Sunday, September 05, 2004

Why the Russians must join the U.S. global war on terrorism

After the Persian Gulf War in 1991, some commentators noted that the Soviet military stood in awe - and perhaps fear -- at the great American arsenal that forced Saddam out of Kuwait. I'm reminded of this insightful piece of history when reading about what the Belmont Club has to say about the Russian tragedy in Beslan. The lack of power options available to President Putin means that he must engage in a bloodier -perhaps more indiscriminate war against terror.

But no one who has seen the rags and hodgepodge of equipment issued to the Russian Special forces can entertain any illusion that Vladimir Putin can go around launching raids with hi-tech helicopters, or follow around perps with robotic drones before firing, or use satellite-guided bombs to wipe out enemy safe houses that have been seeded with RFID chips. Nor will those detained by Russia gain weight the way detainees have done at the "inhuman" Gitmo prison. That's an American way of war which even Europeans can only regard with envy. The poor must respond with less. When the Nepalese saw the video of their 12 compatriots executed by terrorists in Iraq, they did what you could do with a box of matches: they burned the mosque in Kathmandu. To paraphrase Crosby, Stills and Nash, 'if you can't hit the one you should then hit the one you're with'.

While Russia can do better than a box of matches, the reality is that its poverty and low-tech force structure will make any response that Putin may choose a brutal and largely indiscriminate affair unless it is subsumed into the larger American-led Global War on Terror. The real price of the European vacation from history is its abandonment of the first principle of civilization. Unless there is common justice, there will be vigilante justice.

Very well-said.

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