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The War Against Terrorism and its Aims - Part I - 2001-11-01

The progress of the war against terrorism and its aims were debated at a recent meeting of Washington's Cato Institute. Do not be confused by all the talk about terrorism as if it were something new, said Michael Ledeen of the American Enterprise Institute. "This is really a very old kind of war. It is the kind of war that led to the creation of the United States in the first place, and it is the thing at which we excel," he says. It is a war against tyranny, and we have been attacked by the proxies of tyrants."

Our enemies attacked us, said Mr. Ledeen at the Cato Institute, because they envy us to the point of hatred. They resent us for making the kind of progress they have failed to make. In their rage, they lash out.

Yes, this is a war against evil, said Kim Holmes of the Heritage Foundation. But more specificly the point is to destroy the Taleban and the bin Laden terrorist network. He said nation building and other issues can wait. There is a danger in trying to do too many things at once. For that reason, political objectives or concern for the coalition should not impede the military campaign. "I think it was a mistake to let Pakistan convince us to hold off supporting the Northern Alliance more vigorously. I think it would be a mistake if Pakistan and other Muslim countries were to talk us into holding off bombing during Ramadan," says Mr. Holmes. "I think it would be a mistake to let the coalition partners in Europe talk us into slowing down the bombing campaign for so-called humanitarian reasons."

U.S. objectives make sense, but are we reaching them? - asked Charles Freeman, former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia and now president of the Middle East Policy Council. "We are successfully rearranging the rubble in Afghanistan, but we have flushed no terrorists from the earth," he says. "And air power is a poor method of getting people who hide in caves. The Taleban, to date, remain unsplit. There are no significant defectors to provide us with the intelligence we need to pinpoint bin Laden and his gang."

As the war goes on, said Ambassador Freeman, we risk losing the support of Muslim nations that are not convinced Osama bin Laden is responsible for the terrorist attacks on the United States. Because of growing pressure on President Musharraf, Mr. Freeman thinks a regime change is more likely in Pakistan than in Afghanistan.