Precipitous action: Recipe for disaster


America is preparing for war. And when America goes to war it has a tendency to drag the entire world with it. As a wounded superpower, one currently blinded by a lethal combination of hubris and anger, it feels betrayed and humiliated.

Its “crusade”, to use President Bush’s unfortunate choice of word, will be directed against one of the world’s most impoverished countries, Afghanistan, and its most famous resident, Osama Bin Laden.

American officials are calling it a war against terror, but even before the launch of the first missile of what would promise to be an intractable and confusing war it is quickly evolving into an ideological clash and a religious confrontation–a holy war, a crusade!

Never mind that a damning evidence linking Bin Laden to the World Trade Center and Pentagon bombings is yet to be found and presented to the world. Never mind that until now Bin Laden remains a “primary suspect” and that there are many puzzling and contradictory reports linked to this horrific affair.

Sifting through the twisted remains of the Twin Towers and the smoldering rubble of the Pentagon for evidence will take a long time. Checking each of the 50,000 or so leads that the FBI has received until now could very well alter the course of the investigation. So why bomb the suspect before a full case is made against him?

But this is beside the point really. The US has been after Bin Laden for years. Even if he had nothing to do with this latest atrocity, for now he is the perfect villain, the model enemy for the US and its grieving people.

America remains the most powerful country in the world today; powerful because it is supreme both economically and militarily. This is how it perceives itself and how others view it. But this mighty giant has one very dangerous flaw. More often than not America’s might is loosely harnessed by very little wisdom.

America has become an egomaniacal entity obsessed with its own preponderance that it is now tempted to play God. Talk about building an international coalition against terror, of hitting countries harboring terrorist groups and engaging militant opponents in a long war, of deploying nuclear weapons, is as daunting as it is haunting.

To outsiders it reflects a nation blinded by rage and ready to indulge in a precipitous military adventure whose repercussions remain unknown. America appears to us as a mighty power incongruous with reason and wisdom at this time.

The world does not doubt America’s military might. It surely has the technological capability to turn Afghanistan into a black hole. But that will only undermine America’s standing and turn into the evil it wants to rid the world off.

‘Justice and not revenge’

What America needs to do now is to launch a political offensive; one that examines the disease not grapples with the symptoms, and the world will surely rally to join such coalition. Today’s enemy is invisible and ubiquitous: a ghost that infiltrates the most sophisticated security networks and strikes at the heart of urban centers. It is an enemy that thrives on destruction and hatred, on suffering and injustice. America’s current crusade will play right into the hands of such evildoers.

We do not need warmongers today. What the world aches for is justice and not revenge, to address the causes of extremism and radicalism, to highlight the good things about global culture and common human values. America has the means to lead in a different kind of crusade and to permeate the universal principles of justice it cherishes at home.

On the other hand, a hasty military adventure will quickly turn into a religious strife, fanning further unfair perceptions about Islam in the West and erroneous images of the West in the Muslim world. Such evil is far will be more dangerous and costly than anything we have seen so far.

Mr. Osama El-Sherif is the Editor-in-Chief of