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  • Robert Sterling
    Please send as far and wide as possible. Thanks, Robert Sterling Editor, The Konformist http://www.konformist.com The Loyal Opposition THE WARMONGERS HAVE
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 6, 2001
      Please send as far and wide as possible.


      Robert Sterling
      Editor, The Konformist

      The Loyal Opposition
      Strategic Restraint is a Sign of Maturity, not Weakness

      David Corn is the Washington editor of The Nation. His first novel,
      Deep Background, a political thriller, was published recently by St.
      Martin's Press.

      If you've started to worry that the war in Afghanistan is not going
      well -- Osama bin Laden's still free, and the Taliban has not yet
      turned tail -- don't worry, the media hawks are out in full-force.
      After weeks of patience, many have started flapping their wings (or
      gums) and criticizing the Bush Administration for being led by faint-
      hearted warriors.

      On Fox News, Brit Hume recently grilled White House Chief of Staff
      Andrew Card, asking him in a demanding tone, "Can you assure us that
      the military efforts in the air ... are in no sense being hindered,
      delayed, held back at all by diplomatic considerations related to,
      say, keeping Pakistan happy, related to our coalition partners?" Card
      replied that the "military options are proceeding as we planned
      them ... We're not holding back at all." Hume pressed on: "A number
      of military experts have said ... that the level of these strikes and
      the power of these strikes is nothing like what it could be ... Can
      you assure us here today that the president believes that we are
      hitting as hard as we could hit in those areas?" Card
      answered: "We're hitting appropriately for the mission." And Hume,
      noting the Northern Alliance rebels had complained about the low
      level of bombing, came back once more: "Is the President satisfied
      that we're hitting as hard as we can." Again Card said, "we're
      hitting appropriately."

      Interest declared: I am a contributor to Fox News Channel, and Hume
      is always nice to me in the make-up room. So pardon the
      understatement when I suggest Hume was war-mongering. Hitting as hard
      as we could? Card should have said, "Of course not. Where not
      napalming entire stretches of Kandahar and Kabul. We're not dropping
      bombs on any vehicle that moves. We're not hitting every school,
      mosque and hospital we can find. We're not using nuclear weapons.
      Sure, we're holding back. Out of political and diplomatic
      considerations. And out of moral considerations."

      What would have been wrong with such a reply? There is no shame in
      plotting military strategy with politics and diplomacy in mind. In
      fact, that may be a sign of maturity, an acknowledgment that war does
      occur within geopolitical contexts and that force is only one portion
      of the equation. Say the United States bombarded Afghanistan with
      much greater intensity. Would the anti-bin Laden coalition hold?
      Would the credibility of the Northern Alliance, Washington's ally, be
      harmed within Afghanistan, and, consequently, would its ability to
      offer leadership in a post-Taliban period be undermined? Would a hell-
      bent U.S. bombing blitz bolster Bush's effort to win the cooperation
      of nations throughout the world in other aspects of the war on

      Hume, though, was working from the assumption that strategic
      restraint is a sign of weakness and folly. And Card opted not to
      challenge the good-looking guy. (Sorry, but I do get a modest
      paycheck from Fox.) Other conservatives have been pitching a similar
      line -- particularly the members of Bill Kristol's Cranky
      Conservative Clubhouse. In a Washington Post op ed, Kristol noted the
      war is bound to fail due to "three (self-imposed) constraints: No
      ground troops in Afghanistan. No confrontation with Iraq. No alarm at
      home." (He even blasted the FBI and CIA for stating they have no
      evidence the anthrax attacks are linked to bin Laden and for noting
      they suspect domestic culprits. What would he have them do? Lie to
      gin up ever more hatred -- if that were possible -- against bin Laden
      and Iraq?) Forget patience, Kristol advised, there's not much time to
      get serious "about winning the war." The Los Angeles Times quoted
      Gary Schmitt, the executive director of the Project for a New
      American Century (which happens to be a policy shop founded by
      Kristol) worrying that the military campaign was being "held back"
      by "constraints." And in the same article, Robert Kagan, who was IDed
      as a GOP foreign policy analyst (but who is also a cofounder of the
      Project for a New American Century) declared the Bush Administration
      was "losing the first round of the war."

      Credit the Kristolites for message discipline. And others have joined
      the chorus.

