September 11, 2001, like Dec. 7, 1941, will live in infamy. For the first time since the Japanese invaded Pearl Harbor, Americans have been attacked on their own soil, said Senior San Diego Police Spokesman Bill Robinson. On this date terrorists hijacked four planes, all heading for major American landmarks. Two planes crashed into and leveled New York Citys World Trade Center towers, one plane drove itself into the Pentagon, and the last plane crashed in Pennsylvania. The hijackers, members of an Afghanistan home based terrorist organization named al-Qaeda, and its leader, Osama bin Laden, left President George W. Bush with a daunting and complicated decision of how to react.
President Bush was faced with an assault that was so sudden and so shocking that it seemed to obliterate many of the doubts that were the legacy of the country's tortured Vietnam experience. Polls show that up to 90% of Americans support a military response, wrote Mark Barabak. Simultaneously, President Bush and his administration encountered a potentially dangerous and sensitive situation in the Middle East. Any type of intervention, be it Diplomatic Intervention or Military Intervention, would be viewed by the predominantly conservative Muslim Middle Eastern countries as the start of a hobnailed Western Victory march, justifying extreme actions in self-defense (Biema et. al. 34). Before acting, President Bush had to take into consideration Bin Ladens motives for the onslaught. Boaz Gabor, the executive director of the International Policy Institute for Counter Terrorism (ICT) and a Reason Magazine journalist, defined in the ICTs web-based newspaper, Bin Ladens Motives for the September 11th attacks:
Bin Laden and his followers regard America as their main enemy because it is America that leads the Western and democratic world, and supports the moderate Arab regimes. Moreover, America is regarded in their eyes as controlling and contaminating the holy places of Islamparticularly those in Saudi-Arabiathrough the presence of military personnel there and in other countries in the Persian Gulf since the Gulf war in 1991. America also is condemned by Bin laden for its support of Israel, which he regards as the arrowhead in the heart of the Islamic world, which must be rooted out and destroyed.
Needless to say, either course of action to be taken by the United States needed to fire a message to Bin Laden, al-Qaeda, and the rest of the terrorist community that terrorism absolutely and under no circumstances would be tolerated by the United States. The message had to be clear and on Thursday, September 20, 2001, President Bush delivered it: We will pursue you, if youre a terrorist and/or provide aid or safe haven to terrorism. Every nation in every region now has a decision to make: Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists.
President Bush had to first weigh the costs of a possible military intervention. On one hand, he had at his disposal the most technologically advanced and elite force in the world. From air to land to sea, the nation's arsenal includes, but is not limited to, surveillance aircraft, laser-guided bombs, attack submarines, stealth bombers and Tomahawk missiles.
As a given, the worlds strongest military, in any new war, would enable it to use new technologies. According to Washington Post reporter Greg Schneider anywhere from a lexis-nexis-style online search system for intelligence documents to a new sniper rifle that can penetrate light armor from nearly a mile away, technologies developed since the Persian Gulf War would help (the) U.Sfight an unpredictable foe.
Another reality that weighed towards a possible military intervention was that the Taliban, Afghanistans terrorist harboring ruling government, has a small, scattered military. According to MSNBC.coms The Afghanistan Files, though accurate numbers for troops are unavailable, it boasts between 40,000 and 50,000 lightly armed infantry10 Su-22 fighter-bombers, 5 MiG-21 fighters, 10 transport helicopters, (and) 40 cargo airplanes(but) many are inoperable due to lack of spare parts.
