[VIEWPOINT]This Is a Fight Against Terror, Not Islam

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[VIEWPOINT]This Is a Fight Against Terror, Not Islam

The United States began its full-scale war against terrorism by launching a powerful military attack on targets in Afghanistan on Sunday. The United States has called the fight against terrorism the first war of the 21st century, but the features of this war will be very different from traditional wars. The beginning, development and conclusion of the war will be in a completely new mold. As U.S. President George W. Bush said when he announced the first military action against Afghanistan, the attacks are no more than the preliminary skirmish of a sustained, comprehensive and relentless campaign.

Taking into account that almost one month has passed since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington by hijacked civilian airplanes, the number of bombers and Tomahawk missiles mobilized in the first wave of attacks are rather small in scale. But the initial attacks provide us with hints on how the war waged by the United States will develop as the campaign unfolds.

In particular, unlike the Gulf War where the U.S. Air Force carried out full-scale bombing, the United States will conduct staged, pinpoint attacks on targets that have been under close scrutiny for some time. After the targets are destroyed, the United States will commit special ground units.

As initial targets, the United States has concentrated its efforts on eliminating terrorist camps, their communication networks and the military headquarters of the Taliban regime which is protecting terrorist organizations.

In order to win the war, skillful strategies are required. Such a strategy is efficiently destroying the "center of gravity" of the enemy state. During the Gulf War the United States regarded the mighty Republican Guard of Iraq as the center of gravity and concentrated its efforts in destroying it. But after the war was over, the United States realized that in a dictatorship state like Iraq, the center of gravity was not its military strength but the nation's leader, Saddam Hussein.

At present, the United States is trying out a new kind of warfare that is targeted at the leadership of terrorist organizations and states that support terrorism. This is a far cry from traditional war-fighting previously conducted by the United States.

The U.S. government is emphasizing that it is not conducting a war against Afghanistan, its people or followers of Islam. Therefore the United States is also dropping massive amounts of relief goods - food, medicine and other necessities - for the poverty-stricken Afghan people at the same time it is conducting its bombing campaign.

Osama bin Laden, the prime suspect in the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington that killed thousands of people, distributed a videotape of himself taken after the attacks were launched. In the video, Mr. bin Laden took pains to portray this military conflict as a war between the Islamic faith and Western nations. In order to inflame Iraqi public opinion, Mr. bin Laden said that 1 million innocent Iraqi children have been killed. He also wants to stir up more conflict between the Palestinians and Israel by saying that Israeli tanks are devastating the Palestinian people. He went even further in his anti-Israeli rhetoric, saying that Jews have oppressed the Islamic states for 80 years. The 80 years, mentioned somewhat vaguely by Mr. bin Laden, was a reference to the starting point, in the year 1917, when the establishment of Israel was pledged by international society. Mr. bin Laden says the establishment of Israel and its existence are the main source of anguish and pain of Islamic states.

One of the obstacles faced by the United States in conducting this war is how to prevent Israel from intervening. If Israel intervenes militarily in this war, the Islamic states that are supporting the United States in its fight against terrorism at the present will suddenly withdraw their support. That is exactly what Mr. bin Laden is counting on, and it could lead to a "clash of civilizations" between Western nations and Muslim countries.

Meanwhile, the U.S. government has been controlling its rage and has committed its people to a wartime regime.

Despite the general anticipation that the United States would not be able to manage a war for a long period of time, Americans are displaying unbelievable solidarity and a will to win the fight. At the same time, the United States has been pursuing strong diplomatic efforts to obtain support from other nations.

As the stage of "sustained, comprehensive and relentless" military operations begin, a new phase in international society, different from the so-called post-cold war era, is beginning. The principles governing international politics will be very dynamic and different from those in the past.


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The writer is a political scientist and military historian.

by Lee Chun-geun

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