Terrorism is not going away, so the public must be better educated about why attacks occur, Warren Rustand told a gathering of about 100 people Wednesday night.
Rustand is a former White House liaison in the Ford administration who currently is CEO of Summit Capital Consulting Inc. of Tucson, Ariz. He spoke at the Holiday Inn as the first lecturer in the Craig Daily Press Distinguished Speaker Series.
Rustand's speech outlined his views about the changing face of terrorism around the globe.
He touched on the multifaceted reasons terrorism has grown to become our greatest threat and suggested steps to combat it. He said the U.S. must respond swiftly and seriously to terrorist attacks. He also said the U.S. must work to improve education and economic conditions in countries that are ripe for new terrorists, and he suggested that Americans in general need to do a better job of getting to know global neighbors and understanding their perspectives.
Rustand said fundamental, radical Islamists think eliminating those who do not strictly agree with their own beliefs is religiously righteous.
"They think, 'If you don't believe like I do, I can take you out,'" Rustand said. "They think we are a decadent culture."
For years, the U.S. response to terrorism was passive, he said. In places such as Lebanon and Somalia, the U.S. strategy simply was to withdraw when things got bad. Before the Sept. 11 attacks, the U.S. had never truly retaliated, he said. It is noteworthy, Rustand said, that there hasn't been another attack on the U.S. since Sept. 11, even though the risk of such an attack is high.
He said whether people agree with the justification for the war in Iraq, there should be no debate about finishing the job that has begun.
Rustand estimated there are as many as 500,000 terrorists worldwide, with 6,000 in the United States.
He said poverty is one of the driving forces behind terrorism. With unemployment rates of 30 percent or more in places such as Iraq, young, impressionable men with few job prospects are easily swayed. The rewards they are offered -- financially and religiously -- to fire upon American soldiers far exceed any other opportunities they have, Rustand said.
Frank Roitsch from Hayden said he attended the event because he was "concerned about the situation" in the Middle East. A Vietnam veteran, Roitsch said, he was interested in hearing Rustand's speech.
"I believe here we have a chance at winning, whereas in Vietnam we didn't," he said.
Rustand thinks elevating our understanding of other cultures can help stem terrorism.
He asked the audience how many people have sought out people from the Middle East in an attempt to understand their culture and beliefs. A couple of people showed hands.
"We have to reach across the table," he said, "and shake hands with people we don't know and who don't look like us."
Amy Hamilton can be reached at 824-7031.