Faced with horrifying images of destruction in New York City and the nation's capital and a mounting anger against the perpetrators of the attacks, far too many Americans have taken up a bloodthirsty cry for immediate retaliation. Before the U.S. gave in to this anger and initiated what could become a devastating and prolonged military conflict with Afghanistan's Taliban government, national leaders should have considered the innocent lives at stake and taken rational rather than vengeful and myopic action.
While Osama bin Laden, the alleged mastermind behind September's attacks, is believed to be hiding in Afghanistan, his terrorist network is spread throughout central Asia, Africa and dozens of other nations on every continent, including the U.S. Despite well-funded surveillance tracking, bin Laden himself has rarely been sighted and the whereabouts of his bases are largely unknown. The U.S. conducted bombing campaigns against bin Laden's training camps in Afghanistan and Sudan in the wake of the 1998 U.S. Embassy attacks in Africa, but those strikes had little effect on bin Laden's group.
Instead, the U.S. has made the first move in a war against Afghanistan, whose government is providing bin Laden with sanctuary. These strikes will inevitably result in heavy civilian casualties. Even before the U.S. strike, with the threat of war looming large, millions of Afghan civilians with no ties or loyalty to the radical Islamic fanaticism that spurred the attacks fled the country, fearing for their lives. During the 1980s, the then-powerful Soviet Union waged war on Afghanistan, and heavy losses on both sides forced the Soviets to withdraw after ten years. America's conflict with the Taliban is certainly justifiable, but waging war against Afghanistan will only bring about unnecessary casualties and little gain.
The U.S. should abandon military operation and instead continue to utilize its alliances and extensive political influence to bring terrorists to justice by placing economic and diplomatic sanctions on Afghanistan. As recently as May of this year, President George W. Bush gave the Taliban $43 million as a reward for its crackdown on opium production, and the U.S. funded Afghanistan during its war with the Soviet Union. Through these gifts of money, America has been sending a message of advocacy to the Taliban. Cutting off all economic support is the first step in severing our support of the Taliban. Already, the U.S. is seeking to cut off bin Laden's finances in banks worldwide. Further economic sanctions will not starve civilians, as some argue. In fact, the threat of military action is what is driving relief agencies and aid workers out of the country, not sanctions.
Considering the U.S. response to September's attacks, Bush recently said, "The best way to fight terrorism is to not let terrorism intimidate America.” Indeed, if we allow ourselves to be intimidated, we will admit that our attackers have won. But if our nation lets terrorism provoke us to use further military action, there will be no winners at all.
Emily Purcell. Emily Purcell is a senior in the CAP. She has been steadily accumulating knowledge of page design through Silver Chips and Blair's literary magazine, Silver Quill, and is proud to be playing with words and pictures as one of the newspaper's centerspread editors. When not … More »