      Despite the unforgivable horrors of September 11, there remains the
      need to consider proportionality. For reasons of strategy and

      Conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer huffed that the war "has
      been fought with half-measures. It has been fought with one eye on
      the wishes of our `coalition partners.' It has been fought to assuage
      the Arab `street.' It has been fought to satisfy the diplomats rather
      than the generals." He urged massive bombing of Afghanistan's cities -
      - after dropping leaflets warning civilians to flee. (Yes, run to the
      squalor of the refugee camps, and, by the way, do not expect the
      United States to bother to devise a plan for post-bombed Afghanistan.
      As Krauthammer snorts, "What comes after will be an interesting
      problem ... Nice is nice but this is war.") In Congress, Senator John
      McCain has been waving a similar flag. The United States, according
      to McCain, must "exert maximum amount of force" --
      meaning "dramatically escalating" the bombing and sending in ground
      troops to establish a forward position in Afghanistan. He
      insists, "issues such as whether Ramadan is coming, the status of our
      coalition, civilian casualties -- as tragic as they are -- and other
      issues are all secondary to our mission, which is to seek out and
      destroy the enemy wherever they are."

      Even if they are hiding among women and children they have taken
      hostage? In the aftermath of the September 11 attack, despite the
      unforgivable horrors of that day, there remains the need to consider
      proportionality. For reasons of strategy and morality. Is all bombing
      justified in the pursuit of these scumbags? Is there any difference
      between dozens of civilian Afghan deaths and hundreds and thousands?
      Should the United States take guidance from Kurtz (of Heart of
      Darkness and Apocalypse Now), who urged, "exterminate all the
      brutes"? How many civilian casualties are acceptable? If the answer
      is -- as I suspect Kristol and the Gang might say -- as many as
      necessary, then the United States cannot in good-faith declare this
      is not a war against the people of Afghanistan. Instead, it should be
      saying to Afghans, you are all expendable, enjoy the PB&J sandwiches
      courtesy of our airdrops while you can. The motto of this bunch:
      whatever it takes, whatever that brings.

      "Of course you should be concerned about civilian casualties," says
      Lawrence Korb, a former assistant secretary of defense during the
      Reagan administration. "Remember, what you're not just trying to do
      is get rid of the Taliban, you're trying to win the struggle against
      terrorism." The question may boil down to whether one believes the
      United States can win (or should try to win) that struggle on its
      own. Those who believe America needs no partners are freer to
      encourage harsher military tactics and urge a wider war. Destroy the
      village to save it? Nah, just blast away, for who gives a shit about
      the damn village? But partnerships oblige members to heed the
      concerns of colleagues. Presumably, in return, the partnership allows
      members to achieve more than they could as solo practitioners. With
      the United States a large, diverse, open society (full of terrorist
      targets) in a globalized world, it is tough to envision the nation
      succeeding in the war on terrorism, if Washington adopts a go-it-
      alone, who-cares-what-anyone-else-thinks, damn-the-constraints
      attitude. The United States cannot be Israel.

      Life in America would be even scarier if Bill Kristol and his
      conservative kibitzers were literally calling the shots in the war on

      Following the outburst of conservative outrage, the Bush
      administration did ratchet up the bombing in Afghanistan. The
      Pentagon claimed it was not responding to the criticisms and that it
      had solid military reasons for intensifying the bombing. Life in
      America would be even scarier if Bill Kristol and his conservative
      kibitzers were literally calling the shots in the war on terrorism.

      While we're sniping at the war advice of op ed generals, let's
      consider other notable statements recently made by prominent figures.

      Asked about the news that Vice President Dick Cheney was again
      dispatched to a secret hideout, while President Bush was attending
      the World Series and telling Americans to lead normal lives, Mary
      Matalin, a Cheney adviser said, "The vice president has been talking
      about the new normalcy and in that context the new normalcy will
      include evolving work environments." No doubt, these "evolving work
      environments" will be in underground bunkers where everyone wears
      hazmat suits and mail is opened by laboratory rats and irradiated
      before being disseminated.

      Asked how the United States' war will be different than the Soviet's
      war in Afghanistan, General Tommy Franks, the commander of Operation
      Enduring Freedom, replied, "I am not sure exactly how it's going to
      be different. But I am sure that it's going to be different." That's

      Asked whether Bush would have to clear going to war against Iraq with
      Congress, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, remarked, "No, he
      certainly wouldn't have to clear it with us. He's an independent
      branch of government." Time-out for a Constitution check. What's all
      that Article 1-Section 8 gibberish about Congress being the
      branch "to declare war"?

      Finally, R. James Woolsey, the former CIA director. Asked about the
      recent, no-specifics terrorism alert issued by Attorney General John
      Ashcroft, Woolsey quipped, "Much of intelligence is a big maybe." Now
      he tells us.

      Originally published at:

      © 1999-2001 The Florence Fund

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