Maintaining a balance
- By Bruce McConnell
- Sep 24, 2001
Since Sept. 11, I have been wrestling with myself, and with my friends and
colleagues, in two realms. On a human level, we have been piecing our lives
back together, mourning the lost and discussing how to live consistent with
our valuescourage, compassion, justice, freedom and love. In the social/
political sphere, we discuss the approaches that the governments of free
societies could take, domestically and internationally, to prevent future
As United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said, "No just cause
can be advanced by terror." And no haven can be permitted for those who
follow the terrorist path. This struggle must be waged using all the tools
in our arsenalpolitical, financial, informational and military. Yet we
must avoid killing innocents and driving the moderates into the terrorists'
camp. The measures taken must attack the perpetrators and address the underlying
disaffection with globalization and its symbols.
Before the attacks, much talk in the information technology community
focused on the digital divide between those who enjoy the freedom and flexibility
that the Internet provides and the majority of the people in the world who
have never made a phone call. We rightly laud the Internet as an instrument
of democratization and criticize regimes that block citizen access. Closer
to home, however, we recognize the problems that arise at the intersections
of business, governance and technology, two of whichelectronic surveillance
and critical infrastructure protectionare now salient.
Freedom of assembly in cyberspace does not extend to terrorist conspirators.
However, the privacy of those engaged in innocent communication, and especially
of those organizing legitimate dissent, must not be compromised by efforts
that make it easier to find criminals.
With respect to critical infrastructure, the debates within government
and among government, industry and civil societyabout roles and responsibilities
are no longer theoretical. Government must act, but the response must be
tempered. It must strengthen the structures of freedom, not undermine them.
The solution must begin with conscious and responsible practice by the private
owners of the systems upon which we depend.
The realms of the personal and the political intersect around freedom
and justice. We will abide some restrictions on our personal activities
to further the cause of social justice. And we will tolerate the occasional
escape of some from justice in the interests of a free society. The two
realms also intersect around compassion and love. Hatred does not end hatred;
only love can overcome.
As President Bush said, this kind of war will not be short. We will
need flexibility, patience and perseverance. We must also keep our values
at the forefrontvalues that are among the reasons we are a target for
evil. Maintaining this balance will require insight and courage.
McConnell, former chief of information policy and technology at the Office
of Management and Budget, is president of McConnell International LLC (www.mcconnellinternational.com).