Daily Update

In Brief

US forces launch a third round of attacks, Muslim anger grows, Tom Ridge sets a domestic security vision, and the FBI investigates cases of anthrax exposure.

"No silver bullet"

In the earliest phases of the "war against terrorism" that US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld says could take years, not months, US-led forces pounded the Afghan capital of Kabul, struck key targets in the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar, and attacked a strategic town in northern Afghanistan. In the first confirmed reports of civilian casualties, four Afghan United Nations workers were killed by a US bomb. NATO plans to give the United States military, which is preparing ground troops for the next phase of attacks, the support of six more warships. The Los Angeles Times reports that American commandos on the ground are already "reaching out" to disaffected Taliban members. The initial strikes have two goals, the Wall Street Journal reports: securing Afghan skies for later military action, and routing suspected terrorists from hiding, like "stirring up an anthill" [link requires subscription].

When's V-A day?

Early action may be reminiscent of Gulf War strikes a decade ago, but the end game will be different, notes The Christian Science Monitor. "Operation Enduring Freedom" is confronting a target far more elusive and diverse than Saddam Hussein's Republican Guard. Even while acknowledging a vast military advantage, Mr. Rumsfeld – who compared the "war against terrorism" to the cold war – says "there is no silver bullet." Ultimate victory, he says, will be achieved only when the loose network of international terrorism "collapses from within."

How does the US achieve that victory? Larry Seaquist, writing in the Monitor, posits a checklist of things to watch as the war develops, and argues for the need to be "exceptionally innovative" in the global assault on terrorism.

Anne Applebaum offers her own method of "gauging success" in Slate. "The completion of particular attacks on particular targets doesn't matter," Applebaum writes, unless it helps bring about specific political results.

Pakistan intelligence connection?

BBC reports that Musharraf reshuffled the top tiers of his military just hours before the US-led strikes on Afghanistan. Observers say the move signals Musharraf's desire to reduce pro-Taliban influence within his ranks. The Dawn, an English-language Pakistani newspaper, reports that the head of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence has been replaced after the FBI established credible links between him and militant Umar Sheikh. The Dawn quotes informed sources as saying it was at Director General Lt. Gen. Mahmud Ahmed's instructions that Mr. Sheikh transferred $100,000 dollars into the account of Mohammed Atta, a suspected hijacker in the Sept. 11 attacks.

Battling for public opinion

The coming public-opinion war, the Monitor writes, could be as crucial as the military campaign. In most of the Muslim world, the current conflict is being billed as a heavy-weight bout: bin Laden vs. Bush. Osama bin Laden's media savvy [link requires registration], The New York Times writes, makes him a particularly formidable foe. Referring to his post-attack video broadcast, the Times writes, "This use of modern media to make his pitch fits neatly with what has by now become a familiar bin Laden tactic: turning the West's own modern technology against it."

How local media throughout the Muslim world depict the current conflict will have a major impact on US efforts to assess the cost of military objectives in terms of political support among anxious Muslim leaders. Even as the self-proclaimed "colleagues of the US" in the Northern Alliance rally around US action, anti-American sentiment has stirred in Muslim areas from the West Bank to Indonesia. Anger in Pakistan, where loyalty to the Taliban is strongest, is running particularly hot, the Los Angeles Times reports. That's why Pakistani president Gen. Pervez Musharraf must be watched closely [link requires registration], The New York Times writes in its lead editorial. The duty of Islamic leaders [link requires registration], the Wall Street Journal writes in its lead editorial, "is to tell the world and their own peoples which of the two men has it right – George Bush or Osama bin Laden."

Ridge spans security gap

Attorney General John Ashcroft says Americans should be alert, but not panicked. In putting federal law enforcement on the "highest level of alert," Ashcroft has directed a host of agencies from the Immigration and Naturalization Service to the Federal Aviation Administration to consider ways of heightening security. Coordinating this daunting task will pose major challenges for former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge. Mr. Ridge explained his role as head of the new Cabinet Office of Homeland Security in a swearing-in ceremony Monday.

Anthrax alert

Though authorities have not made any terrorist links, they've launched a criminal investigation of three reported cases of exposure to anthrax in Florida. Doctors say the bacterium, which is not contagious among humans, claimed the life of one man, and has aroused suspicion of US officials who say anthrax could be used as a biological weapon. The FBI is said to be looking into a cryptic e-mail sent by a departing intern who said he'd "left a little present" at the news organization where the cases occurred.

Historical perspective

The ivory tower may offer a bird's eye view, but some academics who've come to the ground to voice their views have been treated like worms, the Monitor reports. A number of intellectuals who've used the Sept. 11 attacks as an opportunity to air grievances about US foreign policy have been criticized, often by their own students, as anti-American. But that hasn't stopped commentators from using a historical lens. In separate pieces, The Washington Post examines the battle against terrorism as a war of ideas, and frames the terrorist's actions as warring against modernity. Historian Paul Johnson writes in the Wall Street Journal that the answer to terrorism [link requires subscription] may lie in colonialism. US diplomats are working overtime to procure Arab support, but an opinion piece in The Jersusalem Post argues that "...in the Middle East, goodwill is not the best political currency. Being feared, rather than liked, usually brings better results."

What drives a man to take his own life for a religious cause? Slate examines the notion that Muslim martyrs are promised eternal paradise for their attacks on civilians. And The New Republic analyzes the reasons why Muslim societies lag behind the West.

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