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What's it all about?
Jack Balshaw 11/7/01

I'm still mulling over the September 11 events and trying to determine a satisfactory "Why". Osama bin Laden surely knew that, while he could hurt us, a single event would neither topple our government nor cripple our economy. He must also have known that, if successful, his actions would enrage us to seek retribution. We would be more united, more determined not to give in by changing our Middle East policies and more fixed on eliminating his group. What then was his motive?

I think he saw opportunity in chaos. A saying I like is, "If you keep doing what you've been doing, you'll keep getting what you've got." As long as the United States and its Middle East processes and policies kept staggering along as they have for decades, there would be no significant change in the situations or the conditions in the Middle East.

But now, think of all the things that could change. First and foremost, by causing our government to spend large sums to retaliate for the September 11 incidents ( and possibly the anthrax problem also) he will cause conflict among our economic interests. While the general public may be passionate about eliminating terrorism, when the costs begin to affect businesses bottom lines, there will be pressure to do something to moderate the threats. Possibly changing our Middle East policies away from supporting Israel.

And not to leave our public out, while we're very good about wanting to solve problems, we're not too good about accepting any personal suffering or discomfort to get the job done. There could be tremendous political pressure brought to bear if a prolonged "war" severely hurts domestic programs.

There is also the possibility that our presence in the region could bring about popular unrest in several of the Muslim countries. Imagine if the governments of either Saudi Arabia or Pakistan were to be overthrown.

If Saudi Arabia were to fall under control of a fundamentalist group, the withholding of oil from our allies and us could bring tremendous pressure, forcing us to abandon Israel or at least significantly lessen our support. There is no question that we would at least quickly withdraw our forces from the Middle East under such threats.

If the Pakistani government were similarly replaced, fundamentalist groups would be governing a country that possesses atomic weapons. How secure could any of our port cities feel under that condition? How tough would our government be in the face of such a possible threat?

What if our military messes up? If to win battles they create a Muslims VS the West situation worldwide, will we have won the battle but lost the war?

And there's always the Israelis. It's pretty hard for us to tell them to "cool it" when we're charging full speed ahead to avenge a single (but large) incident. I think most of us admire their toughness and determination in the face of overwhelming threats. But, their actions in their own self-defense could further fan any flames of anger in the Middle East.

If any one of these "what ifs" were to happen, bin Laden would have accomplished far more than the personal, physical and fiscal damage his September 11 actions brought about.

Many people think, that while other countries and special interests are playing chess, our government responses seem more like we're playing checkers. We do have a tendency to pursue the " Ready, Fire, Aim" school of reaction. But, perhaps our open society, our demand for instant solutions and our unwillingness to accept secret government actions provides the decision makers with little alternative.

I like to look at the glass as half full. Lately however, I find myself more and more looking at it as half empty. I'm losing faith in the ability of our government to be effective. 


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