A SENSE OF ASIA
Why Washington must worry about 'the whole world'
By Sol Sanders
SPECIAL TO WORLD TRIBUNE.COM
August 12, 2003
The lady in our dog park, her husband a former Marine prominent in the veterans’ world, had the familiar worry of any ordinary American watching world affairs. She had just heard the news of the Marine deployment in Liberia. Over the yapping of my Airedale trying to get her Bernaise to run, why, she shouted, were we spreading our stretched military resources all over the globe?
A friend just back from an African state not in the headlines just now had one answer: that country’s Moslem population, while moderate, relatively small, and so far immune from contagion of the Islamicist terrorist infection, had nevertheless just gone through a failed coup. The origins, as usual, were complicated, parochial. But one of the things its government did shortly after it survived was to close down a “large Saudi cultural” operation. The implication was that Wahabbi missionaries played a role in the disturbances with their usual preaching of an intolerant Islam that has led to helping to create jihadi cadre in so many places, fanatics plotting against moderate Moslems, Americans, Christians, Jews, secularists, and other assorted Western targets.
Luckily we haven’t had to deploy in that country – but at the first hint that it might become another sanctuary for the terrorists – we would have to consider it. The sophistication of the terrorists, their use of the latest technologies, has dramatized the phrase “global reach” with which Washington identifies those organizations it has to neutralize. For the moment, in that particular country the U.S. is simply trying – as elsewhere — to intensify intelligence, watch transfers of money, and support a moderate regime which has already, by its likes, done the U.S. some favors.
One of the “lessons” of Afghanistan which came out of 9/11 was that the terrorists had a far greater international structure than we had assumed. I am told that even those intelligence cadre who were most attuned to the monster building behind the Taliban regime in Kabul were shocked to see how much weaponry, evidence of sophisticated financial and logistics planning, how much what the spies call “tradecraft”, was found after the short initial military action. And the ability of Osama Ben Ladin to escape the U.S. net and apparently to inspire if not continue to direct his alliances around the Middle East and Southeast Asia – and Europe – appears to be proof of their extraordinary abilities to use these modest sanctuaries.
True, Afghanistan was a special case – even if isolated geographically, an old, old battleground of empires and international plotting. But what is now clear – last week’s Jakarta bombing in the Indonesian capital is the latest evidence if needed – is that the plague of terrorism, especially that part of it on an Islamicist base, is not only intensive but extensive. The investigation and trial of a terrorist leader in Indonesia, the organizer of the Bali bombing where 180 innocents, including young Australian tourists, were slaughtered, has exposed a widespread Southeast Asian network allied to Osama Ben Ladin’s Al Qaida. Its tentacles reach into the Moslem areas of the southern Philippines, the southern Thai provinces with Moslem populations [once a sanctuary for Malayan Communist guerrillas in the immediate post-World War II], Singapore’s Malay and Indian Moslem minority, as well as to some of Indonesia’s remote islands.
Therefore, it has to be a Washington concern when even otherwise small and isolated societies become so destabilized/radicalized that they can become the base for terrorists’ operations.
Our allies, too, are learning that bitter lesson. Australia with its limited military resources has had to accept the invitation of the shaky government of its Solomons neighbor to put down an insurgency. Another threat in the failed state of Papua New Guinea may also force Canberra’s intervention. Britain, taxed by its contribution to the U.S. effort in Iraq, nevertheless has headed a peacekeeping mission in Liberia’s neighbor Sierra Leone, and the French have headed a similar operation in another neighbor, the Ivory Coast. It has been clear that preventing the creation of another anarchic Somalia where Al Qaida in part hatched its attacks on two U.S. embassies in East Africa, is one of the aims in West Africa.
There obviously is a finite limit for American resources which can be devoted to the war against terrorism. But the ability of the terrorists to strike at the heart of the U.S. two years ago, and the generally accepted likelihood they could do it again, means Washington has no choice but to monitor “the whole world”. The astute use of our resources and the ability to help others to defend themselves against such infiltration, rather than to deploy our own forces, is going to decide how long will be what President Bush has always promised would always be an extended conflict.
Sol W. Sanders, (email@example.com), is an Asian specialist with more than 25 years in the region, and a former correspondent for Business Week, U.S. News & World Report and United Press International. He writes weekly for World Tribune.com.
August 12, 2003
Print this Article Email this article Free Headline Alerts
See current edition of
Return to World Tribune.com Front Cover
Contact World Tribune.com at firstname.lastname@example.org