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Howard's End: Confusion In The White House

The U.S. administration is in a real quandary over the form of military action to take following the terrorist attacks in America on September 11. Is it war, a police action, an incursion, or what? Maree Howard writes.

"The hour is coming when America will act and you will make us proud," President Bush announced last week.

The plan seemed clear enough when he addressed the Congress with rousing rhetoric but now, reality is striking home.

The fact is, America has no real friends in the Arab world and there is no acceptable definitive proof which the Arab world has been provided which shows that Osama bin Laden was behind the attacks.

America is not trusted and any miss steps could destroy American alliances with Arab countries whose support it desperately needs.

Another problem Bush has is deciding exactly what this action will be. Is it war, a police action, an incursion, a UN action, or what?

If it's war then Congress must approve it. It it's a police action the President can conduct it under executive order. If it's a UN action then the Security Council becomes involved.

Whatever it is, it's not against a country - it's an action against a paramilitary organisation.

That leaves other countries uncertain, and out in the cold, regarding any coalition support and the provision of troops. I was astounded to see New Zealand agreeing to send SAS troops under such terms of uncertainty.

You just can't go around the world deciding what you want to do and expect others to sign-up to your plans - otherwise you lower yourself to the level of the terrorists.

If the coalition countries decide to jointly attack, or are involved in war-like activities, they could face very expensive claims if charges of war crimes are made against them in the future by those who are attacked.

Former President Clinton issued an executive order EO13129 in 1999, declaring that the Taleban was a "paramilitary entity" not a government.

Perhaps New Zealand can play a useful part by attempting to arrange dialogue between all the adversaries.

So what is it to be - a war, a police action, an incursion, a UN action - or dialogue?

President Bush had better make up his mind. And New Zealand and other coalition countries had better think very carefully.


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