Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

In an Ill-Defined War, What Next?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

In an Ill-Defined War, What Next?

Article excerpt

With the military side of the war in Afghanistan going reasonably well, it is time to consider the question: "What next?"

In what the president calls the Bush Doctrine, he has said the objective of the war is to end terrorism, but he has never defined terrorism with much specificity. In a pep talk to the 101st Airborne Division in Fort Campbell, Ky., a couple of weeks ago, the president used this definition: "If you harbor terrorists, you are terrorists. If you train or arm a terrorist, you are a terrorist. If you feed a terrorist or fund a terrorist, you're a terrorist...."

This brings back memories of the cold-war definition by analogy of a communist: "If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's a duck." This begged the question of what is a communist just as President Bush begs the question of what is a terrorist.

The president included supporters of terrorism among those incurring the wrath of the United States. Fair enough. Common sense tells us that supporting includes providing financing and a safe haven. In the Bush definition, does it also include, as has been suggested, possession or work on development of weapons of mass destruction - nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons?

Beginning in the depths of the cold war, prevention of the proliferation of these weapons was long an objective of US foreign policy. In this we have largely failed, especially with respect to nuclear weapons. Are we now going to pursue the nonproliferation goal through military instead of diplomatic channels?

The 19th-century German military thinker Karl von Clausewitz said that war is the continuation of politics by other means but do we want to push it this far? Are we going to make even the possession of chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons a casus belli? If so, where do we draw the line between countries such as India, Pakistan, and Taiwan on the one hand and Iraq, Iran, Libya, and North Korea on the other?

A case can be made for following up Afghanistan in Iraq. The war to eject Iraq from Kuwait was ended prematurely with an Iraqi agreement, since broken, to give United Nations inspectors free rein to search for weapons of mass destruction. …

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