Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

How US Strike Might Ripple around World ; an Overly Broad Military Campaign Could Erode US Standing in Mideast, South Asia

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

How US Strike Might Ripple around World ; an Overly Broad Military Campaign Could Erode US Standing in Mideast, South Asia

Article excerpt

With the first riposte in an international war on terrorism looking more imminent each day, a quiet chorus of diplomatic, anti- terror, and Middle East experts is cautioning the United States that the pitfalls of military action could be severe.

Over recent days, support has solidified in several key governments - including those of Pakistan, Europe, and China - for the US to take some military action against Afghanistan's Taliban government. At the same time, military action that is too broad, hits civilians, or is seen widely as an attack on Islamic countries could severely deteriorate America's lot in the Middle East and South Asia, experts warn.

The result could be inflamed opinions of America in regions that already view the US negatively, the spawning of more terrorists to fill No. 1 target Osama bin Laden's ranks, and even the overthrow of friendly regimes in favor of more hostile ones.

Few voices, at home or abroad, appear to hold that no military response is appropriate for the Sept. 11 attacks in New York and Washington. This reflects not only the universal opprobrium the attacks have met, but also some support for the idea of the US aiding rebellious Afghanis to oust the Taliban.

But as the Bush administration weighs the risks of military action, there is unease that it may give the long-term impact of war short shrift. Others see not enough soul searching over conditions that feed international terrorism - ranging from US support for unpopular regimes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"Our first priority has to be not to create more enemies than we already have," says Daniel Benjamin, a counter-terrorism expert who served in the National Security Council in the Clinton administration. Joining other analysts in emphasizing Pakistan, he says actions that destabilize the already weak regime of the country's military ruler, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, could lead to a much less friendly regime in Pakistan - a country with nuclear- arms capabilities.

While calling some military action "the necessary response for a country deeply wounded," Mr. Benjamin says that an ill-conceived war presents extraordinary risks. "If we turn the Afghanis into martyrs, we'll have extreme problems in the moderate Islamic world."

President Bush's advisers are discussing the dangers of military strikes, with the Defense Department's civilian administrators, including Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz taking the most hawkish stand.

At the other end of the scale are State Department officials, including Secretary Colin Powell, who caution that broad military strikes could upset allies - such as Egypt and Indonesia - that the US wants to keep on board in the antiterrorism war.

Mr. Wolfowitz and Defense Department advisers, including analyst Richard Perle, a member of the Defense Review Board, favor extending the military campaign to countries like Iraq. …

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