|Revisiting the War on Terror
I went back to my comments about the war against terrorism, as the six month anniversary of the attack of Sept. 11 seemed an appropriate time for re-assessment. For what's worth -- here is my update:
> 1. This is not going to be easy.
I'll stand by that one. Even with the successes achieved thus far, we have a long way to go to root out terrorism. But progress has been better than expected. The cutting of the funding pipeline has probably done more than anything else to interfere with international terrorism.
> 2. If there is a hell on earth, it is Afghanistan.
I must give high marks to the American military for a creative and
well executed plan. The Northern Alliance forces were used effectively
and the precision bombing campaign was much more successful than expected,
given the lack of good targets. The place is still a nightmare (remember
--this is a place where a mob killed their own Minister for Transportation
at the airfield for reasons that remain obscure) but on the military
side it is apparently being managed as well as possible.
> 3. One foreign policy goal should not be allowed to
We are obviously falling into this trap. The long term consequences are uncertain by probably not good. The notion that we might use nuclear weapons in Iraq, something that is apparently being studied somewhere in the bowels of the Pentagon, is an example of focusing so intently on one goal that all reason falls away. We have gone nearly 60 years since the only wartime uses of nuclear weapons. Do we really think that Saddam Hussein or Osama bin Laden merits abandonment of a policy that has avoided such a conflagration? Putting nuclear tactics aside, we are so focused on this issue that other foreign policy imperatives, such as mediating the dreadful slaughter in the Israeli-Palentinian war, fall away. I think this is not wise.
> 4. We should finish what we start.
I got more heat about this than anything else I said. Apparently the notion that we should have deposed Saddam Hussein a decade ago bothered some people, since that was not a stated aim of the Gulf War. I still believe it should have been, as Kuwait's liberation was an insufficient reason to risk what we did. We have a tyrant in Baghdad who wants to build dangerous weapons and is unscrupulous enough to use them. Could a new regime, even a puppet regime, be any worse? We had Saddam in our gunsights and we flinched and the repayment for our magnanimity was Osama bin Laden. If we are going to be reviled anyway, we ought to at least win the ones we won.
> 5. This must not become a partisan war.
If I give an A to the Bush Administration for the military conduct of the war, I must give them a D- for the domestic political conduct. There has been no serious attempt to make this a true bipartisan effort. The sole Democrat who has a say in anything relating to terrorism is Transportation Secretary Minetta, and his role is pretty thin. The Congressional Democrats have been consistent in their support for the effort, including paying for it, and have been shut out of the decision making. Legitimate questions by Senator Daschle are stupidly characterized by Trent Lott and others as unpatriotic. Bush is quite obviously trying to use the popularity he won in the war on terror as a campaign issue. I am not surprised, but I am disappointed. He had a chance to rise above this and he has failed.
> 6. We should pay for the costs of anti-terrorism up front.
The budget surplus is gone. We will pay for this over and over again in interest on the national debt. Yet wagering that no one would call for a war tax was the easiest and safest bet available. The whole political establishment failed us on this item.
> 7. Civil liberties will suffer.
Yup. This is happening.
March 11, 2002
The Editor's View
You have to hand it to Al; how many pundits ever revisit their earlier predictions six months later and honestly assess how they did?
Like Al, I am impressed with the military conduct of the campaign so far and disgusted by almost everything else. The Bush administration has, as Al says, allowed the war on terrorism to crowd out every other foreign policy objective. We are cuddling up to nasty governments in Pakistan and central Asia just like we cuddled up to nasty governments in Africa and Latin America during the Cold War, and I am sure this will lead to no good. We are feuding with our European friends and ignoring the ongoing the abuses of the Russian and Chinese regimes. We are no doubt making all kinds of behind the scenes promises to get terrorist suspects arrested in Indonesia, Pakistan and other places. Talk of using nuclear weapons is a disturbing sign that people in power see themselves as under siege and at war with the world.
Meanwhile, at home, John Ashcroft is living up to my worst expectations, the FBI is jailing hundreds of innocents for immigration violations and conspicuously not catching any terrorists, and signs that an ever more intrusive state surveillance apparatus is a-building are everywhere. The budget nonsense is also disgusting; who ever heard of announcing a war and a tax cut in the same speech? Not, as Al indicates, that the Democrats have behaved any better on this score, but Bush's rhetoric about making the war on terrorism his "focus" looks like a sham when you put his budget beside it.
Things could be much worse, but they could be much better, too.
Anybody can become
Mistrust all in whom the