Worldwide, nations share the sorrow, tension

Many cities increase security

NATO pledges collective assistance

Terrorism Strikes America

The Response

September 13, 2001|By Bill Glauber | Bill Glauber,SUN FOREIGN STAFF

LONDON -- If it can happen to the United States -- by every measure the most powerful nation in the world -- then what would be the strength and resilience of every other state?

If New York and Washington can be so wounded, could London, Berlin, or Tokyo endure as much?

Those questions swirled around the globe yesterday as the world watched the United States begin to count its dead and prepare for the political and military responses to the devastating attacks Tuesday in New York and Washington.

"New York is us," Dominique Moisi, deputy director of the French Institute for Foreign Relations, said in Paris. "New York is the symbol of all the cities in the world. It is like a piece of us has been destroyed."

Many around the world were struggling to come to grips with a changed international landscape, a new type of war and a vulnerable superpower. And for all the pronouncements of solidarity with the United States, and for all the cards and flowers left at the gates of American embassies, other nations continued to reel from the strikes.

"This is like 1914 and the start of World War I, or 1939, when World War II broke out," said Tony Benn, who served 51 years in the British parliament. "It's much more important than Pearl Harbor. All the military and economic confidence in the world was based on there being an invulnerable superpower and that invulnerable superpower won't work."

Britain braced itself for losses of its own in New York and Washington. "It is difficult to predict with any certainty," Britain's Press Association quoted the spokesman for Prime Minister Tony Blair as saying, "but what is becoming clear is that the death toll of British citizens is likely to run into the hundreds." Britain has been combating for 30 years terrorism that has engulfed Northern Ireland and left more than 3,600 dead. But nothing in the British experience compares with the scope and trauma of the attacks in the United States. That might be why Britain, one of America's oldest allies, was standing closest to the United States yesterday.

Blair declared "this attack is an attack not only on America but on the world," while Queen Elizabeth II ordered that the U.S. national anthem be played today during the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, followed by two minutes of silence to remember the dead. Tomorrow, the queen will attend a service at St. Paul's Cathedral in London to remember the victims.

"This is something that everyone has been affected by," said John Hume, a leading Northern Irish politician and Nobel Peace Prize winner. "There is absolutely overwhelming reaction to the attack, overwhelming sympathy for the people in America who have suffered and condemnation for the people who have carried out this atrocity."

Adrian Guelke, who teaches international politics at Queen's University Belfast, said what was most unsettling is that the attack shows anyone can be a target.

"There is a feeling that this isn't almost a political act," Guelke said. "By any calculation, this makes no sense whatsoever. It comes into the realm of revenge killing. ... Using civilian aircraft as bombs is something totally new in the world. Things you take for granted are suddenly insecure."

But Paul Beaver, an analyst for Jane's Defense Weekly, said the United States has taken much for granted over the years. "I think Americans have this preconceived notion that America is totally invulnerable because you spend $300 billion on defense and have all these carrier ships and battle groups," he said. "America always has a soft underbelly and that's America. ... America can stop Russians attacking but can't stop terrorists taking over airplanes. We're all vulnerable."

For the first time in its history, NATO entered a mutual defense agreement and pledged collective assistance to the United States if it responds militarily.

"The council agreed that if it is determined that this was an attack directed from abroad against the United States, it shall be regarded as an action covered by Article V of the Washington Treaty," the 19-nation NATO council said. That clause in the North Atlantic Treaty declares an attack on one to be an attack on all.

NATO Secretary-General George Robertson said the declaration did not necessarily mean the alliance would take joint military action, nor did it tie Washington's hands. "In no way does this statement of today bind the United States against taking action on its own or with any other individual friend that it might choose," he added.

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