Western financial system did not spiral into a tailspin, as it seemed
it might in the weeks after 9-11. The predominantly Muslim Central
Asian countries in Russia's orbit proved extremely cooperative
enabling US forces to operate from bases there, thus making possible
the Northern Alliance's first crucial victories. Islamist mobs in
Pakistan never achieved the critical mass needed to overthrow General
Musharraf and so Washington and the world were spared the quandary
of what to do about a nuclear-armed Islamist state.
the last weekend then, America's leading television pundits felt
free to amuse themselves with soft questions, sorting amongst various
it be better to try Osama bin Laden at The Hague, in an American
courtroom, by military tribunal, or would it best simply to shoot
him on the battlefield? This was the lead question on the last McLaughlin
Group (generally a probing and interesting show) last Sunday. Everybody
on the air simply assumed that the headlines from Tora Bora meant
that bin Laden would soon be in hand, dead or alive.
then, the spell passed, the flush of victory or victory in "Phase
One" seemed premature. Tora Bora has passed from Al Qaeda's
hands but bin Laden is nowhere to be seen. And slowly it began
to sink in that that this Afghan campaign is likely to end in a
kind of frustration a long and titillating build up with no satisfactory
climax. We are left with reports of unpaid Afghan soldiers (guys
from our side) committing crime waves in Kabul. Nobody in Washington
gets to decide what to do with bin Laden.
absent a decisive victory, all the difficult questions about what
happens next seem that much murkier. Pakistan suddenly appears on
lists as a possibility for the next US action. Pakistan? Can it
be that our crucial ally against terror in Afghanistan is about
to be transformed into a villain? And who knows where the bin Laden
trail leads next Somalia perhaps, or Iran, or Saudi Arabia? Or
does the administration just forget about bin Laden and switch to
the plan the neoconservatives have pined for all along war against
Washington can contemplate strategic isolation. Russian president
Vladimir Putin, whose timely support was crucial in the defeat of
the Taliban, repeats his warnings against an American strike against
Baghdad. Perhaps the Bush team doesn't care perhaps it believes
that a friendly Russia isn't much use in the war against terror
though it would hard to imagine that anything is more critical
to American security than tight control over the former Soviet Union's
Schroeder announces that he too opposes a war against Saddam Hussein.
Britain's Blair has made the case already.
the Mid-East peace process lies in tatters. "Good riddance,"
say the neocons the only thing they want more than an American
campaign against Iraq is the burial of the Oslo peace process and
the death of Palestinian hopes for an independent state.
American newspapers repeat again and again the line that there is
absolutely no linkage between America's Mideast policies and terrorism
against the United States. After the last bin Laden video was released
demonstrating to all the world the Saudi's culpability for the 9-11
attacks, the New York Times claimed that he made no reference,
in the recorded conversation, to the Israel-Palestinian issue. But
here the Times was flatly wrong bin Laden did talk about
the "the children of Al Aqsa" a reference to the current
intifada and the Jerusalem mosque that is at the emotional center
of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But such is the punditocracy's
investment in the notion that there is no connection whatsoever
between terror against Americans, and US backing of the Israeli
occupation of Palestinian territory that no one seemed to notice
the Times' error no one except, on
his website, Mickey Kaus.
after six or seven weeks in a row in which everything appeared better
than it had after the previous one, the trend has been reversed.
No one knows where bin Laden is. Matters are worse in Pakistan,
where conflict with India over Kashmir threatens to escalate at
any time; worse in the Middle East. Worse in our relations with
Russia. Potentially worse with Germany. And perhaps worse in the
hearts and minds of Americans simply because the Saudi terrorist
has served as so clear and so unifying a target in what will now
become a more complicated and diffuse campaign. Now suddenly there
are many more possibilities for President Bush to make poor decisions,
and one must hope and pray for his wisdom.
printable version of this article
As a committed
cold warrior during the 1980's, Scott McConnell wrote extensively
for Commentary and other neoconservative publications. Throughout
much of the 1990's he worked as a columnist, chief editorial writer,
and finally editorial page editor at the New York Post. Most
recently, he served as senior policy advisor to Pat Buchanan's 2000
campaign , and writes regularly for NY Press/Taki's Top Drawer.
columns on Antiwar.com
The Afghan Campaign
Is that All There is to Victory?
in the Land
Sneering at Powell, Flacking for Sharon
of the War Party
Hearts and Minds
Strategic Withdrawal Option
Open Letter to Arab Readers
Push for A Wider War
Bushes and the Palestinians: Act 2
Struggle Over War Aims
They Hate Us
Many Arabs Hate America
is Still Right
Real Plan for the Mideast
Just Mideast Peace
Liberalism on the March