Doing what no one wants to do

By Tim Miller

And so it has begun. After refusing to hand over Osama bin Laden and other members of the al-Quaeda terrorist network, the Taliban is facing the might of the United States’ military. Obviously the Taliban believes that this attack itself is a terrorist action against them, so blinded they are by their extremist view of the world. But there is fear in other parts of the world too, particularly in the Middle East; fears about what sort of precedent and example the United States is setting. There are fears here, too, about whether these attacks will encourage more terrorist activity and ultimately lead to the loss of more innocent life. There needs to be debate on these issues — to be sure the terrorists wish to destroy our open, democratic society — and by continuing to foster debate, so long as it does not interfere with operation and jeopardize the lives of the men and women serving abroad, we defeat the terrorists. But ultimately it is better that the United States act now to demolish al-Quaeda and its Taliban supporters.

I am strongly in favor of these military assaults. I do not like to see them happen, and I do not like to see American troops and innocent Afghans put in mortal danger. I am sure there are many here who feel the same way. But at the same time I understand the stark, simple fact that the United States was attacked by people who fear our open, democratic institutions. Even so, one might ask, shouldn’t we have taken more time to pursue a peaceful solution? After all, the Taliban did appear at least somewhat willing to negotiate (e.g. by offering to try bin Laden under Islamic law). Let’s not delude ourselves. The Taliban never listens, and it never learns. The Taliban refused to listen when it destroyed the two colossal statues of Buddha some months ago. That was another time when the whole world was arrayed against them, and yet the Taliban did not bend a centimeter. Bin Laden is their man, who supplies their armies with fresh cannon-fodder, and covertly undermines and attacks groups hostile to them. The Taliban would almost certainly never turn him over, and if they did try him themselves it would be before a kangaroo court in which the verdict would be assured before the opening arguments.

Despite this, there are still many in America who are not just unsure about these attacks, but totally against them. One can witness the antiwar protests in Washington two weekends ago as proof of this. Many if not all of the groups that marched were the most radical elements of the crowd that was to assemble on those dates to protest the global financial meetings (which were canceled in the wake of September 11). Quite honestly I am more than a bit confused with their motivations and agenda in making an antiwar demonstration. I can understand, as much as any politically moderate soul can, the desire of some groups (particularly the hardened anarchists) to protest the system no matter what it is doing, whether it’s attacking them or trying to protect them from fanatics. But it seems that the extreme socialist left, or at least that portion that was represented in Washington, has stumbled over itself politically. By crusading against military action they implicitly stand up for a regime that discriminates against women and religious minorities, conscripts boys as young as thirteen to fight in its never-ceasing wars and, through its constant war-mongering, turns millions into refugees. Should there not be some moral outrage over this, particularly from those who point out every supposed human rights abuse the United States or the capitalist system has produced?

There are those who perhaps worry that this war will turn into another Vietnam. Those dangers were summed up by Mr. Edward Hershey in an op-ed piece in the October 5 issue of the Maroon. But this conflict is fundamentally different. In Vietnam, political ineptitude got the United States involved in a conflict whose origins and outcomes had no real impact on our national security. In short it was a fight that we had no business being in. But in this case the United States was directly attacked by forces who wish to destroy it and everything that it stands for. No matter what anyone’s political affiliation may be, he or she must admit that the United States is driven by a terrible resolve when its soil is attacked. Even the threat of such a thing by means of the Zimmerman note, was enough to push us closer to involvement in World War I. Americans will remember the images of the Twin Towers collapsing. They will remember the senseless death and destruction at the Pentagon. And those memories will stir them to continue the war on terror and those who practice it. The antiwar movement will not have such an easy time gaining adherents as it did back in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

That is not to say there are no dangers in this war, and victory is by no means assured. We must strive as much as possible to only target terrorists or their supporters, not innocent civilians. The military planners must make sure that the job is done thoroughly and cleanly, so that terror does not have an opportunity to cling on underground. There is also an obligation we have to Afghanistan, indeed an obligation that the entire world community has to its people. That is to take care of them, protect them from their maniacal overlords, and, when the action is over, provide them with a stable, democratic government, not one that is forced on them at gunpoint. The Taliban and its sick, warped twisting of Islam are relics of the past, and its policies deserve the same sympathy as the Spanish Inquisition. It is time for them to go.