Disband the Coalition
By Alex Epstein (Bucks County Courier Times, November 16, 2001)
They tell us not to bombard the Taliban too severely--because its "moderate" factions need to become part of any new Afghan government. They urge us to cease military action during the month of Ramadan--giving the killers further opportunity to plan their next attacks. They insist that we avoid Afghan civilians in our strikes--inviting the opposing army to protect itself with human shields. These demands are the acts of enemies--yet they come from our declared allies: members of our international coalition in the War on Terrorism.
Why does the United States have wartime allies that oppose our war? Because these "allies" were chosen, not because they shared our commitment to eliminating terrorism, and not because we needed their military support--but for the craven purpose of avoiding disapproval from the Islamic world. Excluded from this coalition was Israel, the world's staunchest opponent of terrorism, because its inclusion would upset the Muslims. Invited, though, were the authoritarian regimes of Saudi Arabia and Egypt; the military dictatorship of Pakistan, which helped put the Taliban into power; and--most appalling of all--Iran and Syria, the world's leading state sponsors of terrorism. The stark truth is that the Islamic states--even the "moderate" ones--are opposed to a serious military campaign against Islamic terrorism. Since these governments trample upon the rights of their own citizens, what principled concern could they have for the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks? Islam is a crucial value to them; freedom is not. They feel far more kinship toward their Muslim "brothers" in Afghanistan and in other terrorist countries than toward Americans threatened by terrorism.
To appease our Islamic allies, we are fighting a half-war: an unnecessarily protracted campaign in which we limit our strikes to avoid civilian casualties, and in which we divert military resources to distributing food packages to the country we are attacking. These allies adamantly oppose extending the war beyond Afghanistan. If President Bush wants to maintain this coalition, is it conceivable that he will carry out his administration's pledge to go after other governments that sponsor terrorism?
A coalition is supposed to be a military benefit--a means of defeating the enemy more quickly with the added firepower and intelligence of genuine supporters. But for the United States to subordinate its military goal to the goal of maintaining a coalition--as we are now doing--inverts the coalition's proper role and will lead to the slaughter of more innocent Americans. In pursuing our purpose of eradicating not just the Taliban but all state sponsorship of terrorism, time is of the essence. Every day the terrorists remain in existence increases their capabilities and their chances of acquiring the biological and nuclear weapons they lust after. The more we linger--the more we limit our attacks to accommodate our coalition's sensitivities--the greater bloodshed we can expect from terrorists in the future.
There is no military necessity to join with these Islamic states. Even assuming that their air bases are indispensable for launching our planes, we certainly cannot compromise our fundamental military objective in order to utilize those bases. We have a moral right and a political responsibility to demand that these countries let us use their facilities--or be cast as allies of terrorism and be treated accordingly.
The threat to America of our coalition-inspired semi-war on terrorism is immense. Yet the administration maintains the coalition in order not to anger the Muslim world. This action by our government treats the disapproval of other governments as a greater danger than the continued existence of terrorist states. It commits us on principle to requesting the sanction of other countries--including terrorist supporters and sympathizers--before defending ourselves. Such a policy is suicidal. We should not be worried about inciting the anger of the Islamic world--that already exists; rather, we should be concerned with eliminating its terrorist capabilities, whether other countries like it or not.
Our international coalition serves only as a coalition against American self-defense, and makes a proper war against terrorism impossible. To defend the lives and the freedom of Americans, President Bush must repudiate this senseless coalition and act quickly, and unilaterally, to end the terrorist threat.
Alex Epstein was a writer and a fellow on staff
at ARI between 2004 and 2011.
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