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Sunday, 7 October, 2001, 16:59 GMT 17:59 UK
Is there an alternative to war?
The British Prime Minister Tony Blair believes that military strikes against the Taleban regime in Afghanistan are now inevitable.
Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said that the Taleban had "mocked the world" by refusing to heed the ultimatum to hand over Osama Bin Laden and wind up the terrorist camps of his Al Qaida organisation.
Would the handing over or capture of Osama Bin Laden have been a solution? How would he be brought to trial and where could that take place?
Are there other solutions to seeking justice for the September 11 atrocities which could help keep the coalition of nations together? Would sanctions against individual states be an answer? Or is military action the only viable option?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
Kelli, Maine, USA
Now is the time for action not idle banter.
There is much to be done. No-one doubts that
the terrorists would have used nuclear, biological
or chemical attacks if they could have.
If there is a peaceful course of action I'll
listen but we're passing the time with idle
Why must we kill innocent people to show that killing the innocent is wrong? How do you justify killing one million Afghans? Also why does the media like to play God?
War is inevitable - not against Bin Laden but against poverty, exploitation, human rights, racism, hunger and misbalanced distribution of resources. Americans have for the first time in history started thinking beyond Madonna, CNN and Oprah.
If the US go in and capture or kill Osama, we must be prepared to pay with the lives of their soldiers. I don't think the US people are prepared for that.
If we hit the places where we suspect Osama to be hiding with bombs and missiles, the risk here is that if innocent people are killed it will create an outcry in the Muslim world. If we help the Northern Alliance to defeat the Taleban then we can force Osama to surface. The risk here being that we don't know what will happen once the Northern Alliance come to power, if thing go out of hands the US will be blamed for everything.
Bombing Afghanistan will not stop Bin Laden. It didn't last time, why should it be any different this time? The only way to stop him is to take his organisation apart from the inside. This can only happen over the long term. There is no quick fix.
Jimmy Savage, England
I think we the American people really need to ask ourselves why do so many people not like us? I honestly don't think it's do with jealousy. People don't just wake up one morning and think "Hey, let's hate the USA" for no reason.
Terrorism must be eradicated all over the world. However, we must also find out why people are angry and upset, and we must remove those reasons to make the world a better place for everyone alike, regardless of creed, colour, or religion.
War is not going to solve this issue. Don't get me wrong, the culprits who committed these horrendous crimes in the US recently should not go unpunished and they should be brought to justice and given the death penalty. But one also has to analyse the reasons behind these attacks - the double standard policies of the US and its allies towards the Islamic world. Israel's attacks on the Palestinians go unpunished, while the innocents of Iraq are still suffering from sanctions imposed 10 years ago after the Gulf War. At a time like this, the US and its allies should shower the poor innocent Muslims of Afghanistan with food and other aid to show the Islamic world that the west does care. Going to war will only make matters worse by inviting more hatred, especially from Muslim nations.
Please can MSH explain why the responsibility of giving food and other aid to the "poor" Afghans should rest on the USA and its Western allies? How about Saudi Arabia, Dubai and other rich Muslim countries doing something like this for a change.
Jaime Saldarriaga, Bogotá, Colombia
Chamberlain got Hitler to sign a piece of paper after much negotiation. Did this bring peace? No. The British government have talked to the IRA. Have they decommissioned any of their weapons? Not one single bullet.
What can we learn from this? If people want to commit these acts they will, and they will promise anything to get you out of their face.
Be it with military force, the freezing of financial assets or both, hit them hard, very hard.
Military action against a militant group makes the disease of violence worse, and incurable. Innocent civilians will lose their lives, while for the great world powers it is an experiment for their new weapons and military technology. The UN only represents the views of those few countries who rule there.
If the USA could ever get over its double-standard in international affairs, perhaps they would have a moral foot to stand on.
Weapons of mass destruction exist on Israeli soil and the US takes no notice for fear of upsetting the Jewish vote. Sanctions exist in Iraq ten years later. Trade ties are only now being normalized with Vietnam.
If the US started to act like a leader in international affairs instead of a bully, maybe things like 11/09 wouldn't happen.
