Although “it's not over 'til it's over,” the reports out of Afghanistan of the continuing collapse of the Taliban hold on the country are certainly welcome signs of the effectiveness of the President's anti-terrorism policy. To be sure, Osama bin Laden is still at large. But it cannot be lost on any of the nations of the world that if they provide safe harbor to terrorists, this is the kind of power that can be unleashed against them to, in President Bush's words, “cough them up.”
What remains, however, is a clear demonstration that we have the will, as well as the way, to force the worldwide isolation of the bin Laden network. President Bush ringingly declared last week his resolve to pursue “the evildoers,” Afghanistan-style, wherever they may be, and that the effort will be mounted separately and apart from any other issues such as Middle East peace. Although this is widely interpreted as meaning that we do not intend to buy Arab participation in the anti-terror coalition by pressuring Israel to make concessions or to exempt any country from the obligation to expel terrorists, the firmness of the commitment is just not perceived as rock solid. Many point to the overarching desire of the State Department to use the anti-terror effort to change the international political landscape and forge an enduring Pax Americana. Some also cite the dynamic of Arab oil politics.
So while the impressive gains on the military front and the growing freeze on his assets appear to have thrown bin Laden off balance, we will be able to uproot terror around the world only if we are taken seriously about following the terrorist link wherever it leads and do what has to be done.