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Concerns in the long run



Published: Mon, September 17, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



It isn't yet known, whether last week's attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon started with Osama bin Laden, though the signs are now strong enough that even President Bush describes bin Laden as a suspect.

What is known, though, is that any meaningful attempt to win the war terrorism won't end with the capture or eradication of bin Laden.

Several times over the weekend, President Bush made it a point to reiterate the fact that we as a nation are in for a long, tough fight to preserve the American way of life.

Strong support: The degree to which the leaders of other Western democracies have pledged their support has been heartening. The shocking pictures broadcast from New York of the Trade Center towers collapsing with thousands of workers and hundreds of rescuers still inside have inspired an outpouring of sympathy for the people of the United States at this time of tragedy.

Any industrialized nation can look at those collapsing skyscrapers and understand that there but for the grace of God go they. And, in fact, those were not only American lives lost when the towers collapsed. For all of the terrorism Great Britain has seen over the years, more British citizens died at the hands of terrorists in New York on September 11 than on any single day in modern history.

All this goes to say that it seems to be an accepted premise that the Western nations are in this together today. But we worry about tomorrow.

Post Gulf War history has shown that the United States and, to only a slightly lesser extent, Great Britain, have stood alone in their demands that the world hold Saddam Hussein to account for his invasion of Kuwait, his development of weapons of mass destruction and his refusal to cooperate with United Nations inspection teams whose job it was to dismantle his nuclear, chemical and biological weaponry.

Pardon us: Perhaps it is rude of us to bring this up at a time when so many allies are rallying round the United States. But it is important to note that bin Laden is not the only enemy of the West and that terrorist groups cannot function in vacuums. They need a base to operate, they need financial and logistical support and they need intelligence networks -- the kinds of things that nations have.

Bin Laden is an easy and popular target, whose protector, Afghanistan's ruling Taliban party, is almost universally condemned for its oppression of all women and any men who do not subscribe to their fundamentalist beliefs. Going after him will be an easy choice, though the task will be difficult and costly, both in resources and in precious lives.

The day may come -- and it may come long after the horror of the pictures from New York have faded -- when the United States will have to ask its allies to make more difficult choices. We hope their support is a strong then as it is today.




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