Because of its air-military superiority Americans have grown accustomed to clean, quick hits over the past generation: (Examples include) Grenada. Panam. Hait. (And) Iraq, wrote reporter Howard Kurtz. Alternately, this point was like a double-edged sword for President Bush. As Kurtz affirms, if there is a serious attack on countries such as Afghanistan, its not going to be a video-game war like the Persian Gulf conflict a decade ago. Afghanistans natural terrains protect the country from any type of international aggression. Afghanistan is a country of jagged ridges and deep gorges that is about the size of Texas. It is natures gift to guerrilla warfare (Hirsh and Berry 36). Afghanistans modern history of slaughter, of skewered hubris, goes back to 1842, when 16,500 British soldiers and civilians were killed in a winter retreat from Kabul; only one escaped (36). Consequently, as both British and Russians unavoidably and horrifically discovered, even with the most technologically advanced fighting equipment, winning the war in Afghanistan turf would take a considerable amount of time; something that the American people would more recently not be accustomed to.
More importantly, another point that mainly detracted President Bush from a military retaliation is the fact that after Vietnam, the U.S. has become seriously sensitive to casualties. Of all the obstacles (American) generals are facing, this is the most difficult (Clark 47). Any type of military attack, be it with foot soldiers or air strikes, will carry a certain degree of danger and American casualties will be sustained.
Besides in doctoring a military intervention, President Bush had a more temperate approach available: Diplomatically intervene against both terrorists and those who support them. Antiwar advocates argued that diplomacy was more preferable than a military strike. The editorial Nation-Building in Afghanistan from the New York Times asserts, Afghanistan is a feudal society organized around many tribes and clans with a long history of mutual alliances, betrayal and strife. The one force uniting them over the centuries has been a common outside enemy: in modern times (military aggression from) the British and more recently the (invasion by the) Soviet Union. A military onslaught against the Taliban government and the al-Qaeda organization might insight the Muslim States, Islamic nations, countries, and organizations to join into the worldwide anti-Christian, anti-American, "Crusader" appeal of these radicals.
The New York Times editorial Afghanistan specifies another argument pro diplomatic intervention to this crisis. It states Afghanistan is more than a terrorist camp overseen by an implacably fundamentalist regime. Its also the site of one of the world's greatest humanitarian crises, with up to 1 million people in danger of starvation this year. If the White House were to oppose diplomatic interventions such as sanctions and use its military, the refugee problem would turn horrendous. Afghanistans fear of an imminent armed forces assault would exert a pull on this problem. The 3.6 million refugees currently housed in Pakistan, Iran and other countries would obviously grow.
Diplomatic intervention would also be preferred over Afghanistan civilian casualties. Whether directly from military fire or indirectly through famine, civilian casualties could boost anti-American sentiment in the region, giving more political power to bin Laden and the Taliban. Images of the lifeless civilians also could erode public support for the campaign inside the United States.
The Bush Administration also contemplated the drawbacks from taking a diplomatic position towards terrorism. The United States could diplomatically adopt the use of international law enforcement and courts. But the New York Times Case for Force editorial argues that this strategy has been tried as the primary answer for the past decade, and it has failed because it does not account for state sponsorship (of terrorism) and (the political) shelter of terrorists.
President Bush also had to weigh public opinion of using the United States global power and the United Nations to impose economic sanctions against countries that harbor terrorism, in order to rid terrorist from a comfortable home base. But U.S. or U.N. imposed sanctions would not completely end investments to the terrorist by private sources. Countries such as Afghanistan, which are economically devastated, would not suffer the strangling effect of economic sanctions. You cant miss what you never had, argues Robinson. Add the fact that economic sanctions would not completely solve the immediate need to stop terrorist planning and activities. Only direct military intervention would slow large terrorist activities faster than sanctions.
Presidential historians said there is no road map for presidents in situations like this (Balz A02). It is obvious that any decision that that President Bush would take to strike back against the terrorists, those who give refuge to terrorist, and those who give financial assistance to terrorist will not only be difficult, but by its very nature; controversial. No diplomatic resolution can be reached in the aftermath of such heinous crimes for future terrorists will perceive such action as a reward for terrorist acts.
