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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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Lapid to discuss dilemmas and opportunities of world crisis

New Mexico State University government professor Yosef Lapid was in Paris for an international conference on security issues Sept. 11 when he and the other delegates learned of the destruction of the World Trade Center.


quickly imposed themselves on the deliberations," he said. "The general sense was we are facing an important, perhaps 'epochal,' transformation in matters of national and international security."

Lapid, who has taught at New Mexico State for 11 years, and who lived and taught in Israel from the 1960s through the 1980s, will conduct a discussion titled "Responding to Terrorism: Opportunities, Risks and Dilemmas," at 1 p.m. Monday, Sept. 24, in the Dona Ana Room of the university's Corbett Center.

Attempting to catch a plane to the United States from London's Gatwick Airport last week, Lapid rode from Paris to London through the tunnel under the English Channel completed in 1994 and nicknamed the "Chunnel." The experience seemed symbolic of a modern world in which national boundaries are disappearing, but whose ease of movement also makes international and domestic terrorism more feasible, he said.

Lapid said among the dilemmas we face in the current crisis are the limits of our old political vocabulary.

"I wonder if responses to terrorism are well served by the metaphor of 'war,'" he said. "Unlike most conventional wars, anti-terrorist campaigns do not involve a fixed set of enemies, nor the prospects of coming to closure through decisive military victories. Therefore, terrorism is best understood as a challenge that needs to be continually managed, rather than as a problem that can be decisively solved."

Another dilemma may be the need of politicians to provide clear, unambiguous answers in a situation where there are no clear, satisfactory answers, he said.

"We have to act on two levels. The government has to offer a clear, reassuring message, but it also should engage in long-term reflection that takes into account the complexities of the situation," he said. "A successful response to the current crisis will require a realistic sense of what is, and what is not, possible in the fight against terrorism."

But the crisis also presents opportunities, such as the chance to rethink how we understand and deal with terrorism, he added.

"The nature of the terrorist threat has changed profoundly in recent years as a result of important developments such as the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the changing profile of terrorist motivations, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the increased access to information technologies and the increased vulnerability of the national infrastructure," he said.

"Just as the global order is in a state of flux, so is terrorism and the challenges it poses to the United States and its allies. With respect to our present crisis, it would be disastrous to rely on old military responses. This is a situation in which both our political will and our military imagination will be tested to the limit," he added.