On Alex the Great, terms of engagement and more...

Posted: Nov 08, 2001 12:00 AM
In the terror war, the beat goes on. Herewith, bulletins from various fronts.... How bad is the Taliban? Three examples: (1) The Pentagon is warning Afghans not to eat donated relief food from abroad if it has passed through the hands of the Kabul regime - which might have infused the food with poison. (2) Refugees say that to avoid taking hits from air strikes, Taliban forces are hiding among civilians and secreting their equipment in schools and mosques. (3) Osama wannabe Salahuddin Khaled, held by the good-guy Northern Alliance for five years, says the hijackers of American airliners should have flown (instead) into nuclear power plants. Israel, a well-warred front, may have had its own World Trade Center equivalent targeted, too. According to the Washington Institute's Robert Satloff: "Israel arrested two Palestinians in early August who planned to blow up a massive car bomb at two [Tel Aviv] office towers - 50 and 46 stories high, respectively - that stand side-by-side across from the main highway running through the heart of this seaside city. The would-be terrorists, members of the radical Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, were arrested as they attempted to cross into Israel from Jordan via the Allenby Bridge 'Sfunny how on the one hand the United States officially deplores Israel for dealing harshly with (usually) Palestinian terrorism, while on the other hand we emulate Israel's anti-terrorist practices - such as airport security and putting marshals on commercial jets, as Israel has on its El Al flights for years. And now, a la Israel, we're taking the war to the enemy. The emerging question is: Are we allowing the enemy to set the terms of engagement? In Southeast Asia, the Communists operated from privileged sanctuaries in Cambodia and certain areas of North Vietnam. Is the United States buying into key Islamist conditions - e.g., no air strikes on civilians and mosque/school sanctuaries, no strikes during Ramadan, no strikes beyond Afghanistan, etc.? If it is to be war, then it should be Churchillian war "without stint or limit." War on the enemy's terms likely will lead to stalemate or defeat, and not to our becoming the first Western power to prevail in Afghanistan since Alexander the Great - 2,321 years ago. On the domestic front, resolve may be starting to flag. Prayer and The Pledge are back in many schools, and flags still adorn many cars. Yet the polls are beginning to show erosion in public support for the administration and some of its initiatives. And given the dubious prospects for President Bush's economic stimulus package, the vaunted congressional bipartisanship - Democratic protestations to the contrary notwithstanding - is quickly getting the Judas kiss. Nor is the entertainment industry helping much to keep the spirit alive. Yes, there have been galas such as (a) the "Concert for New York City" at Madison Square Garden, where the audience roundly dissed Hillary Clinton and booed wack-lefty Richard Gere off the stage, and (b) the extravaganza called "America: a Tribute to Heroes." But as Commentary's Terry Teachout has noted, the latter was predictable in its near-absence of support for the American military. Indeed, "not until 20 minutes before the end of the two-hour-long broadcast did one of [the performers], actress Julia Roberts, mention that the Pentagon had also been attacked. (She was 35th on the bill.) Far more on-screen time was devoted to warning Americans not to engage in racial profiling of Muslims than in praising the courage of those who died in Arlington, Va. ... No less predictable was the unwillingness of the stars of "America: a Tribute to Heroes" to speak or sing in support of American retaliation against the terrorists. Only two actors, Clint Eastwood and Kelsey Grammer, made even the vaguest allusion to the likelihood of military action Following on the Clinton reference, here's how Aviation Week & Space Technology quotes an insistently anonymous Air Force officer: "We've returned to a high Cold War security environment. The feeling at senior levels is that lack of security during the Clinton administration has brought on this Pearl Harbor-plus Should new security considerations require Americans to carry identification beyond driver's licenses and Social Security numbers? Maybe. But require ID cards for all foreign visitors and non-citizen immigrants? Absolutely yes. Finally, what's the deal with the Saudis? They continue to be cool to the America that keeps the regime propped up. The regime may be helping the anti-Osama enterprise - but if so, oh so quietly. Contrary to 40 other countries, it still has not announced the arrests of any terrorism suspects. And please do not mention that 13 of the hijackers were, ahem, Saudis. Why the seeming Saudi reluctance (a) to aid U.S. military efforts and (b) to freeze the financial assets of those on U.S. terrorist lists? If the Saudi regime so fears overthrow from a proud parading of its alliance with the United States, then perhaps the hour is at hand for a serious, full-throttle, high-priority American/Western project to find an alternative to oil - thereby gaining us the freedom of action that true energy independence (of the Saudis specifically, and of sheiks and mullahs and potentates generally) would provide.