War on Terrorism: Leadership before Multilateralism. (Letters to the Editor)

Harvard International Review, Spring 2002 | Go to article overview

War on Terrorism: Leadership before Multilateralism. (Letters to the Editor)


In the aftermath of September 11, many highly contrived, though well-intentioned, articles have appeared in various journals. Sabeel Rahman's article ("Another New World Order? Multilateralism in the Aftermath of September 11," HIR, Winter 2002), in which he talks about building a coalition to fight terrorism, is one such article. A close look will reveal that the coalition in the war in Afghanistan as it stands is a one-nation coalition, with the United States carrying the heaviest burden and others providing mostly token support.

The fact that most other nations, including the so-called middle powers, do not have the military means or the political will to take on terrorism on a global scale gives rise to a heavy dependence on US military power. Despite some symbolic British participation in the air strikes against the Taliban regime and Al Qaeda hide-outs in Afghanistan, most countries have not shown any interest in participating in the bombing campaign. Many even expressed their skepticism about this war on terrorism. Most voiced concerns that bombing will cause mainly civilian casualties, inflaming ordinary people. But the air war in Afghanistan has gone far better than anyone dared to predict.

The brilliant display of US air power, which broke the back of the brutal Taliban regime and Al Qaeda and helped the Northern Alliance liberate their country, is an example of what US leadership can do. With the Taliban on the run, life is slowly returning to normal in Afghanistan where girls can again go to schools without being harassed by the extremists, women can aspire to become teachers and doctors, men can shave their beards, people can listen to ghazals (Afghan folk songs) and children can fly kites. Joy in the streets of Kabul, despite poverty and hunger, is clearly palpable. The Taliban were, after all, interlopers who imposed a harsh tyrannical rule in the name of Islam; most Afghanis seem to be happy with their overthrow, and US military intervention has made all this possible.

This brings us to the question of the role of the United Nations. While suggesting the involvement of UN agencies, Mr. …

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