Random Rants, by Thomas Andrew Olson

Thursday, September 14, 2006

9/11 Retrospective, Part 2

[This is the second in a series of retrospective articles originally posted to my personal website on Lycos/Tripod in 2001, concerning my thoughts on the events of five years ago, as they unfolded at the time]

It Won't Kill Us to Talk

New York, October 1st, 2001

I believe it was Winston Churchill who said, "It's better to jaw, jaw, jaw than war, war, war."

While I agree that the Taliban ruling regime in Afghanistan is being highly disingenuous in its response to America concerning the harboring of terrorist leader Osama bin Laden, as the most powerful and influential nation on Earth, it behooves us to tread carefully and not just behave like a bully, as we have done so many times in the past.

In short, it's time for us to grow up.

America has suffered much in recent weeks - indeed, that should be etched into our collective consciousness - but that does not excuse us for shutting out the better angels of our nature.

Yes, we are the "wronged party" here. And yes, we have a right to demand that those responsible for the horrendous acts of 9/11 be extradited and brought to justice. This does not, however, give us the right to just barge in to a sovereign nation - even one whose ruling government we disapprove of - and just take what we want without a by your leave. And, I might add, good luck achieving that, as no one has won ANYthing from Afghanistan in about a thousand years. There are still 10 million or so land mines left over from the 10-year Soviet occupation. I would certainly not wish to be in the boots of the Special Forces paratroops coming down in THAT mess, only to go after a very mercurial objective.

Right now we are at an official impasse. The Taliban wish to "negotiate". The U.S. claims "there is nothing TO negotiate" - do it our way, or else. Great. NOW who becomes the "wronged party" in the eyes of the world, particularly the Islamic world, comprised of 1.2 billion people in 55 countries, if we just decide to unilaterally invade? It will be perceived as an attack on Islam itself rather than on criminals and terrorists, and the holy war the extremists have craved for centuries will be unleashed. And you can expect a lot more American non-combatants to die in terrorist attacks.

If we start down the same old road we've marching along for the past 50+ years, get ready for the quagmire, folks, as - like Vietnam - it WILL happen again. We should not be in the business of removing governments we don't approve of and replacing them with governments who only pretend to like us as long as the U.S. taxpayer money keeps flowing in.

On the other hand, we have a great opportunity here, if only we won't piss it away. Let's begin by being magnanimous. We are the richest, most powerful nation on Earth - we can afford magnanimity more than anyone else. So lets give the Taliban what they want - incontrovertible evidence linking Osama bin Laden to the 9/11 attacks. (Hell, I'd like to see that myself.) If the evidence holds up in the eyes of ALL the civilized world, then the pressure is on the Taliban to fulfill their end of the bargain. If they do not, if they continue to make excuses, the U.S. and its allies are in a great position. We will have pulled off a great PR coup, and can make the case for declaring the Taliban a "rogue state" and take appropriate actions to isolate it.

Even then, we don't necessarily have to send in the troops. We gave them radios that the NSA can't trace. But maybe we don't have to. Simply jamming their frequencies would suffice. We have all this incredible technology available. Why not simply cut them off from the world, no communication gets in, none gets out? In the meantime, we and our allies get busy rounding up bin Laden's network in the 50 or 60 other countries where he does business.

At the same time, we get food and medical aid in to Afghan civilians displaced and distressed by the crisis within their borders, thus showing the world we no longer consider "collateral damage" as a viable policy option.

In the end, the noose tightens around the Taliban and any other country harboring terrorists. Like cleaning up fire ants, we clean up all the outer "colonies" before going for the main nests.

By that time, the whole world will be behind this effort. Loss of life and property damage is minimal, we have redeemed ourselves as the true beacon of restraint in foreign relations, and we end the scourge of terrorism globally.

Of course, the next step would be for us to rethink our policy decisions that got us into this situation in the first place, but that's another story...


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