Robust Response to 9/11 Is Needed but Poking the Hornets’ Nest Is Ill‐​Advised

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To date, the Bush administration hasresponded well to the terrorist attacks ofSeptember 11. The administration has wiselyfocused its military response against Osamabin Laden's al Qaeda terrorist network and alQaeda's supporters in Afghanistan's Talibanregime. The administration's surgicalapproach, using air power, marines, and specialforces to support the oppositionNorthern alliance, is the right technique.

However, the recent imposition of stringentfinancial sanctions against terroristgroups not affiliated with bin Laden's networkand most likely not involved in theSeptember 11 attacks should raise a warningflag. If that expansion of sanctions isthe first step in a global war on terrorismthat would eventually include covert or militaryaction against all terrorist groups onthe State Department's terrorism list, thenit is cause for concern. Given the ability ofterrorists to hide in the shadows and theerosion of U.S. human intelligence capabilities,conducting a worldwide war againstterrorism would be difficult, might createmore terrorists than it eradicated, andcould unleash retaliatory strikes on U.S.targets from terrorist groups that have notpreviously been adversaries of the UnitedStates. Indeed, some of the groups designatedfor the tightened U.S. sanctions havenever attacked American targets. By takingon such groups, the United States wouldunnecessarily be fighting the battles ofother nations.

It is vital to show that the heinous attackon U.S. soil will not go unanswered and toeliminate the threat from al Qaeda andaffiliated groups, but it is foolhardy to drawa bigger bull's-eye on the United States bytaking up the fight against numerous otherterrorist groups on behalf of other nations.

Ivan Eland

Ivan Eland is director of defense policy studies at the Cato Institute.