David, Maine, USA
There is always an alternative to war - even if that alternative is the threat of war itself. The enemy in this case is not an individual per se but an entire theological philosophy based on the resentment of Capitalism and capitalist foreign policies. You cannot destroy a belief/philosophy by war - if the Americans attack alone it will only serve to intensify the Taleban believe that Capitalism (and more so the US) are the primary cause of this evil and so potentially threaten democracy further in the future. I do not have the answer - but attacking may not be the way forward given the delicate situation in that area of the world. Only History will tell¿
Sam, Chelmsford, UK
I am more than upset at some of the comments on the site. First of all I am quite sick of people in other countries accusing the US of having this Clint Eastwood mentality. We are highly educated, deeply religious and caring people. No, we do not WANT to go to war (and yes - it is a war) but we have, under the Clinton administration, attempted sanctions and negotiations. Obviously they did not work (as evidenced on 9-11). Second, as American citizens we are getting fed up with all of our "friends" who have to second guess coming to our aid. I'll be the first to say that if the USA is a target most probably you are too. And, God Forbid, you are in need - do you think you would want our help when your land was attacked.
We have tried and tried and tried peaceful methods for the past eight long years. Additionally, the Taleban is at fault here. Terrorists need space and protections to grow. The Taleban is providing both as are other countries. They need to go¿ period.
Gavin, Wales, UK
I think people who advocate sitting down and talking to Osama Bin Laden are extremely naive. Terrorists like these will never sit down and talk. I do not advocate war, but I sincerely think the Taleban should be taken out. The ordinary Afghan people would thank America for it. I also believe that the US needs to take a really honest look at its Middle East policies and try to rectify some of the wrongs, and listen to the people who feel oppressed, such as the Palestinians.
If the terrorists and their sponsors do not value peace or our notion of negotiation we cannot appease them. The key issue here is that if we give one inch to the terrorists they take a mile. So therefore we must take
action that will be understood by the perpetrators -a response in the
language of violence.
No one in their right mind wants to see a war, however our alternatives are looking pretty grim. Bin Laden and his followers don't want peace. That is obvious. Remember, there were gross terrorist attacks from this organisation prior to September 11. By not finishing Bin Laden and his network off sooner, their targets only get bigger, threatening more lives, until eventually it may well be you or I that is dead. When does it all end? When the western world has capitulated or at a time and place of our choosing? Unfortunately taking the second and more sensible option means force. Like the filthy spineless cowards that they are, they must be buried in their caves, and we must use every possible means to ensure victory. If we don't, then it may eventually spell the end of all lives.
I am becoming more and more annoyed by the Blair/Bush camp as the days go by. I am not saying that the atrocities of September 11 should go unpunished, but there seems to have been a magical leap of blame over the last few days. They have allegedly incontrovertible evidence of the involvement of Bin Laden. However they say it is too sensitive to reveal. How on earth can they expect the allies to be fully on their side, let alone the Taleban hand anyone over, if they don't make it public. They criticise Middle Eastern countries for holding westerners without charge or evidence but where is the difference, exactly? For the love of the rational world, when will they stop these playground tactics?
Chris Daniel, USA
What I'd like to know is why the US and the UK didn't help the Northern Alliance earlier when they knew the Taleban was harbouring Bin Laden.
This is not a war. War is conflict between territorial administrations, over territorial ownership. This is police action by the military on behalf of a coalition of states against a loose knit group (al-Qaida) which has no nationality or territory. Targeting the Taleban, the unrecognised administration of Afghanistan, as a proxy for the enemy because it has sheltered al-Qaida (for money) is a gross oversimplification and clearly it has been done to create a tangible target.
Those actually responsible for the atrocities should be brought to justice by due process and then nation states must discuss the separate issue of global inclusivity. The UN needs to learn to be more democratic. 'Rogue states' who shelter terrorist groups will not become more accountable when they are ostracised or not engaged by the international community.
Ratna Sengupta, MD, USA
For the sake of humanity, freedom and world order, we
need this war against the Taleban and Islamic fundamentalists. It is
not about blind anger and revenge - that would have
been very easy to have by using missiles and nukes,
but the democracies of the world need to wipe out this cancer
of terrorism to free themselves and to free the common peace-loving
majority in Afganistan and other places.
