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Jewish World Review Sept. 24, 2001 / 7 Tishrei 5762

Morton Kondracke

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Bush makes right decision on 'war,' but faces tests


http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- THE United States -- its people and its government -- along with its allies are magnificently united around the idea that we are "at war" with "terrorism," but big decisions lie ahead as to how to wage it.

Which groups and countries to attack, how to attack them and on what schedule is one category of debate. Another is whether to stand fast with Israel or sacrifice its interests to maintain a broad coalition that includes moderate Arabs. A third point of debate is the measures that need to be taken to maintain homeland security.

Amid broad national unity, unfortunately there also have been examples of ideological irresponsibility, notably the Rev. Jerry Falwell's attempt to link U.S. liberals to last week's terrorist attacks.

And there may be pressure to "profile" Arab-Americans and Muslims as an internal security measure when these groups also serve as a potential pool of effective intelligence agents for the struggle to come.

So far, signs of strength and resolve overwhelmingly predominate in Washington, across the nation and overseas.

Day by day since the mass murder of Americans that Tuesday, the Bush administration has become steadily more committed to waging a sustained, broadly targeted war against all states and groups that support the international terrorist network.

President Bush declared that defeating terrorism "is now the focus of my administration." He also said with confidence, "Now that war has been declared on us, we will lead the world to victory."

Secretary of State Colin Powell said the first task is to "rip up" the immediate network responsible for last week's attacks.

"When we're through with that network," he said, "we will continue with a global assault against terrorism in general."

Judging by polls and an outpouring of patriotic feeling, the American people seem ready to support such a war, much as they did after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941.

One can imagine (in fact, I know of a case) young people who had been deeply critical of the United States considering joining the CIA the way young men crowded into recruiting stations after Pearl Harbor.

Congress seems to have nearly dropped partisan differences in the face of the common threat, though rough Senate questioning of United Nations ambassador John Negroponte by Democrats indicates old tensions are

n't dead. More remarkably, in an unprecedented move, America's NATO allies invoked Article 5, declaring that if foreigners are responsible for the attacks - as is surely the case - the entire alliance will join in a response, including military action.

And rival countries, such as Russia and China, have expressed support. Pakistan evidently has been pressured into helping the United States prepare for an attack on the Osama bin Laden terror network and perhaps on the Taliban government of Afghanistan that harbors it.

And yet, there are decisions ahead that could be sources of disunity.

For instance, Powell twice called Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres to ask that he meet with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, indicating that Powell believes that accommodation by Israel is necessary to hold together an anti-terrorist coalition that includes Arab nations.

Peres wisely asked whether this was the right moment for such a meeting, given Arafat's support for terrorism in the past and recent collaboration with groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Those groups are charter members of what former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called "an empire of terror." In a Fox News interview, Netanyahu said, "What is required right now is for the United States ... to dismantle the entire evil empire of terrorism" before some of its members acquire nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.

But Netanyahu also has advocated demolishing Arafat's Palestinian Authority and driving Arafat himself back into exile - moves that would challenge Powell-style diplomacy.

Some friends of Israel in the United States are calling on the Bush administration to immediately move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem as a sign of solidarity. That would be controversial within the Bush administration.

Beyond the Israel issue, it will be difficult to hold U.S. allies together for a campaign against Iraq, Iran, Syria, the Sudan, Libya and perhaps North Korea, countries which sustain the terror empire.

"Everybody hates bin Laden, and nobody likes Afghanistan," observed Middle East expert Geoffrey Kemp of the Nixon Center for Peace and Freedom. "But it gets more complicated if you want to go after Iraq and Iran. Some of our allies will get nervous about that."

The administration seems determined to topple Saddam Hussein, but serious questions have to be answered whether this involves

ground troops, air attacks or merely support for internal dissidents. There is also likely to be a debate about whether preparing for war requires firing heads of agencies -- the CIA, the Federal Aviation Administration -- that failed to prevent that Tuesday's attacks.

The President seems to have made the right strategic decision. That's a mark of leadership. Now he'll be tested on tactics and his ability to sustain support.



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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