrasies
or cultural poison pills brought here to gut Arab culture and mores.
The West has no exclusive franchise on those rights and aspirations so
dearly purchased, interpreted and defended by evolving societies
throughout human history. In fact, as one U.S. Arab scholar recently
observed, "[Democracy] is not a foreigner's gift." It springs from
native soil fertilized by a social compact between the government and
the governed.
Terrorists are enslaved by their hatred. They would enslave us all to
their violent vision. Their toxic zeal can only be defeated by market
forces, the relentless inevitability of free peoples pursuing their
own enlightened self-interest in common cause. The universality of
self-determination and economic freedom must be undisputed.
(Christopher Shays, a Connecticut Republican, serves as vice chairman
of both the House Budget and Government Reform Committees, and is
chairman of the Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security,
Emerging Threats and International Relations, and on the Select
Homeland Security and Financial Service Committees.)
(end byliner)
(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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