In the wake of the United States’ first day of military action in Afghanistan in response to the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, three experts at USF said there were a number of issues that need to be confronted.
Henry Vanden, a political science and international studies professor, said he is most concerned with the way the U.S. military conducts its attacks. He said it is important that the United States abide by international law, a worldwide set of rules that originate from centuries-old customary policies of states and various treaties such as the United Nations Charter and the guidelines set at the Geneva Convention.
“(The Taliban) badly miscalculated what a strong reaction there would be against the barbarity of their actions,” Vanden said. “What we want to make sure is, we don’t engage in actions that seem unconcerned with civilian life-loss.”
Vanden said attacks need to be precise. He said that one rule of international law is that an attacked state has the right to retaliate, but the response must be precise and proportional.
“If indeed we conducted a massive bombing rather than pinpointing targets, then it could be argued that it was a disproportional attack,” Vanden said.
He said if the attack was deemed disproportional, the United States could begin to lose support of the nation-states that are presently aligned with it.
“I just think it’s very important that the U.S. conducts itself in accordance to the concept of just-war and avoids civilian casualties,” Vanden said. “And if we do so, we will continue to have the strong support of the vast majority of the nation-states in the world.”
Susan MacManus, a USF professor and political expert, said having support of so many other nations is rare but gives the United States the upper hand going into the attacks.
“Multi-nation coalitions are always a marked advantage when you get into international conflicts,” MacManus said. “The breadth of this coalition is unique in world history because we’re seeing all different nations from different political persuasions coming together.”
She said the Sept. 11 attacks on America and the subsequent fear of terrorism around the world brings about an interesting paradox.
“Yesterday’s enemies are today’s allies,” MacManus said.In addition to dropping bombs, the United States is also dropping food and medicine for starving and sick Afghan refugees. MacManus said this act will foster more American support for the war effort.
“The other thing that I think is getting a lot of points because of its uniqueness is the simultaneous dropping of food and medicine,” MacManus said. “I think that this bifurcated approach will turn out to be very popular in America.”
MacManus said what was most surprising leading up to the attack was the ability of multiple nations to keep a secret and not divulge any information that could aid the opposition.
She said the government had to negotiate with countries surrounding Afghanistan so they could use military bases and airspace as well as solicit other nations for support. Doing so is dangerous because international politics is always changing and it can never really be understood who is friend and who is foe, she said.
“Life is a gamble, you take chances, things change,” MacManus said. “It’s impressive that nations and U.S. Congress were able to keep a secret.”
J. Edwin Benton, a political science professor, said he was not surprised by the timing of the attacks Sunday.Benton said though the attacks were imminent, he fears that terrorists could be incited by them.
“We’re dealing with irrational people here,” Benton said.
“They’re probably going to strikeback any way they can.”
A radio report Sunday quoted a Taliban official condemning the United States and calling the strikes on Kabul, the country’s capital, a terrorist act. Benton said he’s not surprised by that reaction.
“They’re going to try and turn back tables on us,” he said. “They are that much more determined to strike back.”