by Will Hart
American Reporter Correspondent
November 4, 2001
ARE WE ON THE BRINK 0F LIMITLESS WAR?
TUSCON, Ariz. -- Nearly everyone seems to agree that military action had to be taken against the terrorists that committed the atrocities of September 11. But what actions exactly has the American public agreed to? President Bush initially outlined a campaign that had two goals: Neutralize Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda network and get rid of the Taliban. Those twin goals seemed logical and doable at first glance. As a nation, we signed on.
But that scenario quickly expanded into wiping out terrorism on a global scale and that package included dealing with rogue states that support terrorism. The list includes: Iraq, Libya, Syria, Sudan and Iran. That scenario conjures up a nightmarish vision of a series of wars fought in various Muslim countries. So the tragic events of the 11th of September have quickly escalated into a war without clear-cut goals, a war without national boundaries, an open-ended, amorphous military action, in short, a limitless war.
In the past 55 days we have been given a cram course on the war-torn country of Afghanistan, which we have learned is poverty stricken and ruled by feuding despotic tribesmen. The country has never risen beyond the primitive level; forget about it being a nation-state. The images that the various networks have shown of Afghanistan reveal a country that was already bombed back to the Stone Age by the Soviets in the 1980s. It is in ruins. This education has come while we are bombing Afghanistan day in and day out.
Why the extended bombing campaign? Remember our original goals: This is the way to root Bin Laden out of his cave and destroy al-Qaeda and the Taliban, right?
Lately, we've been told that we may never get Bin Laden by no less a nauthority than defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld. So, ostensibly, the purpose of the bombing is to weaken the Taliban. Weaken is all that a bombing campaign can do. Military experts concede that you can't win a war with air attacks alone. You have to send in ground troops at some point. But winter is coming to Afghanistan.
History tells us that nobody takes Afghanistan. The Soviet Union collapsed not long after its failed decade long attempt to take the country. Perhaps the worst-case scenario would be to send in American troops and defeat the Taliban.
If we destroy and remove the Taliban we are faced with rebuilding a society that has known nothing but war for two decades. There an estimated one million land mines in Afghanistan. The old tribal enmities and conflicts will not vanish with our victory. We would be caught in the middle of civil strife for another decade. Our allies, the Northern Alliance, are no better than the Taliban according to Afghan citizens.If we pull out immediately after the war, as we did when the Afghans defeated the Soviets, we would be repeating a mistake we made in the 1980s.
No one can predict how long it will take to win the war in Afghanistan or what the eventual human and economic costs will be. The administration continues to council patience.
In the best-case (worst?) scenario we destroy Bin Laden, al-Qaeda and the Taliban. But does that mean we have won the war and eliminated terrorism? No. It simply raises the question of how we win the wider war against terrorism? How will we ever know when we have won?
The fact is, we will never know that we have eliminated every potential terrorist or terrorist cell. And it isn't just a matter of keeping track of the Attas and Bin Ladens of the world we also have to find a way to monitor and neutralize the McVieghs and Unibombers. We have assorted domestic terrorist groups with various agendas including Neo-Nazis, survivalists, radical greens and Christian extremists.What are we going to do if the anthrax attack turns out to be the work of domestic terrorists?
We can never know whether we have contained terrorism once and forall. We can only know the date of the last terrorist attack. That date is asrecent as the woman, the fourth victim, who died of anthrax last week.
The administration keeps harping on the usual suspects like Saddam and hostile nations but there are terrorists in friendly states like Egypt and the Philippines and many of the men involved in the September 11 attack were from our Middle Eastern ally, Saudi Arabia. How do we deal with this troubling reality?
This new war against terrorism is not another Gulf War, not a repeat of Viet Nam and it is not another World II. Those wars had specific goals; the enemy had a face, borders and someone who could surrender. This is a war with many elusive faces, without boundaries and no leaders who can wave the white flag and surrender. Terrorists are distributed haphazardly around the globe and they are also right here at home.
A limitless war doesn't have a rationale. It is just attack-counterattack ad infinitum. As a nation we had every right to feel deeply hurt and be angry enough to want revenge about the destruction of the World Trade Center and the loss of 3,000 innocent lives. But is this the answer to the problem? The world is watching and the future is being determined by how we handle this crisis.
It is time to ponder what we are now plunging into more deeply than ever.