Jewish World Review Oct. 8, 2001 / 21 Mar-Cheshvan, 5762
The reason? We fear offending the sensibilities of Muslim nations that support us and further inflaming the enmity of the others.
Is this any way to win a war? Political considerations are severely hampering our military's ability to oust the Taliban from power.
Need more persuasion?
Some might say that I should not second-guess our leaders. But the art of war is not rocket science. And I am not second-guessing the military, but objecting to the micromanagement of the war by politicians.
One reason the war in Kosovo - also fought against a small country, Serbia - took so long was that initially a 19-member committee composed of political representatives of various nations had to approve each bombing target. We won once the general in charge was given guidelines and freed to proceed within their confines.
Now, I am not arguing that the Pentagon should be given a free hand. Our elected officials should set the goals of the war as well as formulate the various do's and don'ts, such as guidelines to minimize the loss of civilian lives. In fact, all of this has been done quite properly.
But then civilians should step aside and let the military do its job, in line with the cold logic of warfare.
We face the same issue in other parts of the globe. President Bush correctly stressed that the war against terrorists is worldwide and encompasses cells in some 60 countries. Major attacks on all of these have been delayed because they may offend one or more of our allies. Thus, when we learned that Iraq might be the source of the anthrax terror attacks, we were told by political analysts that we should not even think about hitting Iraq, because "the coalition will not like it." And, despite the known terrorist cells in the Philippines and Malaysia, it wasn't until mid-October that we finally got around to sending the Philippines a handful of military advisers to train Filipino troops.
After initial claims of great progress in trying to curb money laundering by terrorists, we hear little about it. The reason? Several of our allies are involved, and we fear antagonizing them.
And finally, when the Saudi and Egyptian airlines bluntly refused to release to us in advance names of passengers on their incoming flights to United States, we did not pull their landing rights.
The increasing difficulty of keeping the coalition together has reached the point that instead of helping the worldwide war against terrorism, it often stands in the way.
What about the argument that we must please all of these allies or we will have not bases from which to operate? First, a detailed examination shows that much of the war is carried out from bases in the United States, Germany and our naval ships. Second, some important allies will not fall off if we act more vigorously, including Turkey and Pakistan. Still others greatly limit what we are allowed to do from their territory anyhow, especially Saudi Arabia.
We are also warned that acting more boldly might antagonize "the Muslim world," but this is hardly a monolithic block. Many Muslims reject the Taliban's harsh kind of Islam and fear Islamic terrorists. Moreover, most people respect not only attention to sensibilities but also military might.
Our willpower is being tested. If it continues
to be questioned - because of excessively political dillydallying and curtseying
to Muslim sensibilities - we shall lose much more than the coalition: The
war against terrorism will turn into another 100-year war, with unimaginable human
toll and misery on all
11/11/01: Can we force democracy on the Afghans?