NEW ANALYSIS

On the surface, the prosecution of the war in Afghanistan has gone well in the eyes of the Bush administration. The Taliban government has been toppled from power, its supporters are either dead or on the run and the Bush administration and its Western European allies have installed a new government.

To be sure, the government’s long-term stability is very problematic. It brings together disparate groups who warred against one another in the 1990s. Even now it seems like political power is fractured along tribal and warlord lines.

What the administration has not achieved – and one wonders whether it wants to or not – is the capture of Osama bin Laden. Up to now he has eluded the U.S. military and its Afghan partners. Where he is is anybody’s guess.

Even though the war seems to be winding down, don’t expect the U.S. military to vacate Afghanistan anytime soon. It appears that the Pentagon is planning on a beefed-up military presence there and in that region of the world for the foreseeable future.

It was reported that 500 troops have been dispatched to the Philippines in an “advisory” capacity – not a significant number but that could change very quickly.

In the eyes of the Bush administration, there are now few, if any, restraints on the projection of American military power around the world. The world has become U.S. imperialism’s oyster. This is a dangerous illusion that the White House entertains. The trouble is that hundreds of millions of people across the globe could well pay a heavy price for Bush and his aides’ disconnect from reality.

It doesn’t take much political imagination to envision a sequence of events and retaliatory actions that could engulf powerful states, now armed with incredibly deadly conventional weapons and weapons of mass destruction, in a bloody war. In such a war, it is no exaggeration to say that whole populations, including the people of our country, could be annihilated.

After all, war has a logic of its own. Violence begets more violence. Events get out of control. The drumbeats of war drown the songs of peace. The use of force becomes the main way to resolve conflicts between nations and peoples.

Let’s face facts: after four months of Bush’s war against terrorism, the world is not a safer place by any stretch of the imagination. The danger of retaliatory terrorist strikes on our soil has increased. To think otherwise is foolhardy.

India and Pakistan, both of whom have nuclear capability, are building up troops on their shared border. The Middle East is a tinderbox, due in large measure to the massive military assault ordered by the Sharon government of Israel against the Palestinian authority and the Palestinian people.

The Bush administration’s announcement that it is unilaterally pulling out of the Antiballistic Missile Treaty gives a destabilizing impulse to the nuclear arms race.

Finally, a wider war is on the agenda of the Bush administration. Not because of the terrorist threat, but because of the administration’s desire to aggressively exploit the present moment to construct a “New World Order.”

Bush’s support did not quickly dissipate as the war proceeded. In hindsight, the reasons are apparent. First of all, the monopoly-dominated and controlled mass media obsequiously, and to a greater degree than I can remember, wrapped itself around the war action of the administration.

Any pretense of objectivity was set aside. News anchors shamelessly pledged their support for the war drive. There were no cracks in the media message. Even the film and music industries jumped on board.

Second, U.S. casualties were few. Aerial warfare combined with the use of Afghan forces minimized the loss of U.S. lives. The precision and destructiveness of aerial bombing brings some new complications to the struggle to construct a domestic peace majority as well as whets the aggressive drive of U.S. imperialism.

Third, the Bush foreign policy team has shown more skill and spun their aggressive actions better than anticipated. There was probably a presumption that they would be clumsy and inept, but they have been more clever than anticipated.

Above all, the American people were understandably shaken to their bones by the horrific and tragic attacks on our soil on Sept. 11. It left a deep and long-lasting imprint on the country’s psychology and outlook that has to be taken into account in the struggles ahead.

It shouldn’t make progressive and left forces put the war on the back burner until public sentiments shift in a more positive direction. But it does mean that tactics have to be carefully calibrated to the new thought patterns of the American people.

If they are, much broader sections of the people can be won to oppose any extension of the war and support for an international effort under the auspices of the U.N. against terrorism can be organized.

Such an effort is the only way to eradicate terrorism as well as begin to resolve other global problems on the agenda for the 21st century.

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