The piece you submitted prepared by Aamim Ansary (see below) offers thoughtful
analysis, but does not propose a strategy, except for US ground troops to enter
Afghanistan and round up Ben Laden. He indicates this requires neutralizing
Pakistan, and suggests such an effort could generalize and spread conflict,
pitting all of Islam against Western cultures. Nobody wants that, yet we want
to take effective action, and certainly must avoid being frozen into inaction by
scary scenarios noted in your subject title.
Amim's argument against indiscriminate bombing of civilian targets is
persuasive. It is conceivable that a threat could arise that justifies such
action, but that is not the situation at hand. Others have observed that
Clinton's cruise missile attacks did little more than rearrange some rubble.
So, we can eliminate mass bombings and lobbing cruise missiles as the sole
response this time around.
A more refined strategy may be taking shape. World leaders across cultures have
condemned terrorism, and opinion is coalescing in a way that may isolate Ben
Laden and others involved in the recent conflagration, including particular
governments and ex-officio rulers, as seems to be the case in Afghanistan.
Perhaps a mixed allied force that includes US troops, along with those from
Islamic countries, including Pakistan, can enter Afghanistan to liberate it from
Cutting off funding, supplies and escape to friendly soil may be possible. We
are already in Turkey. Pakistan is reported to have closed it borders. The
Russians have pledge support to the West. Iran, also, has voiced support for
the West. If Ben Laden flees to Iraq, that would signal the world its time to
finish the prior expedition.
The Russians fared poorly in Afghanistan because the US and others supplied the
opposition. At this time, it appears the Russians are siding with the US. As
the Bush/Powell diplomacy gathers steam, induced in part by promises of aid and
other things we don't want to know about at this time, the ability for
terrorists would be critically reduced to maneuver and offer sustainable
opposition to a new government that could be put in place by the alliance,
similar to what was done for Japan following WWII.
One reason Islamic leadership, along with a good share of Islamic followers
could be persuaded to accept a composite force to "aid" Afghanistan, is that
many of them have been the target of terrorism. As in the West, Islam is not
entirely a monolith, i.e., of one mind, blindly following Ben Laden. The events
of the past week offer an opportunity to galvanize widespread fear and disgust
into a condominium of diplomacy and resolve that could make military action
successful for everyone.
My feeling is we really want Ben Laden alive, or at least his top people, in
order to debrief them. It seems most likely that some state sponsorship is
involved, and, if so, that very much needs to be addressed. This is the time to
do it while popular opinion in the US in particular is open to being proactive.
This lust for revenge will not last. Very soon we will begin hearing about
prescription drug benefits, lock boxes, the environment, and fairness, et
Henry K van Eyken wrote:
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> Subject: Very thought provoking (and damned scary!)
> Date: Tue, 18 Sep 2001 21:05:53 -0400
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> Forwarded by a friend of mine.. This is very thought provoking.
> Dear Friends,
> The following was sent to me by my friend Tamim Ansary. Tamim is
> an Afghani-American writer. He is also one of the most brilliant people
> I know in this life. When he writes, I read. When he talks, I listen.
> Here is his take on Afghanistan and the whole mess we are in.
> * Gary T.
> Dear Gary and whoever else is on this email thread:
> I've been hearing a lot of talk about "bombing Afghanistan back
> to the Stone Age." Ronn Owens, on KGO Talk Radio today, allowed that
> this would mean killing innocent people, people who had nothing to do
> with this atrocity, but "we're at war, we have to accept collateral
> damage. What else can we do?" Minutes later I heard some TV pundit
> discussing whether we "have the belly to do what must be done." And I
> thought about the issues being raised especially hard because I am from
> Afghanistan, and even though I've lived here for 35 years I've never
> lost track of what's going on there. So I want to tell anyone who will
> listen how it all looks from where I'm standing. I speak as one who
> hates the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden.
> There is no doubt in my mind that these people were responsible
> for the atrocity in New York. I agree that something must be done about
> those monsters. But the Taliban and Ben Laden are not Afghanistan.
> They're not even the government of Afghanistan. The Taliban are a cult
> of ignorant psychotics who took over Afghanistan in 1997. Bin Laden is a
> political criminal with a plan. When you think Taliban, think Nazis.
> When you think Bin Laden, think Hitler. And when you think "the people
> of Afghanistan" think "the Jews in the concentration camps." It's not
> only that the Afghan people had nothing to do with this atrocity. They
> were the first victims of the perpetrators. They would exult if someone
> would come in there, take out the Taliban and clear out the rats nest of
> international thugs holed up in their country.
> Some say, why don't the Afghans rise up and overthrow the
> Taliban? The answer is, they're starved, exhausted, hurt,
> incapacitated, suffering.
> A few years ago, the United Nations estimated that there are
> 500,000 disabled orphans in Afghanistan-a country with no economy, no
> food. There are millions of widows. And the Taliban has been burying
> these widows alive in mass graves. The soil is littered with land mines,
> the farms were all destroyed by the Soviets. These are a few of the
> reasons why the Afghan people have not overthrown the Taliban. We come
> now to the question of bombing Afghanistan back to the Stone Age.
> Trouble is, that's been done. The Soviets took care of it already. Make
> the Afghans suffer? They're already suffering. Level their houses? Done.
> Turn their schools into piles of rubble? Done. Eradicate their
> hospitals? Done. Destroy their infrastructure? Cut them off from
> medicine and health care? Too late. Someone already did all that. New
> bombs would only stir the rubble of earlier bombs. Would they at least
> get the Taliban? Not likely. In today's Afghanistan, only the Taliban
> eat, only they have the means to move around. They'd slip away and
> hide. Maybe the bombs would get some of those disabled orphans, they
> don't move too fast, they don't even have wheelchairs. But flying over
> Kabul and dropping bombs wouldn't really be a strike against the
> criminals who did this horrific thing. Actually it would only be making
> common cause with the Taliban-by raping once again the people they've
> been raping all this time. So what else is there? What can be done,
> Let me now speak with true fear and trembling. The only way to
> get Bin Laden is to go in there with ground troops. When people speak of
> "having the belly to do what needs to be done" they're thinking in terms
> of having the belly to kill as many as needed. Having the belly to
> overcome any moral qualms about killing innocent people. Let's pull our
> heads out of the sand. What's actually on the table is Americans dying.
> And not just because some Americans would die fighting their way through
> Afghanistan to Bin Laden's hideout. It's much bigger than that folks.
> Because to get any troops to Afghanistan, we'd have to go through
> Pakistan. Would they let us? Not likely. The conquest of Pakistan would
> have to be first. Will other Muslim nations just stand by? You see where
> I'm going.
> We're flirting with a world war between Islam and the West. And
> guess what: that's Bin Laden's program. That's exactly what he wants.
> That's why he did this. Read his speeches and statements. It's all right
> there. He really believes Islam would beat the west. It might seem
> ridiculous, but he figures if he can polarize the world into Islam and
> the West, he's got a billion soldiers. If the west wreaks a holocaust in
> those lands, that's a billion people with nothing left to lose, that's
> even better from Bin Laden's point of view. He's probably wrong, in the
> end the west would win, whatever that would mean, but the War would last
> for years and millions would die, not just theirs but ours. Who has the
> belly for that? Bin Laden does. Anyone else?
> Tamim Ansary
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