[TODAY]America unleashes the serpent

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[TODAY]America unleashes the serpent

The anaconda, a snake found in the jungles of Central and South America, can be as long as 5 times the average height of a man. These grand snakes wrap their bodies around their prey, like crocodiles and jaguars, crushing them to death before swallowing them whole. If an anaconda ever hugs you, you're dead.

The second military offensive led by the United States in Afghanistan is code-named Operation Anaconda, an action to "crush" the remnants of Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters in eastern Afghanistan near Pakistan.

Operation Anaconda is smaller in scale but more focused than the first U.S. operation in Afghanistan that started last October and lasted five months. This time forces from Germany, France, Australia, Canada, Denmark and Norway are battling alongside the Americans. The operation is also different from the first campaign in that it produced what President George W. Bush had been dreading, eight American casualties.

Some have accused the United States of trying to dip its fingers into the Afghanistan situation while trying to keep its hands clean of blood. Some have accused it of trying to "hog" the war, refusing interference from its allies to politically and economically dominate the post-Afghanistan Central Asia. If these accusations are true, the accusers can rest assured that the American objectives have been foiled since the launch of Operation Anaconda.

The Anaconda came after the failure in Tora Bora to block the escape of Al Qaeda fighters. Tora Bora was the region where Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders, including Osama bin Laden, the accused mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States, were supposedly hiding. The ground offensive was left mainly to the pro-U.S. Afghan troops directed by U.S. special forces. But the Afghans who had fought so bravely to drive the Taliban and Al Qaeda forces out of the cities wavered on the mountains of Tora Bora. Few were willing to enter the caves where Osama bin Laden and his troops might be hiding. In fact, it was later discovered that some had even been bribed to help the enemy leaders cross the borders into Pakistan.

Reports say the Afghan soldiers received about $5,000 for every person they helped across the borders. This would indeed have been a sum no average Afghan would have hesitated accepting. For the United States, this meant a serious leakage in its front. This was why Osama bin Laden has yet to be caught and this is why the last stages of the war are dragging on. So the United States changed its strategy. It mobilized some 600 men and invited other countries to join the fight. Afghanistan's war had finally turned into a full-blown American war with its allies by its side.

Operation Anaconda will be the closing step of the war in Afghanistan. The success of this operation will hopefully mark the end of 20 years of civil war and external interference in Afghanistan. The success of Operation Anaconda is indispensable if the Afghans are to start building a new nation and reconstruct their economy.

Mr. Bush's "axis of evil" statement was made in the context of the war in Afghanistan. Somehow, he seems to regard North Korea, Iran and Iraq in the same light with the Al Qaeda and the Taliban. As long as there's war in Afghanistan, there's a shadow over the Korean Peninsula and the relationship between North and South Korea. That is why we are rooting for the success of Operation Anaconda for our sake as much as the Afghans'.

Walter Russell Mead, a renowned historian, outlined in his book "Special Providence: American Foreign Policy and How It Changed the World" the similarities between Mr. Bush and Andrew Jackson, the hero of the War of 1812, the seventh president of the United States and a pioneer of grassroots democracy. One of the similarities the historian pointed out was an unforgiving attitude toward unrelenting enemies but generosity toward enemies who admitted defeat.

Mr. Mead went on to say that there was a bit of Jackson in every American and that the generous attitude of the United States to Germany and Japan after World War II reflected this spirit. Whether it's because of the Jackson inside him or not, Mr. Bush has got to end the war in Afghanistan with Operation Anaconda. Victory in Afghanistan also means the blunting of the "axis of evil" and those of us living on this side of the axis would like to see the war end as soon as possible.

If Mr. Bush is indeed similar to Andrew Jackson with his chastisement of the wicked and magnanimity toward the admittedly defeated, let the wicked be crushed by Anaconda quickly so that the good will be left to benefit from the magnanimity.


The writer is a senior columnist of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Kim Young-hie

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