Just when it looked the Central Asian countries were facing the growing joint political hegemony of Russia and China in the region, the events of September 11 opened the door to an increased and indefinite-term U.S. military presence. This not only involves the prosecution of the war in Afghanistan but also, in particular, a new agreement recently signed with Uzbekistan to establish a U.S. military presence in this Central Asian nation. This agreement provides for American use of military bases and facilities, and it paves the way for a long-term U.S. military presence, not excluding the stationing of U.S. troops on a standing basis.
Since September 11, the United Nations has gained a rare prominence in Washington’s calculations. Of course it did once before, when Iraq invaded Kuwait–but that was more like a one-night stand turned date rape than a long-term relationship. This time, it could be a more durable courtship, based on more modest and realistic expectations on both sides.
Operation Enduring Freedom? By Ritu Sharma and Robert Gustafson November 1, 2001
If nothing is done to take international action to strengthen the ban on germ weapons, the future may hold far more damaging attacks with newer and deadlier agents, genetically engineered to be unidentifiable and untreatable. The catastrophic potential of bioterrorism is so great that prevention, not just damage limitation, must be the aim. Military and civilian experts believe that, at present, terrorists could mount a large-scale germ attack only with the assistance of a state possessing a sophisticated bio-weapons program. We need to cut off those sources, now and in the future.
There has been a curious bout of revisionist history in recent weeks criticizing the U.S. decision not to “finish the job” during the 1991 Gulf War and overthrow the Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein. With such a lopsided victory in the six-week military campaign, these right-wing critics argue the U.S. could have easily marched into the capital of Baghdad and ousted the dictator.
It’s all but official. Despite strong opposition from Arab allies, not to mention our NATO partners in Europe, it seems we’re headed for Round 2 of the 1991 Gulf war against Iraq. Not only are U.S. officials once again stepping up their rhetoric against Baghdad, but President George W. Bush himself last Monday issued an ominous three-word answer to the question of what happens if Saddam Hussein does not permit UN inspectors back into his country. “He’ll find out” was the terse reply.
In the vaguely defined international coalition in the “war against terrorism” India and Pakistan occupy perhaps the most uncomfortable positions. Pakistan was an ally of the United States during the cold war, and India, a significant leader of the Non-Aligned Movement, was seen as an obstacle to U.S. goals and objectives. Throughout the 1990s U.S. relations with India warmed, while they cooled with Pakistan. Prior to September 11, Pakistan, an authoritarian regime, was one of three countries to recognize the Taliban, and its intelligence services had close ties to the Taliban. India, on the other hand, was a democracy, and had ties to the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance. By warming up to Pakistan in the aftermath of the attacks, the U.S. has reversed the tilt toward India for which it had assiduously worked for some three years, favoring its “tactical ally” (Pakistan) over its “natural ally” (India). The Indian government appears, however, to be sacrificing its traditions of non-alignment and support for international law in order to rebuild an alliance with the U.S.
“[T]his country of ours is kidnapped, hijacked by groups that call themselves Islamic but in truth use Islam as a cover and a garb for political goals.” So says Shaikh Saud Nasir al-Sabah, Kuwait’s former oil minister, information minister, and ambassador to the United States. Yes, indeed, but where did these groups come from? And who else in Kuwait has used Islam as a cover and a garb for political goals while in the process creating the monsters that so distress Shaikh Saud today?
The use of military force for self-defense is legitimate under international law. Military force for retaliation is not. The magnitude of these initial air strikes raises not only serious legal and moral questions but political concerns as well, as it will likely set back the fight against terrorism.
Just as the post-cold war transition to a new international system seemed to be ending, the terrorist acts of September 11 and the U.S. responses have re-opened the question of Central Asia’s strategic orientation and, through that, the structure of the entire international system.