OPINION

Commentary

Ten days after the most devastating terrorist attack in human history, the objective of the US’s nascent anti-terrorist crusade remains blurred. The challenge posed by the attackers cannot, of course, remain unanswered. The crucial issue concerns the character and the extent of the response. It is up to US President George W. Bush to decide whether he will initiate a procedure designed to eliminate the phenomenon, or whether he will fuel a vicious cycle of blind violence. According to reports, the terrorists belong to a broad terrorist network which has substantial economic resources, a large number of highly-trained and determined fighters, and support in many Islamic and Western countries. The linking ideology is that of Islamic fundamentalism, while the terrorist practices are legitimized by the Islamic principle of holy war. Cracking down on such a network is, obviously, not an easy task. In spite of all problems, however, this should be the main aim. Everything seems to indicate that the Americans, parallel to their investigation aimed at eliminating the terrorist network, are also planning to launch a military campaign against Afghanistan. Their aim is to arrest Osama bin Laden and overthrow the Taleban’s totalitarian regime. Provided the US does not overstep the mark, it seems most likely that Europe will follow them and hence that there will be no serious cracks in the anti-terrorist alliance being built by Washington. The climate, however, will change if the operation is followed by a similar campaign against Sudan, for example, and all other countries on the State Department’s blacklist. European societies have given their consent to taking stricter measures to combat terrorism, but it is questionable whether they would take part in a prolonged crusade that would inevitably evolve into a religious-cultural clash. Such a development would not only undercut democratic freedoms in the West itself. It would also worsen the security problem, as no security system is safe against suicide attacks and even less against attacks aimed at civilians. On top of cracking down on the terrorist network, the West should also redress the causes which render bin Laden a reference point for the impoverished and ideologically enraged Muslim masses worldwide. Western policies, at this level, are sorely lacking.