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Western Press Review: Unlikely Alliances In Antiterrorism Coalition

Prague, 2 October 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Commentary and analysis in today's Western press examines the new geopolitical alliances being formed to wage the war against terrorism. As unlikely alliances emerge and loyalties shift, several commentators explore which nations will become the major players in the global coalition and how these nations will be affected by the new international order.


In the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung," columnist Klaus-Dieter Frankenberger looks at Germany's potential role in the coalition against terror. He advises that Germany not follow up its enthusiastic pledges of support for the "war against terrorism" by wavering when it comes time to take definitive action. Frankenberger says that the idea of a "division of labor" within NATO or the EU, "according to which some are responsible for the dirty work and others for civil, less rough-hewn, or financial duties," is an idea fit "only for those who would soonest continue to keep Germany out of the perils of world affairs. They would limit its contribution toward the fight against international terrorism at most to the provision of logistical assistance and as a source [of] funding as Germany sails quietly outside of the risk zones."

Frankenberger goes on to advise that German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder will, in his words, "need to apply a firm grip to ensure that not even the slightest suspicion arises that Germany's pledge of support is not meant entirely seriously and is unfit to withstand strain. The war on terrorism will need to be waged on many fronts, of which the military is just one," he writes. "But there is something unsavory and tactless about the idea that Germany will look after the home front while the United States and Britain move forward into the terrain where mines have been laid."


In a contribution to the "International Herald Tribune," former Bosnian Prime Minister Haris Silajdzic and David Phillips of the Council on Foreign Relations say that more than military measures will be needed to deter future terrorism and ensure world security. They say that the lessons learned from Bosnia indicate that U.S. leadership is "essential to solving regional conflicts." Simmering conflicts around the world are, in their words, "incubators of resentment."

The writers suggest that the growing gap in social and economic development between the industrialized and developing worlds necessitates that world leaders ensure globalization "enriches everyone, not just a few. Many Muslims feel that they are being left behind."

The writers go on to say that "the Muslim world has made clear its critical view of America's unconditional support for Israel." In addition, "Washington should not turn a blind eye to egregious human rights abuses committed by Russia in Chechnya. Such engagement by the United States would send an immediate signal of sympathy to the Muslim world."

The authors conclude that the international community "should pursue long-term solutions to the root causes of conflict. U.S. leadership is needed to forge a global coalition in the war against ignorance, poverty and injustice. These conditions lead to despair and provide fertile ground for anti-Americanism."


A "New York Times" editorial considers the West's new allies in Central Asia in the war against terrorism. The paper says that the need for cooperation among a broad range of nations should not overshadow the human rights or other infringements taking place within some of these new allies' borders.

It writes: "Just as the desire for international collaboration against Communism drew America into unseemly alliances with dictators during the Cold War, the new campaign against terrorism is pulling Washington ever closer to tyrants [in] Central Asia. Three of the least appealing leaders -- in Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan -- have now become American allies against their southern neighbor Afghanistan. Access to airfields and military bases may require some short-term cooperation, but Washington should not give these dictators license to pursue their abusive policies against Muslim citizens."

The paper continues: "There is little question that Washington needs to use bases and airspace in the three Central Asian states." But, it adds, the West should not be "rewarding these nations in ways that encourage further repression. America's battle against terrorism is best served in Central Asia by encouraging governments there to arrest those genuinely involved in violent acts and leaving others free to worship and think as they please."


In the Asian edition of "The Wall Street Journal," international politics Professor Robyn Lim says Afghanistan is once again the focus of global attention, as it is widely considered the hideout of Osama bin Laden, prime suspect in the attacks on the U.S. But Lim says that even if bin Laden is handed over and the Taliban regime toppled, "a potential terrorist threat will remain unless a viable government is installed in Kabul. Like it or not, the U.S. will have to engage in nation-building."

"The U.S. must broker a post-Taliban arrangement in Afghanistan that is acceptable to Pakistan," writes Lim. Otherwise, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf "could fall victim to assassination or a coup himself. [A] Talibanized Pakistan with nuclear weapons would be a nightmare," she adds.

