LETTER FROM GROUND ZERO : Politics and War

By Schell, Jonathan | The Nation, November 19, 2001 | Go to article overview

LETTER FROM GROUND ZERO : Politics and War


Schell, Jonathan, The Nation


Hawk and dove agree: The war in Afghanistan is not going well. Hawks point to the resilience of the Taliban, which has "surprised" Rear Adm. John Stufflebeem by not collapsing yet. Doves point to the suffering of the civilian population, who face American bombing, Taliban repression and the prospect of mass starvation all at the same time. The problem goes deeper, however, than the unexpected toughness of the foe and stray bombs. It lies in an underlying contradiction in US policy. In a word, the Administration's military policy is at odds with its political policy. And in a war on terrorism--as distinct from a war on a state--it is politics, not military force, that will probably decide the outcome. For it is politics that will determine the size of the terrorist groups' most important asset, namely their pool of available recruits; it is politics that will decide how many countries will actively participate in the international police effort that must be the backbone of any global antiterrorism campaign; and it is politics that will decide how long support for the war will last in public opinion, including opinion on the home fronts.

To understand what is going wrong and why, we must look back at the origins of the war and its declared objectives. They were to uproot the networks of terrorists that sponsored the September 11 attacks, and, more particularly, to capture the alleged leader of those networks, Osama bin Laden. In the weeks leading up to the bombing, let us recall, a debate on strategy was conducted within the Administration and in the press. At issue was the scope of the war. Should it be extended beyond Afghanistan--perhaps to Iraq? The decision was to restrict it to Afghanistan, at least for the time being. Was it necessary to overthrow the Taliban regime--could the terrorist networks be attacked with the Taliban in place? This question was perhaps more extensively debated than any other. One problem was that terrorist groups were located in as many as fifty countries, not in Afghanistan alone. Another problem was that if you overthrew the Taliban, you would have to install another government--an undertaking that would constitute nation-building, which Bush had promised to avoid. Nor had the issue been publicly resolved when the bombing began. As noted in an earlier week on this page, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's articulation of American goals--to "create conditions for sustained antiterrorist action and humanitarian relief"--was surprisingly unambitious. There was no mention of overthrowing the Taliban, not to speak of any vow to create a substitute regime.

And yet as the bombing proceeded, it gradually became clear that overthrowing the Taliban was, after all, a goal of policy. Rumsfeld went as far as to remark that it might not be possible for the United States to capture bin Laden at all. On the other hand, he noted, overthrowing the Taliban was something that was within our power. The United States at that moment seemed to have abandoned what it wanted to do in favor of what it could do. A twofold strategy emerged. Its first goal was to support the Taliban's enemies, the Northern Alliance. Unfortunately, the Alliance members, most of whom belong to Uzbek and Tajik ethnic minorities, had misgoverned the country in the early 1990s. Accordingly, it was thought necessary to foster resistance to the Taliban among the dominant, Pashtun ethnic group in the south. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

LETTER FROM GROUND ZERO : Politics and War
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.