Experts on terrorism mull administration’s response
The American response to the Sept. 11 attacks won’t be swift and won’t involve a full-scale ground assault, according to two experts on terrorism.
“It’s not going to be a pinprick air strike or missile strike,” said Alex Lennon of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “We’ll want to make sure the first response is serious, effective and overwhelming.”
The bipartisan think tank in Washington, D.C., monitors global affairs with an emphasis in Islamic studies. Launching the United States into a Middle Eastern conflict may set off a chain reaction Americans could find difficult to handle, Lennon said.
“One thing everyone needs to keep in mind is there aren’t going to be any good military options,” he said.
Contributing to an abundance of opinions expresed since the terrorist attack, Lennon wouldn’t expect the government to order an American occupation of Afghanistan, a land-locked mountainous region the radical Islamic Taliban movement has controlled since 1996.
Authorities have indicated they think prime suspect Osama bin Laden is based in the country north of Pakistan.
He is relieved that the federal government intends to shy away from a full-scale operation involving ground forces similar to the Vietnam War, he said.
Still, many casualties are certain, and there’s a risk in failing to achieve the advanced intelligence needed to pull off an operation as complex as stamping out global terrorism, Lennon added.
He also believes that simply going after the Saudi Arabian exile may not prove to be enough to achieve the U.S. directive and may backfire because bin Laden may become a military martyr to other factions.
“Tuesday’s attack may be seen as a recruitment tool to that end. If you look at it that way, it may not make sense to arrest or assassinate him,” Lennon said.
He fears if the U.S. military overplays its hand in the region, the efforts may lead to a government overthrow by radical forces in neighboring Pakistan.
“I’ve been quite impressed by the fact that the Bush administration has pulled together a (global) coalition in such a short period of time. The difference is how far will they go?” said Leonard Weinberg, University of Nevada, Reno, political science professor.
President Bush has indicated the United States should brace itself for a long conflict. Weinberg wonders whether Americans will maintain their wave of patriotic sentiment, supporting military efforts in a region flanked by countries many can’t even pronounce.
Support for a sustained effort against terrorism may also depend on the media, he said.
“A lot of (the public sentiment) hinges on TV coverage,” Weinberg said.
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