Defending the virtues of liberty, free markets, and civilization... plus some commentary on the passing scene.

Freedom's Fidelity

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Easterbrook's Alternative History

I wrote about this below, (here and here) but Greg Easterbrook takes it a step further and posts an alternative history had Bush attacked Afghanistan before September 11.
On August 7, 2001, Bush had ordered the United States military to stage an all-out attack on alleged terrorist camps in Afghanistan. Thousands of U.S. special forces units parachuted into this neutral country, while air strikes targeted the Afghan government and its supporting military. Pentagon units seized abandoned Soviet air bases throughout Afghanistan, while establishing support bases in nearby nations such as Uzbekistan. Simultaneously, FBI agents throughout the United States staged raids in which dozens of men accused of terrorism were taken prisoner.
Reaction was swift and furious. Florida Senator Bob Graham said Bush had "brought shame to the United States with his paranoid delusions about so-called terror networks." British Prime Minister Tony Blair accused the United States of "an inexcusable act of conquest in plain violation of international law." White House chief counterterrorism advisor Richard Clarke immediately resigned in protest of "a disgusting exercise in over-kill."
When dozens of U.S. soldiers were slain in gun battles with fighters in the Afghan mountains, public opinion polls showed the nation overwhelmingly opposed to Bush's action. Political leaders of both parties called on Bush to withdraw U.S. forces from Afghanistan immediately. "We are supposed to believe that attacking people in caves in some place called Tora Bora is worth the life of even one single U.S. soldier?" former Nebraska Senator Bob Kerrey asked.
Bush justified his attack on Afghanistan, and the detention of 19 men of Arab descent who had entered the country legally, on grounds of intelligence reports suggesting an imminent, devastating attack on the United States. But no such attack ever occurred, leading to widespread ridicule of Bush's claims. Speaking before a special commission created by Congress to investigate Bush's anti-terrorism actions, former national security adviser Rice shocked and horrified listeners when she admitted, "We had no actionable warnings of any specific threat, just good reason to believe something really bad was about to happen."
...."I was given bad advice," he [Bush] insisted. "My advisers told me that unless we took decisive action, thousands of innocent Americans might die. Obviously I should not have listened."
Easterbrook's conclusion is impeachment for Bush.
When considering war, besides being just, it must also be feasible. It would be near impossible to look at what happened in Rwanda 10 years ago and argue that intervention would have been immoral. The political climate at the time though, left it unfeasible. Highlighted by the experience of Mogadishu just two years before, Americans were not ready to tolerate casualties trying to solve century old problems in a far off lands that, at least superficially, are of no relevance to us. What would the military strategy be anyway? The genocide in Rwanda was a result of tribal fighting. Which tribe's side would we have taken, the Hutus or Tutsis? Why? It's not as though there was a single figurehead or a distinct regime that needed to be toppled.
We face this same problem today with North Korea. There are incredibly compelling reasons to invade: Kim Jong-Il is a nut job that presents a clear threat to the world and people there are so hungry that they resort to eating babies. But they are a nuclear power and there is a good chance that they, in retalliation, would send some nuclear strikes to Seoul and possibly Tokyo. Are we willing to risk that?

A pre-9/11 strike on Afghanistan carried similar risks. That is, we would have really chanced destabilizing a nuclear state in Pakistan. Remember, this was a country that recognized the Taliban until September 11 forced them to choose between it and civilization. It is no given they would have taken our side or that Musharraf's regime would not have been over-run by Islamic militants, who then would have had nuclear access. Were we, as a nation, prepared to take those risks and invade a country over non-specific intelligence? Even in the aftermath of the attacks we hardly tolerate increased airport security, and don't forget the complaints this past Christmas about the government being too aggressive in canceling flights from Europe.


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