The time has come to act. Listen to Blair's speech - he's right, defeat this, or be defeated. Think about those people at the WTC, and in the planes. This behaviour has no justification, but must result in some kind of action. Spending five years and millions on a legal trial of one man is not going to sort this out.
There is an alternative to war - Leave Iraq alone. 500,000 dead in ten years "a price worth paying" according to Madeleine Albright. Enforce UN resolutions against Israel and India. Do not back Russia whilst she kills Muslims in Chechnya. Then you will you will see a warm response from the Muslim world towards the civilised West. This will never happen as the civilised West would have no one to push around then.
I am so happy to see there are so many anti-war folks in Great Britain today, badmouthing any attempt of the USA of defending herself. Maybe we in the good ole USA should have been the same way back in the 40's and left you all to speak German.
And we can leave Israel alone, if Europe once again will accept all the Jews of the world. We know what happened last time though.
Sorry, Scott from New Orleans, but you are another American who thinks that the USA won WW2 alone. First, the British Commonwealth stood alone for two years, the US only getting involved after Pearl Harbor. Second Hitler had no argument with the UK - it was we who declared war on him, not the other way around. So please don't make it sound like you liberated us.
This is typical of the attitude of the US. Only when American lives are lost do you take an interest in world affairs. Terrorist attacks have been happening for years, and all of a sudden the good ole US of A wants something done. Pity you weren't so interested when the IRA were taking innocent British lives for the past 30 years, instead of donating money to NORAID.
Anthony Pearce, Reading, England
Although we are told to turn the other cheek, there are some things that cannot be ignored. Had the Taleban managed to blow up the Statue of Liberty and not kill anyone, I doubt that the rest of the world would be taking these steps over a few hundred tons of fibreglass. The Taleban have committed an act to which a reprisal is inevitable.
Fighting terrorism with a land invasion underlines the impotence of single superpower geo-politics. The main tools to defeat terrorism are economic - and can even result in a 'military' result if money is channelled to "the enemy's enemy".
Andrew Hunt, Manchester, UK
We all know that military action is not the way to sort the question out. The US and UK must stop their right wing's deathly recommendations, listen to the world, and bring to justice the people who were really responsible on the 11th issue, not just the classic ones under suspect. In fact, nobody really likes US policies; mainly the many smart people that live there.
John Miller, NY, USA
I have no idea what the Americans hope to achieve by an armed conflict. I do however know one thing; when the first innocent person is killed by 'allied' forces (and I have no doubt more will follow) they are going to have a hard time justifying it.
Adrian of the UK, I hope nobody considers you as being representative of the people of Great Britain. Perhaps we should send bin laden and his merry men on a safari to Kenya at the taxpayers' expense? Little wonder the country is on its knees.
Of course there is an alternative: peace. The US should resist its impulse to be the macho man and think about the consequences of military strikes on innocent women and children. George Bush should sit down with Mr Bin Laden, hold hands and make friends: life is too short for fighting so let the birds sing and love one another.
Chris Devine, Providence, RI USA
What was wrong with the Taleban's original demand of extraditing Osama bin Laden based on the evidence against him? Surely if another nation wanted Bush to give up one of it's citizens, presenting the evidence against them is the least you would expect - human rights can't be ignored.
If the US has any hope of dealing with this effectively and without alienating the rest of the world (it's doing a great job already though) it needs to operate within national law or it will prove that it's not just terrorist organisations who believe they can bully others and act with impunity.
I believe the terrorists leave us no choice but to go to War! I also believe that the UK should stick by the United States to the bitter end. Are people so naive to think that these people will stop their acts of terror by dropping food parcels and singing peace songs?
Calling this "war" is a public relations issue; it is not "war" but a police action. While dealing with the current problem using military force is inevitable, this "war" is simply an effort by the U.S. government to maintain the status quo and protect it's ability to continue the policies of foreign intervention that have and will continue to spark terrorism in response.
The worst of this is the fact that the foreign intervention policies of the U.S. government is in direct contravention to the U.S. Constitution and is therefore illegal in the first place.
The terrorists must be dealt with; there is no question about that. After this is done, the citizens of the U.S. and hopefully the world should take a close look at the legality of the actions undertaken by the U.S. government and ask some penetrating questions.
