THE COMING CONFLICT

Andrew Sullivan —  Oct 17 2001 @ 1:18am

The sophisticated form of anthrax delivered to Tom Daschle’s office forces us to ask a simple question. What are these people trying to do? I think they’re testing the waters. They want to know how we will respond to what is still a minor biological threat, as a softener to a major biological threat in the coming weeks. They must be encouraged by the panic-mongering of the tabloids, Hollywood and hoaxsters. They must also be encouraged by the fact that some elements in the administration already seem to be saying we need to keep our coalition together rather than destroy the many-headed enemy. So the terrorists are pondering their next move. The chilling aspect of the news in the New York Times today is that the terrorists clearly have access to the kind of anthrax that could be used against large numbers of civilians. My hopes yesterday that this was a minor attack seem absurdly naxefve in retrospect. So they are warning us and testing us. At this point, it seems to me that a refusal to extend the war to Iraq is not even an option. We have to extend it to Iraq. It is by far the most likely source of this weapon; it is clearly willing to use such weapons in the future; and no war against terrorism of this kind can be won without dealing decisively with the Iraqi threat. We no longer have any choice in the matter. Slowly, incrementally, a Rubicon has been crossed. The terrorists have launched a biological weapon against the United States. They have therefore made biological warfare thinkable and thus repeatable. We once had a doctrine that such a Rubicon would be answered with a nuclear response. We backed down on that threat in the Gulf War but Saddam didn’t dare use biological weapons then. Someone has dared to use them now. Our response must be as grave as this new threat. I know that this means that this conflict is deepening and widening beyond its initial phony stage. But what choice do we have? Inaction in the face of biological warfare is an invitation for more in a world where that is now thinkable. Appropriate response will no doubt inflame an already inflamed region, as people seek solace through the usual ideological fire. Either way the war will grow and I feel nothing but dread in my heart. But we didn’t seek this conflict. It has sought us. If we do not wage war now, we may have to wage an even bloodier war in the very near future. These are bleak choices, but what else do we have?

LETTERS: In defense of Maggie Gallagher, Stanley Fish’s reading list, etc.

MCCAIN’S CLARITY: Take a moment to read John McCain’s extraordinary speech October 9 to the U.S. Naval Academy. It’s as good a speech about this war as one can imagine – and its greatness lies in McCain’s intuitive sense that we are now in a truly epic struggle, and one that will truly test the limits of our faith and our endurance. I’m sure he’s right, and he is also on the mark about the importance of ruthlessness. Even now, we are squeamish about minor civilian casualties; even now, voices quibbling, worrying, panicking are urging us to down-size the war, avoid a direct confrontation, buy off peace or placate the enemy with palliatives. That might have worked ten years ago. It’s quite clear it won’t work now. As McCain clearly says, “Our goal is to vanquish terrorism, not reduce it, not change its operations, not temporarily subdue it, but vanquish it. All other concerns are secondary. It is a difficult, demanding task we have undertaken. We must expect and prepare for our enemies to strike us again before they are vanquished. Some of this war will be fought at home. And the casualties that we will suffer may again include civilians. We must keep our nerve at all costs. We should use no more force than necessary, but no less than necessary. Fighting this war in half measures will only give our enemies time and opportunity to strike us again. We must change and change permanently the mindset of terrorists, those who give them sanctuary and support, and those parts of Islamic populations who believe the terrorist conceit that they will ultimately prevail in a conflict with the West, that America has not the stomach to wage a relentless, long term, and, at times, ruthless war to destroy them.” Yes, that is the message. We must destroy them.

MOVE OVER, CHOMSKY: “Since September 11 my imam has extended Friday prayers with a special supplication reserved for times of affliction, imploring God to annihilate Islam’s enemies, to “rock the ground underneath their feet” … Operation Enduring Freedom is in fact a war against liberty, a war against those Muslims who cling to the hope that, just like their counterparts in the west, they too will one day be able to determine and direct their own fate. Ever since independence, Muslim societies from Marakesh to Mindanao have had their aspirations for self-rule repressed by western-backed elites and dictators.” – Faisal Bodi, calling for the defeat of his own country in a war against fundamentalist Islam, in – where else? – the Guardian.