The Anti‐​Terrorism Coalition: Don’t Pay an Excessive Price

December 11, 2001 • Foreign Policy Briefing No. 68

To prosecute the war on terrorism, President Bush has assembled a diverse coalition of countries for political, diplomatic, and military support. Some of those countries are long‐​standing friends and allies of the United States. Others have new or changing relationships with the United States. Although there may be a price for their support, America should not pay an excessive price—one that could be detrimental to longer‐​term U.S. national security interests. And though it may be necessary to provide a certain amount of immediate aid (directly or indirectly) as a quid pro quo for the support of other nations in our war on terrorism, the United States needs to avoid longer‐​term entanglements, open‐​ended commitments, and the potential for an extreme anti‐​American backlash.

If the United States has the same kind of tunnel vision about terrorism that it had about the fight against communism during the Cold War, it could be blindsided by disastrous unintended consequences. In its zeal to go after the terrorists responsible for the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the U.S. government must understand that alliances of convenience (especially with countries of which it was legitimately critical before September 11) may be necessary, but they come with the potential for great risk. Ultimately—and paradoxically—the United States could end up doing more to breed terrorism than to prevent it.

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