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

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To prosecute the war on terrorism,President Bush has assembled a diversecoalition of countries for political, diplomatic,and military support. Some of thosecountries are long-standing friends andallies of the United States. Others have newor changing relationships with the UnitedStates. Although there may be a price fortheir support, America should not pay anexcessive price—one that could be detrimentalto longer-term U.S. national securityinterests. And though it may be necessaryto provide a certain amount of immediateaid (directly or indirectly) as a quid pro quofor the support of other nations in our waron terrorism, the United States needs toavoid longer-term entanglements, open-ended commitments, and the potential foran extreme anti-American backlash.

If the United States has the same kind oftunnel vision about terrorism that it hadabout the fight against communism duringthe Cold War, it could be blindsided by disastrousunintended consequences. In its zeal togo after the terrorists responsible for theattacks on the World Trade Center and thePentagon, the U.S. government must understandthat alliances of convenience (especiallywith countries of which it was legitimatelycritical before September 11) may be necessary,but they come with the potential forgreat risk. Ultimately—and paradoxically—theUnited States could end up doing more tobreed terrorism than to prevent it.

Charles V. Peña

Charles V. Peña is a senior defense policy analyst at the Cato Institute.