America has four choices right now.
Continue the conventional/special forces war against Taliban and Al Qaeda units and presumably take this war elsewhere (Syria, Iraq, Algeria) in a long drawn out struggle.
Eliminate the primary motivation for terror recruits
Let’s take them one by one. It seems the US has chosen option one. Feeling that the nation é after September 11th – is now in a rare mood of patience and acceptance of war, even ground troops, the US administration has primed the public for what could be a “long war”, perhaps even a decade long. Never since before Vietnam has the US public considered such a scenario as plausible or acceptable. Now, with the US mainland being a battleground and individual security at home the key issue, Americans seem ready to accept this as necessary, given the capacity of our foes and the commitment of their recruits who are ready to die for what they believe.
But where does this take us? Does it eliminate the threat? I think anyone would be hard-pressed to show any scenario where this first option leads to anything but further conflict widening into a real clash of civilizations, the West vs. Islam, leading to bloodshed on levels we haven’t known since WW2, and perhaps more if mass murder becomes a weapon in the hands of the terror groups and their sponsors. As Saddam has shown over and over, we are playing a game with two different sets of rules and what constitutes winning. Saddam lost Kuwait, and lost control over the economy of his country after his army was drubbed by the US led coalition in Desert Storm. But he won! By losing é he won, by going up against the powerful and remaining in power, he won. Turned from ruthless killer responsible for invading two Muslim countries and gassing Kurds and Shiite populations into a modern day Saladin (in his mind) he could now play the role of aspiring liberator of the Arab world made victim by big, bad America.
His attempts at piety, to turn himself at the same time into a Muslim leader, a religious man, fell mainly on deaf ears, given his invasion of Iran in 1980. So a coalition involving most Arab states was levied against him and he failed in war. But for 10 years since, as the crippled leader of a crippled Arab country that was once the shining tower of the Arab world é and with the US/British policy of “containment” and attrition, Saddam has begun to find sympathy among fellow Arabs and Muslims, in spite of his past atrocities. Why? Because of what is going on Israel and Palestine.
Now we have a man who is also wrapping himself in the Koran to enlist detesters of America é Bin Laden é and he is far more effective. He has no baggage as a person who harmed Muslim interests in the past. He is a pure rebel, fighting on the front lines, funding groups lavishly, setting up a network of groups worldwide, training them, and now, after 9-11, of having succeeded where Saddam failed. He actually hurt America and has managed é in one blow é to cripple the US spirit and economy, kill thousands for half the cost of one Cruise missile, and to instill fear into the minds of all Americans.
The reaction therefore was predictable. So predictable that Bin Laden probably taped that famous TV appearance in front of a cave soon after the 9-11 attacks; he probably imagined that the US response would be faster, in a day or two. The plan was to air his little speech right after the US attacks began, but they were probably surprised it took nearly 4 weeks. One can glean this from his words é spending so much time on the 9-11 attacks, as if they were very recent events. Also, I believe (and I am guessing) that had the US attacked immediately, further air hijackings were in place ready to move. But with the delay their timing got thrown off, and in the meantime the US reaction in beefing up security was rapid and severe. Further hijackings as an instant reprisal to US bombing may have been more difficult to achieve.
So it takes us to the reaction itself. Air power to weaken air defenses. Command and control centers hit, as well as training camps carpet bombed and some leaders’ homes targeted. Step one sets the stage for step two: special forces, with or without the help of Northern Alliance troops, to go in there and kill terrorists and Taliban troops and leadership. The problem is that this will not be so easy. As the Russians learned, the terrain is tough, the weather ominous, the caves many and the enemy driven to never give in till the last man. Sure there will be defections among the Taliban but this will not root out all the “terrorists” which will require long drawn out campaigns, over years; helicopters will be shot down by our own stinger missiles. Granted the losses can be less than what the Russians suffered (and even they lost few men é it was just that they weren’t getting anywhere and it was taking years). But the issue isn’t how many we lose in Afghanistan among our troops, the issue is that our foes have “soldiers” ready to die in our own territory, in Europe and America. They are ready, willing and able to kill and die and there is no reason to think that they will not do so. In the past they promised attacks, and the attacks came. While we wait for the next big attack, America languishes, its citizens pretending to “get back to normal” while in fact they are working slower, glued to the TV with the latest Anthrax scare (which could prove to be very troubling indeed). They are afraid to fly, to get on public buses, to meet in large public places. The entertainment industry flounders, unsure of what product to produce. Advertising revenues on TV are down, and millions were already being laid off in a weakening economy, now destined to fall into recession. Not much is normal, nor will it be for years to come under Option One. Why? Because there is no winning with Option One. We may succeed in limiting the scope of terror actions against us, by picking up leads, intelligence sources busting plans before they go into operation, by killing some leaders and targeting training camps. But the vast majority of their operations is done with sleeper agents, already placed worldwide é some estimate there are currently tens of thousands like that.
