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Jewish World Review Sept. 20, 2001 / 2 Tishrei 5762

Morton Kondracke

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Real war on terrorism must begin


http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- UP until now, American officials have been routinely referring to a "war on terrorism" and have been conducting it routinely.

Now, after the gruesome events of Sept. 11 -- this horrible 911 call, if you will -- they have to fight a war for real.

The cliche of the day is that Tuesday was "another Pearl Harbor," but the fact is that just 2,400 were killed by the Japanese -- overwhelmingly military personnel.

The U.S. death toll from Tuesday could exceed that of any other day in history, including the Civil War's Antietam, when 4,000 died, and Gettysburg, when 45,000 perished, albeit over three days.

President Bush indicated that he means to respond with at least one warlike policy, meting out equal punishment to those who harbor terrorists and to the terrorists themselves.

Presumably that means if Osama bin Laden is deemed responsible for Tuesday's terrorism, Afghanistan's Taliban regime will suffer too.

It would be appropriate for the United States to use its high-tech weapons, including cruise missiles and smart bombs, to decimate a broad range of official Taliban targets. And after the smoke clears from those attacks, America would be justified in striking other sites until bin Laden is served up to justice.

Beyond that, however, is the question of whether the United States will wage a full-scale war on terrorism -- that is, on all the states and groups that attack innocents or American targets to advance their interests.

The United States should not launch "rage raids" against Iran, Iraq and Libya, but it certainly should intensify diplomatic, intelligence and military pressure against them. On Monday, for instance, Iraq shot down another unmanned U.S. aircraft patrolling the no-fly zone. U.S. military officials believe that our pilots are now in danger of being shot down.

It would be appropriate -- if it's deemed feasible -- for the United States to wipe out Saddam Hussein's air-defense system as a preventive measure. In effect, that action would be a strike against terrorism, too. Even if Hussein did not launch the assault on New York and Washington, he not only cheered it, but derived temporary gain from it as a declared enemy of the United States. A significant blow against him would even the tally.

In a war, it's the rule that one expects help from allies and judges others in accordance with the degree of aid they provide.

China, Russia, Pakistan -- and even France -- have been giving technical and economic assistance to Iran and Iraq. They need to be put on notice that good relations with the United States depend on their cutting off that aid.

If this country gets help from its friends, it also should repay the friendship with solid support for Israel, the world's No. 1 victim of terrorism.

The same Islamic radical movement that has vowed to destroy Israel has declared the United States its enemy. Indeed, Tuesday's massacres were probably a consequence of the U.S.-Israeli alliance. As another phase of war, the Bush administration needs to form a more solid intelligence partnership with its allies so that all of them are fighting terrorism jointly.

As numerous members of Congress have now observed, the United States has allowed its human intelligence capacity -- its spy corps -- to atrophy in favor of satellite and signal intelligence. That needs to be corrected by hiring more spies and more analysts who know Arabic and Farsi.

To enlist support, it's important for both domestic and international reasons that the war not be waged against Islam, which would be both counterproductive and unfair.

Domestic security obviously will have to be upgraded -- probably involving armed marshals aboard airplanes -- and measures need to be taken to anticipate future attacks. The attacks of two days ago were a combination of the lowest-tech weaponry (knives and box cutters) and sophisticated planning and training. The fact that chemical and biological weapons weren't used is a blessing -- probably an indication that the world terror network still lacks a deliverable capacity.

This won't be the case for long, as hard as the United States and its allies try to keep our enemies from becoming more sophisticated. Unless they are defeated first, the terrorists may acquire nuclear devices too.

Undoubtedly, those who planned Tuesday's attacks are cheering their success. They appeared to have tried to attack four major targets and hit three.

The evildoers struck at American material power, leaving our spirit intact. They did not succeed in striking terror in the American population. Partly thanks to sober, solemn television news coverage -- anchors kept their cool even in the face of massive catastrophe -- there was no panic anywhere.

The President was not Churchillian or Rooseveltian in his address to the nation, but he had it right in saying that the terrorists destroyed steel and concrete, but not American unity or resolve.

To the contrary, the chances are that, as with Pearl Harbor, they have aroused American defiance. The Japanese naval commander Adm. Yamamoto said after Pearl Harbor that he feared the attack had awakened a sleeping giant.

It's up to Bush to lead a war on terrorism to the same victory that the United States helped bring about in World War II.



JWR contributor Morton Kondracke is executive editor of Roll Call, the newspaper of Capitol Hill. Send your comments by clicking here.

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