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Sunday, 16 September, 2001, 22:54 GMT 23:54 UK
Analysis: Bush's ambitious plan
President Bush delivers a speech outside the White House
President Bush is riding high in the polls
By BBC world affairs correspondent David Loyn

The United States is now putting together a two-pronged strategy in response to the terrorist attacks launched against New York and Washington last week.

Firstly they want to deal with those responsible, but they are also planning a far more ambitious campaign against world terrorism.

The outlines of this new policy are now emerging.

Senior politicians on both sides of the Atlantic are stressing that the campaign they are planning is far more comprehensive than just a strike against the people responsible for the attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon.

"We have a great deal of information about international terrorism around the world," said Britain's Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon.

"In the past we have not dealt with that threat as seriously as we should have done. Now we mean business.'

Options unclear

President Bush is raising expectations of military action soon, by talking of war and not diplomacy.

But the immediate military options are not obvious.

An American stands outside Washington cathedral
Many Americans are prepared to sustain losses for revenge
The US suffered humiliation in Somalia in 1993, which has made them unwilling to engage in the kind of small-scale conflicts which have characterised the world since the end of the Cold War in 1989.

American options are very finely balanced.

President Bush is winning record approval ratings at home for now, with opinion polls showing that more than 60% support even a sustained campaign with heavy American casualties.

The State Department is putting together a coalition of support abroad, which includes many countries who are by no means natural allies.

Iran, Libya, Syria and Egypt have all given some kind of expression of solidarity, along with Russia and China. But all of this support is conditional.

History lessons

President Bush is talking up the prospects of a substantial military victory. But it is immensely hard to achieve.

His predecessor Bill Clinton failed to harm the Saudi-born militant Osama Bin Laden despite a huge cruise missile strike in 1998.

Osama bin Laden
Osama has so far escaped
The domestic support could evaporate if there were not a quick result. And the foreign coalition of interest in defeating "world terrorism" is fragile too, particularly if there is a large-scale loss of Muslim lives.

There is much use of the word "appropriate" to define the military action. Indeed, the word is in the Congress endorsement of President Bush's war, which talks of "all necessary and appropriate force".

The military options have not yet been finalised, but they must include some use of special forces in the short term, if there is a failure in diplomatic attempts to persuade the Taleban to hand over their guest, Osama Bin Laden.

It is hard to imagine a major deployment of American land forces in Afghanistan.

The only place which such an attack could be launched from is Pakistan.

However much co-operation they are being offered by the government in Pakistan, the military dictatorship is fragile.

It depends on the support of hard-line Islamic political parties, who could hardly be expected to endorse a long-term campaign against Afghanistan.

See also:

16 Sep 01 | Americas
America widens 'crusade' on terror
16 Sep 01 | UK Politics
Britain 'at war with terrorism'
16 Sep 01 | Middle East
Bin Laden divides Arab opinion
15 Sep 01 | South Asia
Pakistan 'will comply' on terror
11 Sep 01 | South Asia
Who is Osama Bin Laden?
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