Whom Are We Going After?

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The United States needs to clearly define what a bad guy looks like.

I’m not too sure whom President Bush wants to get.

For large parts of the speech, he seems to be talking about a fairly limited number of people:

“There are thousands of these terrorists in more than 60 countries.”

But he then attacks the Taliban for essentially being Islamic fundamentalists:

“Women are not allowed to attend school. You can be jailed for owning a television. . . . A man can be jailed in Afghanistan if his beard is not long enough.”

Calling the Taliban evil because they helped out murderous terrorists is one thing. Calling them evil because they don’t allow television or trimmed beards is something else.

The President seemed to be saying that not only is violent Islamic fundamentalism no good, but peaceful Islamic fundamentalism isn’t either. If that’s the case, we’ve just tremendously increased the enemies list.

You may not like the idea of women in these countries not attending school, but are you ready to fight and die for it?

A bit later on, the President really opens up the floodgates:

“Our war on terror begins with Al Qaeda, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated.”

This seemingly would include groups like the IRA, which, last time I looked, hadn’t changed its name to Islamic Republican Army. Are we going after them, too?

The rest of the speech is similarly muddled, and can be interpreted by those with an interest in interpreting it a certain way a green light to clean out groups with at least mixed motives.

For instance, if you’re a Hezbollah fighter in Lebanon trying to get Israel out of it, are these the kinds of terrorists President Bush wants wiped off the map?

If you’re a member of the PLO fighting for the intifada, does that mean the PLO gets included on the list, too?

There are many Arab fundamentalist groups who could not care less about the United States and the West, but care very much about the dictatorial, corrupt regime running their particular countries.

There’s a number of examples of such groups peacefully running for elections to whatever parliament was in place, and getting only long prison sentences or death as their reward.

For instance, in 1991, the Algerian fundamentalist party contested elections, and when it looked like they were going to win, the ruling government cancelled the election and immediately proceded to kill and torture these folks. The West didn’t say boo.

So just what are these people supposed to do? Update 9/25/01: It’s probably true that in many of these cases; the first election these folks win will be the last election that country will hold. I’m going to talk a lot more about this in the near future, but the question still remains.

All Stick, No Carrot

What I found most disappointing about President Bush’s speech was not even the slightest mention as to just why young men would be attracted to an organization with such poor career prospects and whether the United States might also do something besides blowing people up to reduce the need or appeal of terrorism.

This would be like the U.S. government during the civil rights movement deciding that killing everybody in the Klan would solve the problem. It wouldn’t have then, and it won’t now.

That doesn’t mean nothing should have done about the Klan, not at all. But the U.S. did quite a few other things to make sure the Klan wasn’t in an environment where it could flourish.

We’re going to talk a lot more about this in the next piece.

They want to drive Israel out of the Middle East.

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