Understanding America's resolve

  • 2001-09-20
  • Mart Kask
The tragic events in New York and Washington, D.C. have called into question America's resolve to confront and eradicate terrorism on a global scale. Those countries that harbor and abet terrorists think that America will fail in its efforts due to its lack of resolve.

It can be said that America is the most misunderstood country in the world. Its multicultural makeup and the freedom to pursue individual goals has been an enigma to many foreigners in structured societies. Adolph Hitler was convinced that America would never enter World War II against the Nazis.

Hitler was wrong. Unconditional surrender became the sole objective of America's resolve to end World War II.

The Russians have repeatedly misread the American resolve and have misinterpreted its friendliness, openness and direct manner as a weakness to be exploited.

When Nikita Kruschev placed nuclear missiles in Cuba, Kruschev was convinced that the U.S.A. would not have the courage to step up to the Soviets. Kruschev was wrong.

It has been understood for a long time that the expansion of NATO to include the three Baltic countries will hinge on America's resolve. Russia, as can be expected, is opposed to expanding NATO because it will border its territory.

We must be vigilant to ensure that the NATO expansion issue in Washington will not be relegated to a filing cabinet, to be revisited sometime in the future, after international terrorism has been eradicated. America can do both.

Americans have many things in common with the Europeans. Basically they share the same values. However, many Americans may look like Europeans, but they are a different group of people when one examines behavioral traits, expressions and attitudes.

About six years ago, as an honorary consul, I was invited to a reception hosted by Estonian President Lennart Meri and his wife Helle. Mrs. Meri told me she was able to pick the two Americans out of the crowd of about 30. They were the only ones smiling, who appeared to be at ease.

This friendly attitude of Americans is often interpreted as a weakness or naiveté. But the American attitude is that a stranger is a friend until that friend breaches your trust and takes unfair advantage of your goodwill. In most other societies it is the other way around. The American resolve is not a statement verbalized by a single political leader or group of government officials. The American resolve is exhibited by a collective belief, expression, and consent of the American people.

Will the American people have the resolve to stand behind its government to eradicate international terrorism, recognizing that it will cost precious American lives and billions of dollars of public money? Government leaders can prepare plans, execute coordinated strikes, launch an all-out ground war and exert political and financial pressure on its adversaries. For it to be successful, it must have the consent of the governed.

Today, it is there. I am convinced that it will remain there until the work of eradicating world terrorism is mostly completed. If the American people were to abandon their resolve, they would, in essence, be turning their backs on the 5,000-plus people who perished in the rubble in New York, Washington and western Pennsylvania.

Mart Kask is a city planning consultant and a U.S. citizen. In 1991 he was appointed honorary consul for the Republic of Estonia and is posted in Seattle, U.S.A.