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Will America beat terrorist strategies?

By Vision Reporter

Added 25th September 2001 03:00 AM

The vicious attackers on US, September 11, wanted it goaded into action

The vicious attackers on US, September 11, wanted it goaded into action

By Gwynne Dyer THERE are only two questions that matter as the world waits for the United States to strike back at the terrorists who planned the attacks in New York and Washington on September 11. The first is: what did the terrorists want the US to do in response? The terrorists must have known that there would be an American response to such a huge and dramatic atrocity, they presumably calculated what it might be — and then they went ahead in the hope of getting Washington to do just that. The other question is whether the United States will fall into their trap. What the terrorists wanted, it seems clear, was massive and indiscriminate US retaliation against one or more Muslim countries of the Middle East, with huge civilian casualties. This is what the Clinton administration did on a smaller scale after the terrorist bombings of US embassies in East Africa in 1998, dropping showers of cruise missiles on suspected terrorist sites in Sudan and Afghanistan that rearranged much scenery and killed many civilians but few terrorists. So if a liberal softie like Clinton did that when a couple of hundred people, mostly Africans, were killed, what would a right-wing president like George W. Bush do when Muslim fundamentalist terrorists kill thousands of American citizens in their own cities? The planners of the operation would have predicted that Bush would bomb the daylights out of every Arab country he remotely suspected of harbouring terrorists, killing huge numbers of innocent Muslim civilians. And why would the terrorists wish that upon their co-religionists? Because their aim is to trigger a cataclysmic war between the West (which they see as their enemy and main oppressor) and the entire Muslim world. Osama bin Laden’s followers have always had this as their goal: as he said of his first really successful operation, a truck bomb that killed 19 Americans in Saudi Arabia in 1996, it was “the beginning of the war between the Muslims and the United States.” Bin Laden believes that if the US can be driven to use excessive force in retaliation for these attacks, it will so outrage the world’s 1.2 billion Muslims that they will rise up, overthrow their shamefully collaborationist governments, and launch the final victorious jihad against those who have inflicted such pain and humiliation on the Muslims of the Middle East. The fundamentalist fanatics imagine that the Muslims would win this war, and restore the world to its proper balance: one in which Muslims, and particularly Arabs, are prosperous, proud and on top. Even after Bush’s speech to the joint houses of Congress on Thursday night, the actual sequence of impending military events is far from clear, but all the language being used by the US administration suggests that it is acutely sensitive to the danger of a Muslim backlash. So do its actions, from the successful pressure on the Israeli government to stop its daily bashing of the Palestinians to the very serious attempt that is underway to build a broad anti-terrorist coalition incorporating as many Muslim and Arab states as possible. It worked in the Gulf War, and if the US goes slowly and carefully enough it could work again. But it was also clear, after Bush had finished speaking to Congress, that in the longer run there will probably be a real war, with ground troops and all, for the list of demands he made of the Taleban, including American access to the terrorists’ camps, stands zero chance of being met. That real war, however, is probably months away. In the meantime, everybody in the Bush administration is working hard to dampen down public expectations of early action, let alone early success in the ‘war on terrorism’. It is still highly questionable whether the potential rewards of capturing some or all of the terrorists based in Afghanistan are worth the very serious risks of upheavals elsewhere in the Muslim world that would accompany an invasion, but at least the strategy of the operation is being handled quite intelligently. Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist

Will America beat terrorist strategies?

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