War, Terrorism, Nation Building Focus of Shorenstein Center Press Briefing In Washington

November 29, 2001
Doug Gavel

Laying the groundwork for an effective new national governmental infrastructure in Afghanistan will require a thoughtful, sustained, and integrated international effort.

That was the consensus of three Kennedy School faculty members - Jonathan Moore, associate, Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy; Robert Rotberg, Director of the Program on Intrastate Conflict, Conflict Prevention, and Conflict Resolution; and Monica Toft, assistant professor of Public Policy - who participated in a press briefing Nov. 28 in Washington sponsored by the Shorenstein Center.

"We should be involved in peacemaking," Rotberg said during a panel discussion focusing on nation building. He alluded to other recent U.S. attempts to mediate violent confrontations in Lebanon, Somalia, and Haiti, saying "unless the United States commits itself to a sustained Mitchell-plan-like approach [in Afghanistan], terrorism can never be contained."

Moore noted the increased role the media can play in helping engage Americans on international issues, including the hardships involved in the reconstruction and redevelopment efforts in Afghanistan, stating that public support will help sustain such a campaign. A second panel, on the war and the military, focused on the inevitable tension between journalists and Pentagon brass during wartime.

"We both have the conviction of a higher calling," noted Tad J. Oelstrom, Director of the Kennedy School's National Security Program. That conviction, he admits, often pits the military's desire for secrecy against the media's desire for open discussion.

Fellow panelist Frederick Schauer, Frank Stanton Professor of the First Amendment, cited the Constitutional challenges posed by wartime news coverage.

Alex S. Jones, Director of the Shorenstein Center, defended the right of media outlets to report sensitive information during wartime, but noted how few reporters have military backgrounds. "On the one hand, the media can be totally oblivious to what public opinion is," he said. "But the American media have a great opportunity to be tough and illuminative in their coverage."

Domestic preparedness for terrorism was discussed during the third panel - consisting of Graham Allison, Director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, and Juliette Kayyem, Executive Director of the Kennedy School's Executive Session on Domestic Preparedness.
"What happened on September 11th should have shattered the illusion of invulnerability in America," Allison stated. "The U.S. today is not prepared for a chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons incident."

"This war is not just a war in Afghanistan," Kayyem concluded, alluding to the terrorism threat that will continue to loom over the world even after the military campaign is over. "This is real and it is long-term."

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