So while we bomb or raid camps in deserts across the Muslim world, and infuriate many otherwise moderate Muslims in the process, we will help Bin Laden gain the momentum he needs that leads him to what he wants é not the takeover of the Western World é but inflicting as much damage as he can on us before he himself is turned into a martyr. And we are not talking about a martyr like the foolish young boys who think they are going to heaven and houris by killing themselves while blowing up “the infidel”. We are talking martyr on a grand scale, for the history books in the Islamic world.
It takes us to Option 2. Many have argued that if we have all these nukes for our self defense, and especially for deterrence then this would be a time we would be justified to use them. A few tactical nukes over the caves of Afghanistan, far as possible from civilian centers, to radiate large areas and help us avoid the need to go in with hand to hand combat in hostile terrain. We would turn them to glass, and let our enemies know in no uncertain terms that we will not accept being struck, for any reason, ever. This would be tough action indeed. What é apart from the sheer horror of it é argues against such a scenario as far as US interests are concerned? Well, for one, there is Pakistan, with its own nukes. Granted they can’t reach America with them, but they could hit Russia, or perhaps even Israel and certainly India. In addition nukes could be converted, with the help of any of a number of unemployed ex-East bloc scientists, into manageable suitcase sized mini-nukes, to be let off in key urban locations on US soil. In other words, we would almost surely receive some form of apocalyptic retaliation that would not show the concern we do in avoiding civilian casualties. Our enemies know well our lack of taste for pain and suffering and our incapacity to sustain it over time. Their best targets, in retaliation, are civilian. We have seen that already on 9-11. For Bin Laden and his allies and troops and for millions of Muslims around the world, what he did was retaliation, as he himself put it, for 81 years of oppression.
So we can nuke them all, some say, screw the Arabs! Turn it all to glass! Thankfully, these feelings, though perhaps widespread among vengeful US citizens right now, are seen as practically moronic. In doing this we would help destroy the planet’s resources, and the nuclear winter syndrome would be set in motion; and let’s not forget all that oil!
So nukes are out, either used tactically (as the reprisals would likely be more horrific still) or massively.
That takes us to Option 3. Do nothing. This is the argument some make that appeals to peace lovers round the world. Okay, let them have their little victory, killing 6000 people. If we leave them alone now, they’ll go away. Obviously this is ridiculous. Just as the 9-11 attacks were considered retaliatory strikes by Bin Laden and his followers (and leaders, whoever they may be), they were motivated by events that have not changed: Western cultural hegemony around the world, international corporate globalism, Israel/Palestine, the bombing and sanctions on Iraq, and US troops in Saudi Arabia. Doing nothing does nothing to change the status quo, therefore it is 100% probable that more attacks will come, more recruits be found and more young men ready to die and go to heaven for the cause. Doing nothing is just as dangerous as Option 1 or 2.
Finally Option 4. The only option that could lead us out of this mess sooner rather than later. It amounts to what some might call capitulation, but what I call common sense. What the attackers did on 9-11 was not justifiable in any way, no matter what grievances might have existed. There is no earthly or Godly justification for turning civilian airliners into missiles and aiming them at skyscrapers filled with tens of thousands of innocent lives. In attacking the symbol they forgot their humanity. Nowhere in the history of war, since Hitler (and he is often used as a reference when we go to War to make our current enemy seem worse than he may be é but bear with me) have civilian targets been the key strategic targets. This crossing of the line has effectively voided all claims to legitimacy Bin Laden and his followers may have had.
The problem is that the Muslims do have a beef with the West. Our foreign policy has repeatedly been on the wrong side of things, from Allende to the Shah and on and on. And in context of the Middle East, we are seen as defending and supporting Israel, which has occupied Palestinian land since 1967. Other arguments are raised, like our treatment of Iraq and soldiers in Saudi, but these are trivial in terms of rousing hatred, compared to the Palestinian issue.
Since Bin Laden and his supporters among the common populations around the Muslim world have this legitimate beef, they mistakenly believe that their ends justify the means. Of course they are wrong, deadly wrong, cruelly wrong. But cruelty doesn’t seem to bother them much. They are on a mission, and for them the ends do justify the means. But let’s be honest, when the US nuked Japan, we targeted civilians, believing that the ends there justified the means. It worked. The war ended. Sorry about those 200,000 regular folk.
So no one is innocent here. Right now, we’re not nuking, we are the latest victims of ends-justifiers. How to stop the cycle?
Simple. Do what we should have done a long time ago. I have been calling for this for twenty years. Many others have as well. When Rabin and Arafat signed the Oslo deal in 1993 we all hoped that Palestine would get its state and live side-by-side Israel in peace. Then Rabin was killed by Israeli terrorists, and Arafat lost his hold on practical power to more radical Islamic groups bent on furthering their dream of the utter destruction of Israel as a state é forget about making a deal.