In addition, the question still remains; will annihilating the al-Qaeda organization bring an end to terrorism? Likely no. Until the root of the issues driving terrorism and extremists ideologies of hatred, such as U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia and the Israeli occupation of Palestine, combined with ignorance, poverty, and isolation are resolved; it seems a hopeless and losing battle. Before anyone can address the underlying issues to these problems, the al-Qaeda must be stopped (if this is indeed possible) and the global community must cool off. Yet once the al-Qaeda organization is annihilated the world must act quickly as a new faction will rise quickly to replace them.
Afghanistans current crises can only be disentangled if the warlord like government of the Taliban is replaced and the al-Qaeda organization is swiftly put to justice. The Taliban and al-Qaeda are roots of a bottomless pit. As soon as they reap the fruits of terror that they have thrust upon the helpless hoards, justice will begin to be realized. Once expelled a broad based democratic government, where all tribal minorities in Afghanistan are represented, should be implemented. To prevent the return of internal conflict, an international military force of some kind, under U.N. auspices, will be needed. Ideally, it should be drawn from Muslim countries not bordering on Afghanistan, like Turkey, Morocco and Bangladesh (The Future) Also important to brokering peace is to understand, according to San Diego City College Professor Fabio Martinez, that Afghanistan was previously a thriving western secular society. Once Russia invaded it, it once again relied on its tribal, pastoral, and nomadic roots. He adds, to change this, societal and tribal education must take place. Once this comes to pass, and sociological, and political stability have been achieved, then and only then, should the reigns be handed over to a new legitimate, sovereign, and representative democratic Afghanistan government.
Afghanistan. Editorial. New York Times 15 Sep. 2001: A26.
Balz, Dan, Bush Confronts a Nightmare Scenario: Crisis Looms as Defining Test Of President's Leadership. Washington Post. 12 Sep. 2001: A02.
Barabak, Mark. The Home Front: Forging Hawks Out of Longtime Doves. LaTimes.com 30 Sep. 2001. 12 Oct. 2001 <http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-000078216sep30.story>.
Bush, George W., President Bush Addresses the Nation. Washingtonpost.com. 20 Sep. 2001. 12 Oct. 01 <http://www.washingtonpost.com/wpsrv/nation/specials/attacked/transcripts/bushaddress_092001.html>.
Biema, David V., et. al. What Makes Them Tic? Time 24 Sep. 2001: 34.
Case for Force. Editorial. New York Times 30 Sep. 2001: B06.
Clark, Wesley K., How to Fight the New War. Time 24 Sep. 2001: 47.
Hirsh, Michael and John Barry. How to Strike Back. Newsweek 24 Sep. 2001: 36-41.
Kurtz, Howard, What If Things Get Worse. Washingtonpost.com 25 Sep. 2001. <http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A21609-2001Sep25.html>
Gabor, Boaz. International Terrorism: Fundamental Premises for Fighting Terrorism. ICT. 16 Sep. 2001. 12 Oct. 2001 <http://www.ict.org.il/>.
Martinez, Fabio. Personal interview. 16 Oct. 2001.
Nation-Building in Afghanistan. The New York Times. 27 Sep. 2001. 14 Oct. 2001. <http://www.nytimes.com/2001/09/27/opinion/27THU2.html?ex=1003181699&ei=1&en=a081b691d86f5815>.
Robinson, Bill. Personal interview. 12 Oct.2001.
Schneider, Greg. High-tech gear going to Afghanistan. MSNBC.com. 14 Oct. 2001. 14 Oct. 2001. <http://www.msnbc.com/news/642599.asp?0dm=N306N>
The Afghanistan Files. MSNBC.com. 14 Oct. 2001. <http://www.msnbc.com/modules/new_battlefield/afghanistan.asp#political>.
The Future of Afghanistan. Editorial. The New York Times. 15 Oct. 2001. 15 Oct. 2001 <http://www.nytimes.com/2001/10/15/opinion/15MON2.html>.
Walker, Jesse. What Happens Next? Reason Online. 21 Sep. 2001. 12 Oct. 2001 <http://reason.com/hod/jw092101.html>.