West survived but must remain vigilant

Articles and op-ed

Kevin Rudd and Alain Juppe

Published in: The Australian

10 September 2011

TEN years ago, almost 3000 people perished in the US as the innocent victims of a twisted message of hate. Many more suffered injury and loss. On this fateful anniversary, our thoughts are first and foremost with these individuals and their loved ones, as well as all victims of terrorism around the world.

September 11, 2001, has fundamentally changed our perceptions of terrorism as a threat to our security. The perverse inventiveness of terrorists in exploiting the freedoms that define us delivered a shocking challenge to our open societies; a challenge that has required an unprecedented level of effort and vigilance, while not compromising the liberties we take for granted.

The September 11 attacks and the hate-filled message of their perpetrators have also inspired others to target our nationals across the globe, whether in Bali or the Sahel.

Australia and France, together with the US and other friends and partners, have responded decisively and swiftly to counter the scourge of terrorism at home and abroad.

We have made it our business to work with our international partners to analyse and isolate threats. We have strengthened our co-operation, sharing priorities, exchanging information and, where necessary, acting decisively together. We have devoted resources to addressing the gaps in our international counter-terrorism capabilities and those of our partners, building our individual and collective capacities to recognise likely perpetrators of terrorism and respond to attacks.

Our police and security forces are better informed and prepared to pre-empt attacks. Our governance and legal frameworks are more robust and transparent. Our prosecutors, judges and courts are better trained to address the heinous crime that terrorism is. Grievances that may foster recruitment have been identified.

As a result, we have enjoyed some notable successes, working with determined partners such as Indonesia to build capability and to use it to dismantle terrorist networks.

Australia and France have fought side by side with like-minded nations to deny terrorists a safe haven in Afghanistan from which to plot acts of international terrorism and oppress the Afghan people.

Osama bin Laden's removal was a strike against terrorism. Alongside other recent successful operations against bin Laden's henchmen, it has significantly degraded Al-Qa'ida's organisational force, as well as its ability to plot big attacks and influence terrorist networks that had united around it.

But we cannot drop our guard. Al-Qa'ida continues to pose a serious threat, evolving and adapting to make the most of opportunities for staging brutal and deadly attacks. The decimation of its leadership structure and erosion of its role as a co-ordinating centre is no insurance against the cruel, lethal creativity of individuals or independent cells.

We are also dealing with organisations that, while not embracing Al-Qa'ida's overall aims, seek to establish themselves and expand their activities in regions of conflict and instability, as well as targeting Western nations. This is what we are up against in the Sahel, the Horn of Africa, Yemen and parts of south Asia. We are committed to checking these threats and ensuring they do not emerge elsewhere.

In addition to such threats, risks are increasingly emerging from homegrown and self-radicalised individuals, who are dispersed, unaffiliated, largely invisible to intelligence or law enforcement agencies and often energised and empowered via the internet. Detecting and deterring such individuals presents a daunting challenge that we have no choice but to address with all our resources.

While the terrorist threat remains, it is important to remember that no perpetrators of terrorist atrocities have ever succeeded in their stated aims, whether the September 11 attackers, the Bali bombers or the recent lone killer in Oslo. All have failed to weaken the foundation of our liberal, tolerant and open societies.

The moral nihilism of terrorist groups contrasts starkly with the "people power" in North Africa and the Middle East, where individuals have taken to the streets peacefully to demand dignity, freedom and their human rights.

They have systematically refused to use terrorist violence to further their demands. Ten years after September 11, their demand for democracy, peace and freedom is the most compelling response that we could have imagined to the terrorists' call to violence.

Just as we shall always remember September 11 as a day of terror, we shall cherish the aspirations of the Arab Spring as a time heralding hope.

Alain Juppe is Foreign Minister of France; Kevin Rudd is Australia's Foreign Minister

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