When Arafat refused the flawed deal offered by Barak at Camp David in the summer of 2000, he came home to a hero’s welcome for NOT making a deal. Instead of assuming his role as a peace-maker é for which he had already collected a premature Nobel prize é and coming back with counter offers, he succumbed to the age old stupidity of his terror past. Don’t like a deal, make trouble. He reminded me of an overgrown gangbanger trying to show he was still tough. In fact Arafat had a chance to come back and say you offer this, we want this instead and this and this. That’s how negotiations work. But in fact Arafat feared an uprising against him at home if he did make a deal. For years now Hamas and other groups have woven themselves into the social fabric of Palestinian life, providing things the PA has not been able to deliver and in doing so have won the hearts and minds of many a youth growing up under occupation. If Arafat had made a deal he would have been skinned alive, and he knew it, so he tenuously held on, pretending to deal, while closing his eyes to terror attacks committed by others under his watch.
Meanwhile this spawned an Israeli reaction, so that even peaceniks now felt betrayed by Arafat and stayed home election day, and Sharon won. Peace was no longer the issue, it was security again.
I believe there is only one way to render the terrorists impotent. It is to make a deal, long past due, on Palestine. Here’s what I would suggest:
Israel gives back all territories on the West Bank and Gaza, abolishing all settlements and pulling out all troops. Jerusalem is divided, East and West, with capitals of both sister nations set there. Water rights are discussed and resolved. Settlers leaving their settlements must not destroy them as they go, and will be re-settled within the state of Israel in new settlements. Palestinian refugees, in some numbers would come and live in those abandoned settlements. The rest could go to newly growing towns and cities in the new Palestine. Others could be permanently re-settled in other Arab states including Jordan and others. Money for all this would come from Europe and the US, to help both Palestinians in rebuilding and development and resettlement and also to help the Israeli settlers who have had to uproot. Other development would come to help Palestine grow economically and technically. Eventually a sort of federation could be built, like Benelux, between Israel, Palestine and Jordan. Trade, tourism and other industries could flourish in that environment.
Resolving the Palestinian statehood question with a scenario similar in nature to that I proposed here, along with guarantees of Israeli security (which Palestinians would take some responsibility for) is the best way to undercut the terror agenda.
What else are they using to justify their terror? Saddam? Give me a break. That man gassed Kurds and Shiites, invaded two Muslim countries and continues to subject his people to daily terror and oppression. The reason there is an embargo is Saddam. Period. It has nothing to do with the people of Iraq. Get rid of the M-F and Iraq is on its way to regeneration. It is not the West’s fault. It is the fault of a mass murdering animal who rules that sorry land. Troops in Saudi? Let’s face it, given what Saddam did, the Saudi’s themselves want some troops there even if they will never admit it in so many words. And if somehow the power structure were to change in Saudi to something more democratic chances are, if Saddam were still there, whoever ran Saudi (and its oil) would want some troops there that could help them defend their interests.
Sorry Usama, but apart from the Palestine issue, you won’t dig up too many recruits for your “jihad”.
My view is that we need a multi-lateral and wise approach to resolve this without it turning into a long, drawn out and bloody war with no ending. One, go after the criminals who believe that God is on their side when they target and kill thousands of civilians. Get them and do what you have to do. Break their little parties up. Snoop, find out what you can and go in there and get them. Fine. Avoid needless civilian casualties. Two, compel Israel and Palestinians to make a deal, a real deal. Israel must offer a contiguous country to Palestine and abandon the settlements and corridors. Palestine must disarm and de-legitimize the terror groups within its own population. If necessary it must outlaw these parties like Germany did with the Nazis after WW2. Hamas and others can re-form into democratic political parties and attempt to run things in Palestine that way. Palestine must be set on a road to some form of democracy in order to not threaten its neighbor. Only this way could Israel accept a future state side-by-side. Once the deal is made it should be enacted ASAP. Saddam should be removed. And then the world should act to reduce the nuclear, chemical and biological weapons of horror we have all too much of.
Some may say that by pushing for a Palestinian state now in the wake of these attacks it could be construed as a victory by the terrorists to get what they want. This argument is insane. The Palestinian deal should have happened long ago, and the fact that it didn’t was the fault of both Israelis and Palestinians over the years. Now we face some intense hatred that is ready to lead the world to some form of apocalypse (perfectly in tune with the religious distortions involved) unless we get around to doing what we should have done a long time ago. By doing this we can sabotage the desires of these extremists. We do address the one underlying justification that is then twisted by these murders to rationalize their horrific acts. We eliminate their key excuse. If a deal is made, and these people continue to terrorize us or threaten the reduced Israel, wanting only its elimination, they will find it a much harder task to motivate their huddled masses who will be sick of their war and want only peace and growth. And if some of them cheer and claim victory, let them. Who cares? We will have made them obsolete in their “victory”.
Option 4. The only way to go.