PULLMAN, Wash. — During a campus forum, sponsored by the College of Liberal Arts at Washington State University, a crowd of about 100 people were briefed on topics ranging from the possibility of future terrorist attacks to the likelihood of a U.S. invasion of Iraq.
“Yes,” is the conclusion of Thomas Preston, WSU professor of political science, “there will be future attacks. We can never be 100 percent safe.”
Are we more secure than prior to 9-11? “Yes,” Preston said, “but there are still tremendous vulnerabilities.” The question Americans must answer is how much vulnerability is acceptable? How much are we willing to pay? “There are hundreds of dams, hundreds of nuclear power plants, 260,000 miles of natural gas pipelines. We can’t defend everything so my question is. What risk is acceptable?” he said.
According to T.V. Reed, professor of American studies, Americans have already paid a high price for increased security. He claims we have lost civil liberties with the passage of the U.S. Patriot Act. “There are elements of this act,” Reed said, “which have permitted hundreds of people, mostly Arabs, to be rounded up by the United States government. Under the act, they can be held indefinitely without notification of families. Are these the laws we need to protect us? No.”
How did 9-11 happen? The expertise of history professor Robert Staab and communication professor Julie Andsager added that perspective. Staab detailed the frustration felt in many nations and the inability of Americans to relate.
According to Andsager, the issue of unawareness of other countries runs deep in the United States. “It’s a, which came first, the chicken or the egg situation,” she said. “Did networks stop covering foreign issues because Americans don’t care? Or, did Americans stop caring when broadcasters cut back foreign coverage to save money?”
The end result is the same according to Andsager and the other members of the group. Americans, they say, are grossly unaware of other cultures and issues in foreign lands and are surprised to learn that theUnited States is hated by many.
The forum was held Thursday, a week after the one year anniversary of the terrorist attacks,” in deference to the necessary grieving and memorials,” says John Kicza, associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts. “There is a time to mourn and a time to analyze. This was the time to analyze where we are now and to ask, could it happen again?”