U political science profs speculate about next step

Joanna Dornfeld

One day after the shocking East Coast terrorist attacks, the country is beginning to sort through the rubble and evidence to figure out what happened Tuesday morning.

Once they figure out who is behind the deadly attacks, U.S. officials said Wednesday, they’re ready to retaliate against the perpetrators.

“We’re building a strong coalition to go after these perpetrators, but more broadly to go after terrorism wherever we find it in the world,” said Secretary of State Colin Powell. “It’s a scourge not only against the United States, but against civilization, and it must be brought to an end.”

At all times the United States has troops stationed around the world that are ready for military action.

“We could probably carry out a fairly devastating attack with forces already deployed in the world,” said Colin Kahl, a University political science professor. “Of course it would depend on where in the world and the size of the attack.”

But if war is what President George W. Bush wants, University professors and military experts say Bush needs the support of U.S. citizens, Congress and international allies.

Harlan Cleveland, former assistant secretary of state of international organizations for the Kennedy administration and former Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs dean, said one of the first steps the United States needs to take is to garner the support of other nations. With their help, the United States can discover who committed Tuesday’s attack, he said.

“The problem is finding out who’s doing what around the world,” Cleveland said. “We need a lot of help from our friends, but they are not going to become engaged unless we encourage them.”

Bush also needs public support for military retaliation, which will depend on the amount of evidence the FBI is able to gather and if Washington presents a unified front, said Lawrence Jacobs, a University political science professor.

“A congressional consensus around a quick military strike against the known perpetrators or sponsors of yesterday’s terrorist attack would, in all likelihood, enjoy broad public support,” Jacobs said. “I think in the short term there will be support for military action against the sponsors or perpetrators of the terrorist attack.”

A long-term military engagement, however, would probably have less support because of the greater potential for a loss of life, he said.

In Bush’s Tuesday evening address to the nation, he said the United States will not differentiate between those who committed the terrorist attack and any country that harbors them.

Kahl said it is unlikely America will declare an “all-out war,” however.

“I think the United States is likely to massively retaliate against the terrorist organization and the country that harbors them,” he said. “Congress doesn’t have to declare war to do most of the things necessary … I suspect that Congress will give the President a blank check both diplomatically and politically.”

University political science professor Martin Sampson said the United States might have to make a distinction between the terrorists and the nation in which they reside if that nation does not support the group’s actions.

“Will there be a coalition of regional powers supporting our action as happened in 1991? If the answer is no, then military actions on our part … would not be good for our interest in the (Mideast),” Sampson said.

Sampson also warned that U.S. officials should look back to the Gulf War practices when deciding what actions to take against those behind Tuesday’s attacks.

“I think it is well to keep in mind bombing activities did not eliminate Saddam Hussein from Iraq,” Sampson added.

Joanna Dornfeld welcomes comments at [email protected]