Tony Quainton ’51 Speaks on Terror, Urges Multilateral Approach to War

Tony Quainton ’51, former head of the counter-terrorism program in the United States government, spoke on terrorism and offered interesting anecdotes of his experiences abroad during this Wednesday’s All-School Meeting. “It wasn’t like this in my day,” Mr. Quainton said (despite Assistant Head of School Becky Sykes’ assurances to the contrary,) as he addressed Phillips Academy’s student body, complete with toga-toting Seniors. (The Seniors sported togas for a spirit day.) Mr. Quainto is an authority on terrorism. He served as head of the United States government’s counter-terrorism program from 1978 to 1981. “It’s a different world, a different war, and a different set of legends and histories,” Mr. Quianton said of the difference between his school days and the present. For his generation, Mr. Quainton said, “the war” had been the Soviet-American conflict that comprised the Cold War. Now, “the war” signifies what President Bush has termed “the war on terror.” The phrase “war against terrorism” is, according to Mr. Quainton, somewhat of a misnomer. It is not helpful to call this conflict a war, he said, as it is not a war in the traditional sense. There can be no clear victors and losers in this war, he said. “It is hard for me to see a time when we can say with confidence that terrorism is behind us,” he added. There is “no doubt that we will see more of the same,” Mr. Quainton stated, adding that, though he cannot with absolute certainty say anything on the use of weapons of mass destruction in the near future, he is “absolutely certain we will see more bombs going off around the world.” “There have been real costs to fighting the war on terrorism,” said Mr. Quainton, costs paid by the United States as a society. “Whatever we do,” said Mr. Quainton, “we can’t do it alone,” stressing the urgency of understanding the underlying causes of terrorism and the importance of factors such as poverty. “Some things can be solved,” he said, citing the Arab-Israeli conflict, the problem in Ireland, and conflict over Kashmir as three feasibly solvable issues that have led to acts of terrorism. Mr. Quainton said that the costs of fighting terrorism will be high. He cited his own experience as U.S. ambassador to Peru, where he traveled with 14 bodyguards and endured having his house blown up. “We can protect some things most of the time,” he said. But not all the time,” he said. These costs, he said, are not limited to financial figures. “We’ve lost some of our freedom, “he said, such as freedom of mobility and access to symbolic places such as the Statue of Liberty,” he said. “Americans have also come to accept some intrusion into their privacy,” he added. After graduating from Andover, Mr. Quainton attended Princeton and Oxford Universities. He went on to join the Foreign Service, and has served as U.S. ambassador to Peru, Nicaragua, Kuwait, and the Central African Republic. Mr. Quainton is currently diplomat in residence at American University in Washington, D.C.