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Editorial: The First Rule of War

War on Terrorism is Lost if We Fail to Properly Identify the Enemy.

(11/18/2002) The just completed Bali ceremonies of mass mourning for the victims of October 12th; the boastful confessions of the man apprehended for that crime; the mounting evidence that the outrage was the work of terrorist with international connections; the perverse glee revealed in recent public statements by Al Qaeda rejoicing at the death of Bali innocents; the heightened states of security alerts now in effect for New York and Washington; and the fears of poison gas attacks in Great Britain and Europe - all point to the irrefutable fact that the world is engaged in an international war on terror and its ruthless practitioners.

Joining the War Effort

The victims of New York, Washington, Pennsylvania and Kuta-Legian were only yesterday by our sides and sorely missed by grieving family and friends. Yet, if the intensity of the rabid hatred preached by their killers is any indication, there are more wakes for us to keep and funerals to attend before the current war comes to some sort of "final" conclusion.

Having just tasted the bitter fruits of this war, the people of Bali are anything but neutral non-combatants in that war. In a single night of madness, Al Qaeda and its fellow travelers launched a brutal attack on the peaceful people of Bali, managing to alienate its 3 million people and eliminating the chance of feeling any real sympathy for Al Qaeda and their claims of religious victimization at the hands of the West.

Notwithstanding the current prayers for peace and reconciliation being offered on this island, it's been suggested that if raffle tickets were sold for places on the firing squad to execute Amrozy and his accomplices, sufficient funds might be collected to substantially reduce Indonesia's massive national debt. History shows that blood flows red and warm in the veins of the Balinese who steadfastly demand justice from their police, prosecutors, and judges in connection with the bombing of October 12th.

In the war against terrorism, the people of Bali are now fully enlisted foot soldiers against those who perpetrated that outrage and threatened their very way of life.

The First Rule of War

Consequently, the United States and the rest of the developed world needs to be reminded that the cardinal rule of war is to first decide the battle lines, clearly defining who are your allies and those that you consider your foes.

Deciding sides in the current war on terror, without its clear battle fronts and distinct demarcation lines, will sometimes prove difficult and certainly require more than the knee-jerk reactions currently in evidence in the formulation of travel warnings now in effect for Indonesia, Thailand, and other nations in the region. These difficulties aside, the need to correctly differentiate the enemy from your allies remains vitally important for the battles ahead.

It reeks of both folly and simple-mindedness to decide the identity of the enemy in the current war on the simple milieu of "us" and "them." When terror can strike at any place in the globe, to arbitrarily declare vast areas of the planet occupied by other potential victims of terror as unsafe reveals all the wisdom of an ostrich whose head is soundly buried in a hole standing in the middle of a mine field.

In the face of the just issued U.S. security alerts for Washington and New York, we ask: Should Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand warn its citizens to defer all travel to the United States, withdraw their nationals working at the United Nations, close their respective embassies, and terminate all their business interests there?

It's Enough to Make Osama Smile

If the Al Qaeda terrorists intentions are to unsettle world economies and bring the West to it knees in fear, they are currently enjoying tremendous success by anyone's standard. Our airlines teeter on the edge of bankruptcy, international trade has been negatively impacted, our children are considered security threats and no longer issued visa to attend Western colleges and universities, and - as seemingly reflected in current visa and travel advisories - the West views the people and this region with both fear and loathing.

No doubt, that repugnant cave dweller who fancies he has a direct line to God could not have prayed for more spectacular results in the wake of his heinious attacks on the West. How, in his wildest dreams, could he have envisioned the west would crumble so quickly after his initial forays of terror?

Rather than introduce policies grounded in fear and xenophobia, what's really needed is to undertake the moral equivalent of WWII's lend-lease program to combat the scourge of international terrorism. Instead of playing into the enemy's hands by resorting to isolationism, no effort or resource should be spared in preserving the lines of free commerce between peoples and cultures. Air and shipping lines should be viewed as critical industries in this war and kept in operation at any cost. Our best minds and system technologists must be called upon to devise systems to keep the wheels of international business and tourism safely flowing. Governments should underwrite terror risk insurance to prevent those who profit from fear from crippling international commerce. If necessary to get travelers flowing, incentives should also be offered to the brave hearts who lead by example and send the enemy "a message" by undertaking a program of international travel.

The west has both the know-how and the technology to reduce the risks of travel to acceptable levels. And, undoubtedly, in achieving this goal we'll spend heavily and suffer casualties along the way. But, do we have any choice except to wage all out war against terrorism when the only alternative is capitulation to those evil plotters hunkered down in their far-away caves?

Isolationism and the spread of fear are the best friends and main comforts of cave-dwelling terrorists.

The last thing we need to do is to play the game by their rules.