Problems Facing the US Heading into the 21st Century

On the most obvious problems the United States heading into the 21st Century is terrorism. On any news channel, one can easily find a chilling report on the horrific attacks of September the Eleventh. Newspapers frequently portray the “classic 9/11 scene” of smoke pluming out from the gaping six story hole in one of the World Trade Center towers as a second plane is moments away from smashing through the second tower.

Even more horrifying is the twelve second scene aired at least nine times daily for months after the attacks showing people jumping out of windows one hundred stories up, one of which landed a mere five feet away from the New York Fire Commissioner (USA Today Sept 4 2002). Approximately two years prior came the tragic bombing of the USS Cole. In 19993, the World Trade Center was attacked by a car bomber. Because of these events and others, terrorism remains a prominent issue in the minds of many.

The bombing of the USS Cole cost two human lives (not counting the suicide bombers). The first World Trade Center Attack cost twenty-eight humans their lives. The Pentagon attack cost a total of one hundred eighty-nine lives. The second attack on the World Trade Center cost 2,819 lives. These lives all a result of terrorism (CNN. com). The total life lost to these events alone is over three thousand. Factor in the number of lives destroyed by the unexpected death of a family member, and the number is astronomical. Millions upon millions of lives are affected.

Swift action needs to be taken. There are many possible solutions to the terrorism problem; however some are more practical than others. The most reasonable would be to tighten security nationwide, which we have seen in the past year. This would include better screening at airports, increased security at amusement parks, malls and other crowded, public places, and also tighter security at water and nuclear facilities. Amusement parks and malls are easy targets in the minds of terrorists due to the massive amount of people that pack into the mall each day.

Nuclear power plants and water distribution plants also serve as easy targets because they would theoretically killed thousands in one well placed attack; in the case of the water plants, a small container of anthrax could contaminate the city water of thousands. Tighter screening may not be enough, however. If the “tight security” is being provided by terrorists in “sleeper cells” could prove twice as dangerous. The more popular “solution” to the terrorism problem seems to be to fly over countries that have been known to provide terrorists with homes and pound them with bombs.

This would be a solution to the problem if the bombs killed only the guilty. The United States government has said through press conferences that civilian casualties are a part of war. The problem is in the fact that the United States considers itself to be a “superior power”, and believes that we should set an example for other “lesser nation”, such as Iraq and Afghanistan. If this is the case, we are setting a poor example by showing them that civilian life loss is alright. Or is it alright for us, but not for them?