TCS Daily


"Can We Afford to Wait?"

By Nick Schulz - October 30, 2001 12:00 AM

Richard Perle posed that question about expanding the war to state sponsors of terrorism to panelists participating Monday at a forum on the war against terrorism. Many in the packed audience at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D. C. were wondering the same thing.

Perle's question gets to the heart of the problem facing the nation in combating modern-day terrorism. After the horrible mass murder of Sept.11 and the bioterror attacks on U.S. soil, many fear escalation of the war is not moving fast enough given both the known and unknown threats to Americans.

The same day as the forum, Attorney General John Ashcroft issued a warning that more as yet unspecified terrorist attacks are likely in the next week or so. At the same time, there are worrisome signs that the resolve to take the war to America's enemies is wobbling.

The Washington Post reported today that "pressure on the United States to radically curtail the war in Afghanistan" during the coming Ramadan holiday is growing. British Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon even said a bombing pause "is something we are looking at very seriously. While Defense Secretary Rumsfeld stated in unambiguous terms that the war would continue, the specter that shrinking the U.S. initiative is a realistic consideration according to our closest ally and just three weeks into the campaign is troubling.

Too many are echoing Sen. Joseph Biden remark that this nation will appear like a "high-tech bully" in the Arab world if bombing runs continue much longer. For a clearer perspective of the underlying danger, though, those fretting would do well to read a piece in The New Republic by Gregg Easterbrook on the nuclear threat. Easterbrook, known for shunning alarmism, soberly assesses the current threats of mass destruction and concludes that even as there is no cause for panic yet, the United States and its allies and interests around the globe need to combat potential nuclear threats from Iraq, Iran, Al Qaeda and other terrorist regimes.

To do so means understanding the direct and indirect role that state sponsors of terrorism play in the threats against the United States and targeting them accordingly - regardless of the Ramadan holiday.

This was precisely what Perle, a Tech Central Station E-Ring contributor, highlighted at Monday's forum with his question. In an interview last week with Perle that will appear this week on TCS, I asked him about reports that Osama bin Laden had acquired nuclear weapons. He responded: "It`s simply a matter of time before one or more terrorist organizations, possibly Bin Laden, does in fact acquire nuclear material. Nuclear weapons are more difficult, but not impossible, which is one of the reasons why we can`t afford to delay in dealing with terrorism. Not only with respect to Bin Laden, but others as well."

In other words, the answer to Perle's question is: No, we can't afford to wait.

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