Fridays newspapers carried the story that the United States and Britain were prepared to "go it alone" in the war against Afghanistan. In an article in London's Financial Times, spokesmen for Britain and the US suggested that all those other nations would just complicate things anyway and that perhaps the US and Britain should just do it themselves.
Such bravado scarcely conceals the truth behind this stance; that the coalition of multiple nations eager to engage in this "crusade" has evaporated, indeed, probably never existed in the first place. Germany and Italy never did sign on. Iran forbade overflights, and Friday Russia pulled back from allowing the use of Tajikistan while Saudi Arabia expressed doubt on allowing the US to use its bases.
There are many reasons why the coalition has refused to come together.
First, the US has been telling other nations since last summer that it was going to attack Afghanistan. Most nations, like most people, are sharp enough to realize that the timing of the World Trade Center attack fits right into that time table.
Second, other nations realize that Afghanistan is correct in demanding proof of anyone's guilt before handing them over, and that includes Osama Bin Laden, who is officially a suspect, nothing more. And the US doesn't have any proof about who attacked the World Trade Towers. Four of the supposedly dead Arab hijackers have turned up alive, one more has been dead for two years, and with the admission by the US government that the hijackers used stolen identities for the hijacking and the wild attention-getting parties leading up to them, it's clear that we do not know who the hijackers were, only who they wished us to think they were.
Third, given that the goal of terrorism is (we are told) to force us to abandon our way of life and our values, a great many people watched to see how George Bush would react to Afghanistan's request. The moment Bush dismissed the Afghanistan government's request for evidence, Bush was seen to have discarded the rule of law as well as the basic American principles of needing evidence to prosecute (or extradite) someone. Indeed Bush, with his "Give us what we want or else" rhetoric, sounded more like a terrorist than a President.
Fourth, most nations are sharp enough to realize that Osama Bin Laden could very well still be working for the CIA, continuing a long pattern of American foreign policy-by-proxy, maintaining control of the region and its oil by stirring up constant trouble.
Fifth, declaring a war on terrorism and those who support it is a very fuzzy goal. Nobody knows where the bombs will fall once they get going, and most people still remember the wonderful target selection jobs that blew up a Sudanese aspirin factory. Nobody wants to join in a "crusade" that might make their own pharmacies a target for a cruise missile.
Sixth, Bush has declared that a major portion of the "crusade" will be covert teams sneaking into other countries to blow things up and assassinate people. No matter what name we may call it, it will still look and feel like terrorism to everyone else and can only escalate the conflicts. And most other nations know the CIA has been playing these games all along. In 1985, authorized by William Casey, the CIA planted a car bomb near a mosque in Beirut to kill Sheik Mohammed Hossein Fadlallah, a muslim cleric. The bomb missed the Sheik but killed 80 people, including children. Incidents like these underscore the United States' "It's okay when we do it, but bad when you do it" as the rankest of hypocrisy.
For these and many more reasons, the ardor to get into George Bush's crusade has cooled. The US and Britain are trying to put the best face on it they can, but the fact is that the facade of this being a multi-lateral fight against injustice is gone. This is good news. While there will be bloodshed and violence, it will not be the major threat to world peace it may have been since one cannot have a world war if the rest of the world refuses to show up.
Having painted himself into a corner with his war rhetoric, and needing to distract the American people from an economy that was poised for a melt-down long before the attacks on the World Trade Towers, Bush will have to move forward, to find some way to pour enough young gladiators into the Afghani arena to satiate the mob's list for prime time live-and-in-color blood. In the end, it is hoped, the war if Afghan will be much like Desert Storm. We'll blow up a lot of desert, kill 5 times as many goats as people, declare victory and go home laving everything pretty much as it was to begin with. We'll waste a lot of money, but I prefer that than wasting the lives of our children.
So, the coalition faw down go boom. What will Bush do now to bolster up his "crusade"?
One thing to consider; if those who attacked the World Trade Towers to ignite a war fail to get the war they desire, be prepared for more staged terror incidents in the days to come.