Following the tragedy of September 11, America has launched a 21 st century war to eradicate the threat of international terrorism. Terrorism, long a problem for many nations of the world, was all but foreign to U. S soil. September 11 th was the first major attack on mainland American soil since the War of 1812.
The barbarity of the crime, the toll on innocent lives, and our lack of preparedness for the threat has scared the country to unity, and has scared the rest of the free world into assisting President Bush in "finding the evildoers,"smoking them out of their caves," and "bringing them to justice." The United States has started in Afghanistan, targeting Osama bin Laden, his al Qaeda network, and the Taliban government that supported and sheltered him. Clearly, this was the appropriate start to the campaign, as bin Laden and his associates were directly responsible for the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. But Afghanistan is not the appropriate place to finish. Terrorism is not a problem of one man, country, or government.
It is a threat that stretches over the entire world and it must be dealt with as such. Terrorism will not end with the death of Osama bin Laden, nor the destruction of al Qaeda, nor the downfall of the Taliban. Admittedly, the United States's wife and decisive victory demonstrates our resolve and power to those sympathetic to bin Laden, his cause, and his methods. Perhaps Lebanon, Yemen, Somalia, the Sudan, and Libya will be scared straight and will cease their support for terrorists who wish to attack the U. S. , Israel, or any other free nation.
Nevertheless, there is one country and there is one man whom no Afghan adventure will ever deter from terrorism. Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein is the most dangerous man in the world. While distanced from Islamic extremists, he has not stopped developing biological, chemical and nuclear weapons. His connection to September 11 th is unsure, but assuredly he would have done the same thing if he could have.
Saddam has readily used weapons of mass destruction against his own people. He has no reason to love the United States or the Presidents Bush. Despite U. S. air strikes and no-fly zones, he has refused to allow the U. N.
weapons inspectors into Iraq. Can we doubt his willingness to use such weapons against his neighbors or the U. S. ? Bin Laden is an evil man who desires to destroy America and impose his extreme religious beliefs on the entire world. But his is not the main challenge that the U.
S faces in making the world safe. To use bin Laden's own metaphor, he is not the "head of the snake." He needs a place to hide and support from foreign powers. In short, Saddam Hussein and Iraq offer the support that men such as bin Laden need to operate. In the menagerie of terrorism, Saddam Hussein is the head of the snake and bin Laden is just a coil. When we finally bring bin Laden to justice, let's not kid ourselves that the world has been made safe.
As long as his ideology persists, men will take his place and continue terrorism. While we can win the war on terrorism by dispatching with each bin Laden, that would be a long, arduous, and futile struggle. We must deny the terrorists the support that they need to thrive. A group of angry men in the middle of the desert only pose a threat if they can obtain weapons and money.
For the most part, we can hope to deter nations that would consider harboring terrorists through a combination of military action and economic and diplomatic sanctions. History has shown that our military and economic power can thwart Saddam. But in the early 1990's we let him off the hook in deference to misguided notions of stability. We saw that kind of stability in action on September 11. As long as Hussein is around, building weapons whose sole purpose is to incite global destabilization, the world can never be safe and the war on terrorism can never be won. Bin Laden and the Taliban make a nice showpiece of what U.
S power coupled with resolve can do. But the Afghan war will be a hollow victory if we will fail to take the next logical step. President Bush must follow his father into Iraq and this time, he must go all the way to Baghdad, where he will find the head of the snake. And when he finds the snake, he must not let it strike again. Today, the United States government arms and trains the militaries of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, and American troops help defend these countries. But these countries are run by monarchies that deny fundamental democratic rights to their peoples and vigorously oppress any opponents to their rule.
The United States government also supports with extensive military and economic aid a corrupt one-party dictatorship in Egypt. The one democratic state in the region the U. S. government supports is Israel. Unfortunately, the Israeli government conducts a brutal occupation of two regions-the West Bank and the Gaza Strip-whose population is made up of Palestinian Arabs. The Palestinians have no democratic rights or liberties under the Israeli occupation and live in appalling poverty.
In short, the foreign policy of the United States government in the Middle East has not been aligned in support of freedom and democracy, but rather in support of brutal and oppressive governments that deny their peoples liberty and often leave them mired in poverty. Many Middle Easterners have concluded, as a result of these past actions, that the United States government opposes the legitimate demands of poor and oppressed Arab and Islamic peoples throughout the region. The consequence of this policy, in conjunction with a militant strand of Islamic fundamentalism, has led a small minority of Middle Easterners to conclude that terrorist attacks against the United States and its military forces are the best way to change this policy. The intent of these attacks is not to destroy the American way of life and democracy, but rather to get Americans to change their foreign and military policy toward the region. In response President Bush has promised a war that will "secure our country and eradicate the evil of terrorism." But despite all the nation's vast power, a military strike at terrorists in countries such as Afghanistan, and the governments of these states, will not and cannot address the current causes of terrorist attacks. In all likelihood an American military attack on or in Afghanistan will kill innocent civilians, inflame public opinion in the Middle East, which is already largely anti-American, and lead to demands for revenge.
In this environment, extremist groups will easily be able to recruit a new generation of terrorists, more numerous and committed then their predecessors. Thus the widespread use of American military power to punish and revenge the September 11 attacks ironically will leave the United States with more enemies, not less, and in the end our country will be less secure than ever. These are the tragic and predictable consequences of such a course; they need to be kept in mind when Americans discuss the use of military force to revenge and punish those responsible for terrorist assaults on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.