Rooting out international terrorism will require a big commitment from the United States and its allies.
Patience seemed to be the key word in President Bush's Sunday afternoon address to the American public to announce U.S. and British military strikes against terrorist and Taliban targets in Afghanistan.
It seems reasonable U.S. forces have been involved in clandestine actions inside Afghanistan since the terrorist attacks on New York City's World Trade Center and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 11, but Sunday's action marks the beginning of what is likely to be a long, frustrating and perhaps deadly war for U.S. troops.
Rooting out and destroying the terrorist forces will not be easy. This is not going to be a quick, relatively painless war. It will bear no resemblance to the 1990-91 Desert Storm and Desert Shield operations in which the ground war lasted only 100 hours and tallied 144 casualties.
In a statement obviously prepared sometime prior to the Sunday attacks but released later in the day, Osama bin Laden declared war on the U.S. and pledged to fight this war to the last breath. He also made it clear he and his followers will do what they can to inflict damage and death to those in American whom they think have been a party to allowing and accommodating Israelis in Palestinian territory. He said no American would know peace and that God has cursed the United States.
In their addresses on Sunday, both Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair emphasized the war represents a defining line between those nations and individuals who side with justice and those who elect to house and aid terrorists.
Bin Laden's statement should make it clear he is the leader and architect of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington and put to rest any suggestions U.S. leaders were unfairly targeting the Afghan millionaire terrorist. It also shows negotiation was and is out of the question.
The U.S. strategy is going to be broad but, at the same time, surgical in that it will aim at specific targets rather than lay waste to vast geographic areas with the likelihood of injuring the killing large numbers of innocent people.
It is likely to spread to countries other than Afghanistan. Leaders of these countries must realize they have brought this on themselves by choosing to side with terrorists.
One consequence of Sunday's attacks is the strong possibility there will be new terrorist actions within the United States. Based on bin Laden's prerecorded message, it seems clear he and his followers plan to inflict these potentially deadly attacks regardless of any actions Uncle Sam and other nations might initiate against Afghan targets.
Patience will be required, as well as resolve, in what is sure to be a long battle. As various U.S. leaders have stated, there is no single "silver bullet" that can end the terrorist threat by destroying the terrorist network or eliminating an individual terrorist. U.S. officials point out sufficient pressure and actions must be initiated against the Taliban, Afghanistan, bin Laden and terrorist forces so that their efforts will collapse from within. This will take time.
Bush and Blair both did an excellent job in explaining Sunday's attacks. It is good to see such close support and cooperation between the U.S. and England, as well as the large number of other nations allied in this fight. But regardless of the size and power of this coalition, a successful effort will take time.
Again, patience and resolve by the American public will be needed in this difficult struggle.