But backing the Afghanistan's opposition Northern Alliance, as some suggest, brings its own problems, says Lim: "An Afghani government dominated by [the Alliance's] Tajiks and Uzbeks would be unacceptable to the Pashtun majority. The Alliance would be even less appealing to the Pashtuns if it were propelled into power with U.S. support."

A successful successor regime to the Taliban, Lim writes, "might involve groups representing the deposed Afghan king [Mohammed Zahir Shah], more moderate elements of the Taliban and the Northern Alliance. But only if these Afghans are sufficiently tired of war and willing to put aside their differences can the U.S. help them help themselves construct a post-Taliban government."


In France's "Liberation," international law analysts Monica Feria-Tinta and Nicolas Le Coz de Kerlen examine the options for a U.S. retaliatory response when considered within the guidelines of international law. According to the UN Charter, if a state is attacked it has the right to respond -- but only proportionally -- in self-defense. And it must inform the UN Security Council of its intention to do so. "As the United States was not attacked by a state," the authors say, "a reprisal without the authorization of the UN Security Council would be difficult to accept. If the council authorizes the use of force, the principle of proportionality with regard to the initial damages should be respected. However," they observe, "even if the hijackers chose a civilian target, international law forbids any reprisals against civilian populations."

The authors go on to note that the Security Council asserted, in resolution 1368, that the attacks of 11 September constituted, in its words, "a threat to the peace and to international security." But they emphasize that this does not mean, as has been suggested, that the Americans have already received the approval of the UN. The authors write: "Even if the aforementioned resolution underscores the 'inherent right' of self defense, this formulation is not a signature on a blank check for the U.S. and its allies."


In "The Wall Street Journal Europe," editor Frederick Kempe questions why, after NATO's article Five -- which states that an attack against one member state constitutes an attacks against all NATO members -- was invoked for the first time in its 52-year history, the United States failed to take advantage of the offer in building its "coalition against terror." All the U.S. had to do, he says, is to affirm that the attack "was launched from abroad." He writes: "NATO had, in the space of just a couple of hours, agreed to something that America had sought for years: that the alliance would be ready to protect alliance interests on a global scale."

Kempe says that European nations, in his words, "quietly shook their heads in dismay" at this turn of events. He notes that when questioned, American officials explained that they were "going to create a number of ad hoc coalitions of willing countries for specific needs, but that they didn't need the alliance specifically. This approach," writes Kempe, "confused allies and left them exposed domestically." Kempe also acknowledges that U.S. fears that it would be hampered in its military objectives by a closer union with its allies may have led to this decision.

But "[even] if America now engages NATO as a whole as now seems likely," Kemp writes, "the U.S. has slowed alliance momentum and missed the best moment. You might have to sacrifice the ease of the first job in order to ensure the neighborhood is secure when it really counts. Short-sighted decisions don't work in what's certain to be 'the Long War.'"


In "The Boston Globe," the former charge d'affaires of the U.S. embassy in Afghanistan, Charles Dunbar, writes that the U.S. and other Western nations will have no choice but to take part in "nation-building" in Afghanistan. He writes: "Washington's planning must go well beyond 'surgical' military strikes against Osama bin Laden and his Al-Qaeda network." Even if bin Laden is captured early on, he says, "the military campaign to destroy Al-Qaeda is unlikely to be either short or surgical."

Dunbar goes on to suggest four objectives. First, he says, the intervention in Afghanistan must have what he calls "a massive humanitarian component." Twenty-two years of war and a devastating draught has wreaked havoc on the country. Second, he says, UN agreement to and involvement in the operation should be constant and unwavering. Third, the U.S. should "redouble its efforts" to broker a peace deal between the Palestinians and Israelis. Dunbar says there is an "overriding need for a just and lasting peace" in the region.

He writes: "Finally, some nation-building will almost certainly be needed. The former King of Afghanistan is ready to support convening [a] grand council, a longstanding political tradition in Afghanistan, to choose a successor to the Taliban regime. Whether we like it or not, the United States must help such a process, leading to a provisional government, and ultimately in building a new political order, for Afghanistan."