It seems to me that there is only one question any Democratic presidential hopeful needs to answer and it is: If Robert Kennedy had been President, what would he have done after the attacks of September 11? (You can also substitute Martin Luther King, Jr., Gandhi, the Buddha, or Jesus Christ into this scenario if you prefer). It seems to me that if you can’t answer this question, you have no business running for office. Heck I’ll go a step further—it might be a good idea to answer this question before stepping into the voting booth.
So here’s my answer:
What Would Robert Kennedy Do (in response to 9/11)?
1. Bring charges against Osama Bin Laden (if he actually did it) and all co-conspirators in the International Criminal Court in the Hague. This was a crime against humanity and it should properly be tried in the International Criminal Court. Bringing charges in the Hague creates a dynamic of the entire world verses the conspirators. (Wesley Clark urged just such an action when he was an analyst at CNN—before he ran for President.)
2. Find out who did it, get them, and bring them to trial. This would require international diplomacy (if dude is hiding in Pakistan for example), first rate intelligence gathering and investigative work, and if necessary, targeted military action to capture the suspects (all of which the current administration is completely incapable of doing). Pursuing criminal investigation rather than engaging in an eye for an eye, sends the world the message that “we are a world of laws not of men.”
3. Say to the oil barons—“That’s it, we’ve had enough and we’re done with Middle East oil!” Double fuel economy standards immediately. Require all cars to be hybrid within 5 years and all cars to be fueled with renewable energy sources (hydrogen, electric, biodiesel) within 10 years. Remember in the days after September 11 when people would have done anything to prevent this from happening again? People would have gone for this plan on September 12 without any hesitation.
4. Then, invest $100 billion dollars a year (the current cost of the Iraq war) in renewable energy research. Essentially it would be setting up an equivalent of the National Institutes of Health but in this case it would be a National Institutes of Renewable Energy. It would fund pure research, applied research, and improved distribution networks. It would fund scientists and management consultants to go into Ford, GM, and Chrysler to help them adapt. It would fund scientists to work with cities and home builders to redesign how energy is generated, transported, and stored. It would fund scholarships to get high school and college students into the sciences to prepare the next generation of renewable energy scientists.
Following recommendations 3 and 4 would ignite a tremendous economic boom in the United States. Fuel costs would fall (benefiting everyone) and the United States would be poised as the world leader in renewable energy. The rest of the world would then have to purchase the technology from us which would create millions of American jobs.
5. Have a Middle East Summit at the White House. Sit down with the heads of every single country in the Middle East and ask, “Why’d this shit happen?” and listen to what they have to say. If they have legitimate gripes, great, we’ll fix them.
In any case we would explain that, “This shit is never gonna happen again. You’re gonna have democratic elections (internationally monitored). You’re gonna close the fundamentalist schools. You’re going to give equal rights to women, people of color and people who are homosexual. Israel and Palestine are going to stop their war immediately.
If you don’t do these things, the entire world is going to stop trading with you and you will slowly wither and die. Any nation that fails to follow these rules will be kicked out of the U.N., the W.T.O., the Olympics, your ambassadors will be sent home, your embassies closed, your bank accounts will be frozen, and no one from your country will ever be allowed into our country (or Europe).
But if you do everything that we ask, we’ll come in and help you build roads, bridges, ports, airports, and schools. We’ll trade with you. We’ll enable you to become first world countries and join in the international community.
It’s your choice.”
6. Make the case that the problem with terrorism is fundamentalism not Islam. The enemy of terrorism is pluralism, not the United States. And then crack down on fundamentalist groups in both the United States and abroad (including violent anti-abortion groups, the KKK, the Taliban, Islamic Jihad, etc…)
7. Reduce global warming (which will actually be covered by 3 and 4). Rising global temperatures cause crop failures in the Middle East which causes hunger, unemployment, and shame (which then makes young men ripe for recruitment as terrorists.)
Terrorism is not a country, it’s an idea—that one person can impose their will upon another through violence. We win the battle against terrorism when we show that we have better ideas.
The current Bush strategy of fighting an eye for an eye, resorting to torture and secret detentions, holding people indefinitely without trial, and using terrorism as a subtext to advance our oil interests in the region shows that he doesn’t have better ideas.
Following the What Would Robert Kennedy Do? plan would unite the world and demonstrate through our actions that we have better ideas than they do—ones that will convert poor people in the Middle East to our way of thinking and prevent this from ever happening again.
But the truth of the matter is—if Robert Kennedy had been President, the attacks of September 11 never would have happened in the first place.