Nations that sponsor terrorism, whether morally or financially, and those that remain neutral ought to be classified and kept under constant watch.
If war is the only answer, then will the government let the soldier finish what they start?
Going to war with the terrorists is what has to happen whether we like it or not. The evil on this planet has to be strangled and destroyed, I just wish certain people would not pussy foot around, just in case we upset someone! Innocent people are not the targets, that's obvious.
Let's get this dirty business done and create a better world for all our children and their children, because at this moment I do not like the world we are in now. I do not want any of my children or anybody else's children to live in a world of hate and fear.
I also think it is time for us all to recognise the fact that there is only one race; the human race. It's time for our race to advance, and not be separated by religion, colour, and politics etc.
There's no chance fore America to win this war. There is only one way to come out victorious against terrorists. That's to listen to their needs. In this case it's for America to change it's foreign policy.
Otherwise USA will become another terrorist victim like Israel, who have had this problem since 1945, Russia and Macedonia fore an example.
In the long term we need to disenfranchise the terrorists, and that will only come about by changes of attitude and government policies.
We should all stop pussy-footing around and bomb these terrorists out of existence. The Taleban didn't give two thoughts to innocent civilians when bin Laden bombed the US (and other places) so they only have themselves to blame if more civilians die. Afghans have been starving for years (ignored by the West until a few weeks ago), it's nothing to do with our action there in the future.
If the Americans use force, they will become no better than those who carried out the attacks on New York. Both sides are fighting for what they believe in. It becomes a moralistic crusade against something that the Americans are currently refusing to understanding. Vietnam is the prime example. I am sure that if they try to kill Bin Laden the problems will escalate. Plus military action will only further destabilise the Middle East.
Has everyone forgotten that the US is the victim not the perpetrator?
Chris, New York
These are the results of the long American monarchy on the planet. If the US will stop acting as a policeman of the countries and think about how should raise the quality of life in poor countries, then we won't live in peace.
The United States does not negotiate with terrorist. If a person or country harbors known and admitted terrorist, then they will do it again. Clearly the Taleban is a mob of people whose radical beliefs will not cease even with the capture or death of bin Laden.
We could go into Afghan and remove bin Laden from the picture, but this will by no means put and end to the situation. The Taleban would make him a martyr and we would see a new wave of terrorism. The only way to quell these vicious beliefs is to remove the Taleban from their position of authority and assist Afghan with the rebuilding of it's political position.
This must be done while not encroaching on the peoples religious agenda. If I had one bit of advice for the civilians in Afghan, it would be "Run. Run far away until it is safe to return."
Why is the UK Government such a US puppet? It's really embarrassing. Get a brain and a personality Tony!
Mark, Harrisburg, PA, USA
Military action is the only way to curb this disturbing turn in human history. Peaceniks should bear in mind the lengths Britain went to to avoid conflict with Nazi Germany, and where that diplomacy got us.
Not only is military action inevitable, it is absolutely necessary. The terrorists must be made to realise that continued attacks spell their own annihilation. Those that harbour them must realise that they will be treated no differently from the terrorists themselves.
After Tony Blair and George W Bush's strong words, the terrorist networks and those who harbour them must face the consequences of such attacks. To do otherwise would be to live in fear that our way off life will always be threatened.
The West together with our Middle-Eastern allies, must be seen to dismantle the networks of terror. If we give any quarter in this war against terrorism, the terrorists themselves will not fear to carry out further atrocities. Who knows what kind of weaponry they might try to use next?
While there are people who are people willing to kill themselves and innocent people to take them to a 'better world' what chance do we have! It is all very well for people to blame the US foreign policy - maybe they would like the job of president. You can't let terrorism win - but while you have leaders like Saddam Hussein who don't care about their people, what choice does any opposition country have apart from war?
Military strikes are primarily aimed at those who support state-sponsored terrorism. These people must know that there is a price to be paid for supporting this type of behaviour and that it is high.
The military strikes can also target known terrorist organizations and this is also a useful means of attack.
Terrorists in Afghanistan will only be defeated if the country has a government that regards these people as criminals and will actively pursue them. It is inconceivable that air strikes and special force operations would ever eradicate the terrorists although such action may well damage their organisations and hinder their activities.
