Ahem . . . excuse me?
Could I ask you boys to stop waving your flags and beating your drums long enough to listen to me for just a minute?
Have any of you noticed that some of the military Dopers seem to have disappeared? Vehemently posting for several days, then suddenly dead silent? Do you hear a hint sneaking up on you?
I gave up on CNN, ABC, etc. several days ago, and started reading Reuters and other non-USA news sites. I highly recommend that you do so, too, as there is a scarier story out there than what you are getting from US news sources.
We are possibly looking at WWIII - not another Vietnam, not another Gulf War, but a true, serious, deadly international struggle that is going to cost thousands - hundreds of thousands - possibly millions - of lives. Before you pick up that flag and drumstick again, take the time to look up some Mom whose son is in the military, give her a big hug, and offer your sympathy in advance, okay? Promise her you’ll be there to hold her hand when they send her son home in a body bag.
This ain’t gonna be no Desert Storm - despite the general non-acceptance of the Taliban government, there is a hell of a lot of sympathy out there for Afghanistan, which is in pretty damn desperate condition. We walked on eggshells during the Gulf War to maintain a delicate balance in the Middle East - one wrong move would have turned allies or fence sitters into enemies. Desert Storm was tolerated to the extent we prosecuted it because the other countries feared Hussein’s aggression - if he got away with Kuwait, who would be next? Our position is not as ‘justified’ now as it was then - killing a few thousand helpless, starving civilians might be enough to turn the majority of the Moslem countries against us. And there is the whole very strong shared-religion factor to take into account, involving people with very deep religious beliefs and a willingness to feel persecuted for, and distinguish themselves in defense of, their religion. Think Jihad.
Iran stated today that they would not support any military action by the US - you can read about this one at CNN. When asked if they were worried about being targeted as terrorist-supporters, the answer was that the international and Islamic community ‘will not buy that’. Put a little emphasis on ‘Islamic Community’ - and think Jihad.
Another consideration: Afghanistan is looking more and more like a huge black hole waiting for some enterprising nation to rush in and fill it. Despite their pitiful condition and current internal rebellion, no one local wants to try taking Afghanistan by conventional methods - not only was the lesson taught Russia well-learned, but any attempt by one country to move in on Afghanistan is going to bring the rest of the Middle East to Afghanistan’s defense. If they were willing to tolerate and even support the US in order to drive them out of Kuwait, do you think they will sit quietly by while Iraq, for example, takes over Afghanistan?
However, after the US softens them up a little, some kindly neighbor might offer to send in a ‘peace-keeping force’ to ‘stabilize the government’ and ‘aid the suffering populace’. (I wouldn’t doubt that this is one reason Saddam Hussein is suddenly being so friendly and helpful.) The other Mid East countries aren’t going to see this as a good thing - one more reason to oppose any military action by the US, as it is likely to seriously jeopardize the status quo and plunge the entire Mid East into war.
Tajikistan has refused us staging bases, apparently because they don’t trust Russia not to take advantage of the situation and somehow ‘absorb’ them. I can think of several reasons why Russia might actually encourage US military action in Afghanistan - despite their words of sympathy and support (undoubtedly sincere on the part of the individual citizens), the government is surely quietly gloating over our situation, since we helped Afghanistan kick them out a few years ago. I’m sure they wouldn’t mind getting their hands back on Afghanistan, either, if for no other reason than pride. Things could get a little touchy there.
Any sort of disruption in the Middle East is going to seriously endanger the world’s oil supply - when fuel prices start skyrocketing, how many of our somewhat-reluctant allies are going to continue backing us? A quick wham-bam-thankyouma’am operation won’t be too big a deal - a long protracted struggle involving several countries is going to become real unpopular real quick. The US can go from ‘the good guys’ to ‘the bad guys’ in world opinion overnight.
And we’ve put Pakistan in a hell of a position - and it looks like they may have returned the favor. Do you think Pakistan is being so helpful because they love us, and love justice? Hell no - they are dependent on the US to bail them out of their ‘troubles’, and the price of a bail-out is cooperation. Which is going to be seen by the Taliban (and other Arab states) as a betrayal, because Pakistan also assisted, advised, and supported Afghanistan in driving the Russians out, and of course is one of the few countries to recognize the Taliban government.
Not a great way to win friends and influence people.
And Pakistan is Johnny-on-the-spot - while the US is beating drums and putting on their warpaint, Pakistan is facing massing Afghani troops on their border. Reports last night say troops are now massing on both sides of the border.
Pakistan has nuclear weapons.
And it looks like Pakistan may have made the situation much worse, either deliberately (maybe to pay back the US for putting them in this position, maybe because they see some advantage for themselves) or through a misunderstanding - news sources say that on Monday, Pakistan told the Taliban that they had 3 days to hand over bin Laden; today Colin Powell said he was unaware of such a deadline and it certainly wasn’t made on behalf of the US.
It sure looks like the Taliban believes the bombs will start falling Thursday and are panicking. Refugees are fleeing the cities, and the country, if possible, in droves; Taliban members are declaring Jihad while getting the hell out of Dodge themselves.
And some very nervous headlines are starting to show up: “Indonesia Muslim Group Threatens To Hit US Embassy” “China wants UN approval of any US strikes”“Allies Supportive but Wary Over U.S. Response
Washington’s key allies have continued to pledge support for its war on terror but many are cool on strikes against Afghanistan and fear an escalation on religious or regional lines.” etc., etc.
The world is scared shitless, guys.
To add the frosting to the cake: "Ashcroft says more attacks may be planned. Asked how concerned he is about “another attack”, Ashcroft said “Very.” (CNN)
And people are talking about missing ‘suitcase nukes’.
I live 20 miles from a little-known chemical weapons storage facility, a place that, during the Cold War, was consistently on the top 10 or top 20 ‘hit list’.
I’m scared shitless, too.
Okay, sorry this was so long - you can carry on now. I just thought I’d inject a little reality into this thread, as it seemed to be acquiring sort of a party atmosphere. Don’t want anyone to get confused and forget there is some serious shit going on.