The war on terrorism cannot be won in Afghanistan alone. It requires reversing decades of American neglect of the region’s most pressing political and economic problems.
First of all, we must acknowledge that the American bombing campaign, while justified, might destabilize Pakistan. The protests currently raging in Peshawar, Karachi and Quetta testify to the strength of the fundamentalist movement in that country, where the possibility of an Islamic revolution looms on the horizon. The people there view their military leader, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, as a sellout for supporting our war against the Taliban.
What can America do to defuse the rage?
Stopping the bombing and letting criminals like Mullah Mohammed Omar and Osama bin Laden go free is not an acceptable answer. Bin Laden, who wrongly considers America a nation of decadent cowards, would seize the opportunity to claim victory in his struggle against Western democracy. Al Qaeda would continue to use Afghanistan as a base for future terrorist attacks, and the Taliban would perpetuate its oppressive theocracy.
But there are additional steps America can take to fight terrorism, as well as to counter bin Laden’s meteoric rise in popularity throughout the region.
First of all, the Bush administration must pick up where President Bill Clinton left off in 2000 by forcing a settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
To this end, I believe President George W. Bush should have met with PLO Chairman Yasir Arafat last weekend at the United Nations. Recall that the 1993 Oslo Accords were made possible not only by President Clinton, Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin and Chairman Arafat, but also by another persistent statesman, President George H.W. Bush.
It was he who, in Madrid in the wake of the Gulf War, linked future American economic assistance to progress in peace negotiations. His son should now exert similar pressure on the two parties, thereby ensuring both come to the table in good faith.
The Palestinian Authority needs to start jailing terrorists without releasing them 10 days later. And Arafat must be pressured to crack down on radical movements like Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which operate from his territory. The incidence of suicide bombings could be drastically reduced if Arafat did more. For humanity’s sake, he must.
Furthermore, Israel’s support for settlements in the West Bank must end. The international community and the United Nations have condemned the settlements as an illegal provocation, which they are. The Israeli government must make clear to the settlers that its army will no longer defend them, should they choose to remain outside of Israel proper.
Otherwise, the inevitable escalation of tensions in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip will not only overwhelm the Palestinian Authority, but intensify anti-American sentiment throughout the Islamic world. Such a fallout would threaten pro-U.S. governments like the Pakistani junta.
Moreover, America must do more to win the propaganda war bin Laden is successfully waging against our country. As a senior U.S. official put it in a recent New York Times article, “Al Jazeera is killing us.”
But al Jazeera can be a powerful weapon in our favor. We need to continue putting American officials like Ambassador Christopher Ross, who recently refuted bin Laden’s last hate video and who speaks fluent Arabic, on the air to denounce al Qaeda’s shrill charges. Bush himself should learn some Arabic and speak out.
Finally, America must increase its assistance to Pakistan and commit itself fully to the resolution of the Indo-Pakistani dispute over Jammu and Kashmir. We were asleep at the switch when both countries detonated nuclear weapons in 1998. We cannot be caught unawares again.
Underdevelopment lights the political fire feeding the conflict in Kashmir. As we enter a global recession, economic assistance to both countries is essential.
Perhaps a U.S.-U.N. commitment to immunizing the children of Kashmir, as well as providing them and their families clean food and potable drinking water, would prove an ideal first step.
There is no easy way to fight the war on terrorism, which requires more than targeting Osama bin Laden and the Taliban. A vigorous American foreign policy in the Middle East constitutes part of the broader solution.
Matthew Nickson is a junior in Berkeley College. He is the president of the Yale Political Union.