U professors give differing opinions on U.S. military strikes

Shira Kantor

The obscurity of the loosely bound terrorist networks that are the target of U.S. military strikes matches the clarity of their threat, University experts say.

Beyond that, however, there is little experts agree is absolute.

Political science professor Robert Kudrle, an expert on international economic policy, said it’s difficult to predict the success of the military action, but given what the United States has to target, he thinks the decision to launch Tomahawk cruise missiles was the right move.

“There’s probably not been a conflict in several decades that has been more carefully developed in terms of paving the way,” Kudrle said. “The way the (Bush) administration has handled this has allowed them to have the maximum front of opposition to terrorism – and those who harbor terrorists in Afghanistan – without implicating some of these states in anything beyond that.”

But professor Martin Sampson said, “It’s one thing to knock out what is described as a command center in Kandahar with cruise missiles; it’s something very different to actually track Osama (bin Laden) down.”

Sampson said the U.S. attempt to undermine the Taliban will be undermined by the restricted language capabilities of American troops, the dismal history of outside attempts to moderate Afghanistan’s government and the country’s difficult terrain – especially in the upcoming winter.

And, he said, U.S. military action could destroy some positive cohesion in the region.

“We are stuck with a risk that dissolving the Taliban and actually catching up with Osama could contribute to a resumption of fighting among Afghan groups that at the moment are unified in their opposition to the Taliban.”

But Sampson said efforts could miraculously succeed.

“Ideally, what we want and what Pakistan wants is an Afghanistan run by Afghans who reflect the values and cultural preferences of the people,” Sampson said, “and a situation so that the refugees in Pakistan feel comfortable to return.”

Kudrle said Pakistan will likely suffer “a good deal of unrest,” but since only between 10 percent and 20 percent of Pakistanis fervently support bin Laden, the Taliban regime is almost certain to fall.

Kudrle said Pakistan’s government, on the other hand, should survive “because apparently public opinion can be inflamed on behalf of the Taliban only in certain fairly restricted parts of the (Pakistani) population.”

Retired geography professor Joe Schwartzberg said he could not condone sending missiles to Afghanistan because they might miss their intended targets and in turn cause civilian deaths.

Further, he said, if Russia – which had the advantages of proximity and comprehension of Afghanistan’s languages – failed to bring down Afghanstan’s rebels after 10 years of fighting, the United States will likely fail in its efforts.

Schwartzberg said the planned U.S. aid packages might be a more useful and less costly strategy than million-dollar cruise missiles.

But Sampson said while the aid represents a positive move, he wonders whether the packages would be effective or even reach their intended targets. And he questioned whether Congress would continue to offer aid following the resolution of the military conflict.

Sampson, Schwartzberg and Kudrle agreed the strike was only the first step in what probably will be a long, drawn-out battle.

“It isn’t going to end with the signing of some treaty or a declaration that it’s over,” Kudrle said. “It will simply fade. That’s what success means.”


Shira Kantor welcomes comments at [email protected]