The end game must be to see Afghanistan ruled by a civilised government. Problem is, who is that going to be?
The only solution when confronting terrorist organisations is to reduce the pool of good will that they have. This follows Sun Tsu's theory that terrorists are fish hiding in a pool where the pool is public sympathy. When public good will shrinks the pool shrinks and the fish become visible.
By the US leading an attack against Afghanistan much of the Islamic world will be polarised, intended or not. Also, the Afghan people. who probably do not care either away about Osama bin Laden's presence. may be turned against the west and pro-Taleban because of the assault on their homeland. It is a known fact that military action against Afghanistan and Afghans needs to be carefully considered if you do not want a bloody nose.
The only option then is to hold back from the large visible show of military force going on now against Afghanistan and deploy less visible military assets and intelligence to bring down the Taleban through a variety of means. Whilst I appreciate that the majority of the American public want to see the enemy showered with bombs, this is not the time or place for it. Now is the time to help the Afghans isolate and oust the Taleban allowing the Afghans to make their own country an enemy of terrorism.
Yes, there is an alternative...produce the proof of bin Laden's guilt to the Taleban and they will hand him over for trial. But America doesn't want to do this for the obvious reason that bin Laden is not their objective, the objective is to eradicate the Taleban and replace them with a government that will do their bidding in the oil rich region. We have seen this scenario played out so many times in history but we remain none the wiser.
Lee Mackenzie, Wales
I think it is quite clear that the only way to stop bin Laden is with military attacks. But once the dust has settled I think it is time for Western countries to review their foreign policies to ensure this doesn't happen again.
The terrorists are not reasonable rational people but we are supposed to be. America is always trumpeting the virtues of democracy; they must act according to its principles. The innocent people who are unfortunate enough to be stuck in the same country as bin Laden should not be made to suffer. This is descending to the terrorists' level, and will only provoke further hatred against the west. Bin Laden must be brought to justice - America must be seen to be acting for justice, not just for revenge.
James Alder, Bournemouth, UK
To the previous comments of making peace with bin Laden; this would be as difficult as convincing Hitler to attend a bar mitzvah. He isn't interested in peace. You can't negotiate with people like him. War in its many forms (financial, psychological and combative) is the only solution to removing him.
War solves nothing. It's time to find a different way of sorting it out.
The terrorists seem to think so: do everything they say and no one gets hurt.
"War" will not get you anywhere, you will end up killing more innocent people and having your people killed. I don't believe that there is any defence against someone who has decided to kill himself. The only way to control that kind of people is to sit down with them and find what is it that world or America has done to them that made them to go to that extreme.
Alex Banks, UK, living in Ireland
There is most definitely an alternative. Modern conflicts are no longer concerned with pitting one army against another but in economically destabilising one's foe. The attack on New York was not simply the destruction of the Twin Towers, it was a concerted attempt to injure the financial capabilities of the world's richest economy with all the knock-on effects that that entails. Any retaliation should concern itself with a similar strategy against the presumed attackers. A military debacle would only lead to destabilising an entire region, provoking serious and long-lasting effects, not to mention the actual refugee crisis.
Unfortunately it is not possible to fight terrorists with armies, it never has been and never will be. The decision makers of this world know that war will not address the problems of terrorism (although it may placate people at home). The issues need to be addressed at the root cause, like it or not. This means putting a stop to or at least understanding what causes people to hate the US so much.
Ben Rowe, UK
The most dangerous thing we could possibly do now would be to adopt pacifist strategies. Fanatics and fascists do not want peace and will only think us weak if we pursue it. We are faced with a terrible threat, a vile movement that has terror and global domination as its goal. We must destroy it.
Terrorism will stop when America stops terrorising other countries. This is the only LONG-TERM solution.
Despite the best efforts of the terrorists, this is not a war. A war against terrorism is about as meaningless and as doomed to failure as the war against drugs has been over the last 30 years. Military action against the Taleban should simply be seen as clearing up the mess that we in the West foolishly washed our hands of once the Soviet threat had diminished.
I would have thought that the very actions of September 11th had proved that these were not reasonable, rational people who may be bargained with.
Full news and analysis
02 Oct 01 | UK Politics
Time's up, Blair warns Taleban
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