Krauthammer: 'We Have to Make an Example of the Taliban'

The Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist opines on the state of the war, in <I>TSC's</I> Martini Chat.
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The following is an excerpt from this week's Martini Chat, an hour-long, online program on market and current events at 5 p.m. every Thursday, hosted by TheStreet.com columnist Chris Edmonds and reporter Eric Gillin. To participate, visit TheStreet.com just before the show begins and click on the invitation. To read the entire Martini Chat transcript, click here.

Chris Edmonds:

Our first guest is Charles Krauthammer, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the

Washington Post.

In addition, his political commentary has appeared in the

New Republic,

Time

and the

Weekly Standard.

Before launching his journalistic career, Dr. Krauthammer was a practicing medical doctor, served as an advisor in the Carter administration and was a speechwriter for Vice President Walter Mondale.

His edgy commentary has been called "independent and hard to peg politically." His independent voice is well known on issues of international significance, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as well as issues of domestic import, most recently regarding American's fight against anthrax.

Mr. Krauthammer joins from his offices in Washington, D.C. Welcome to

TheStreet.com's

"Martini Chat."

Dr. Krauthammer:

Good to be with you.

Chris Edmonds:

In your Tuesday

Washington Post

column you said the U.S. effort against terrorism "has been fought with half-measures." And there seems to a growing concern among U.S. citizens that we haven't used the force necessary to show our resolve. In your view, what haven't we done that we should have, and given our lack of force out of the starting blocks, what should we do now?

Dr. Krauthammer:

What we didn't do ... what we're beginning to do ... is to try to destroy the Taliban forward positions in order to allow the ground opposition to occupy the capital. As President Bush said, we have a new doctrine. If a government protects terrorists, that government will fall.

We have to make an example of the Taliban. We have not hit them in the front-line positions in order to let the north cities come in. We've held back because Pakistan does not like the Northern Alliance. We've been holding the military back. That's changing.

Eric Gillin:

Mr. Krauthammer, Eric Gillin here. In that regard, Ramadan is approaching, and many insist that the American military must stop out of respect for the holy month.

You've argued that such a pause is foolish, the kind of moderation that led us to defeat in Vietnam. But others would say that diplomacy, and getting other Muslim nations to offer assistance, is part and parcel of fighting war. How do we balance the aims of diplomacy with the needs of the military?

Dr. Krauthammer:

The whole idea that the reason the Muslim countries are following us is because they like us is nonsense. They're following us because they think we'll win.

There are bad guys in their midst, and we say we'll root them out. The reason these are coalition partners is because Al Qaeda and Osama are their enemies. If we show them we are feckless -- like Vietnam -- they're going to flee and leave us hanging in a second.

The reason we got the coalition 10 years ago is that they saw Americans on the ground and they wanted to be on the winning side. Important now is to show them they're on the winning side. About Ramadan -- it's a fabrication that that's a time when they're not supposed to fight.

Chris Edmonds:

The longer the conflict, the less likely strong popular support will continue. What can and should President Bush do to solidify his current level of support, and what does that say about our strategy in the war going forward, and how important is a big victory to sustaining support?

Charles Krauthammer:

The problem is we've been there for three weeks and held back. We've been making all the mistakes of Vietnam. Colin Powell was at Vietnam and swore they'd never make that mistake again. His doctrine is to use overwhelming support to win quickly. There's no substitute for victory -- Patton.

When you demonstrate that you're determined to win, you lose allies? I don't think that's so. Domestic support is rock-solid. The American people are clearheaded. There are 5,000 dead Americans in New York and D.C. An attack by an enemy bent on destroying us. This is not a war of choice. This is a war of necessity.

We know it. The American people understand it. They will not waver because there is no choice. In Vietnam it was different. We cannot lose this war. Al Qaeda and the others are trying to destroy us. We know they want chemical weapons and things of mass destruction. They want to kill us in the millions.

Eric Gillin:

In his 1995 essay "The Clash of Civilizations," Samuel Huntington suggests the next conflict would not be between nation-states but civilizations themselves, exactly what bin Laden and other radical Islamic elements would like. Is this truly a conflict between the West and Islam, and do we really want the conflict to be defined that way?

Dr. Krauthammer:

Americans understand the necessity of waging this war and winning it. That is how the enemy defines it. They make it clear it is the Islamic entity against the infidel, and their grievances go back 1,000 years.Their dominance was once a major part of the world.

From their point of view, it's been downhill ever since. Bin Laden wants to reestablish the empire of Islam with no separation of church and state, with him as the leader. He has a minority following.

We have never declared war on Islam.We welcome our Muslim friends and allies. But we can't prove how nice we are. The President is asking our kids to get a Muslim pen pal and stop fighting on Ramadan. You don't find the leaders in Egypt and other places rising to say "What Osama bin Laden has done was wrong." And we're waiting to hear that.

Chris Edmonds:

The administration has made it clear that this is not a war against Afghanistan but a much larger war against terrorism. Yet we remain focused, half-measures or not, on a nation that can offer little resistance except for rhetoric, and in many ways, as you suggest, they are holding their own.

Given our experience in Afghanistan and what appears to be our near-paralysis to take any action that could place American soldiers in grave danger, how do we expand this campaign?

Dr. Krauthammer:

Everyone understands we have to win the war in Afghanistan. We don't have to find Osama today or tomorrow; we'll find him one day. If we're in control, he'll have to flee, and we'll find him. We don't have to go cave to cave. But we need the government to fall.

The world has to understand that the penalty for harboring a terrorist is the death penalty for the regime. That has to happen. Assuming we do that, I think the psychological dynamic there will change dramatically. People will start to fear and respect the U.S. again.

They won't want to harbor a terrorist because they'll see what happened to the Taliban. We should go country to country where people are harboring terrorists, and say, "Cough up your terrorists." Once they see what happened to the Taliban, the other countries will do it.

Eric Gillin:

One key piece to this discussion is clearly the relationship between Israel and the Palestinians. A month before the World Trade Center attack, you argued that Israel should use overwhelming force to expel Palestinians from Israeli lands, while at the same time abandoning some settlements and consolidating the border.

The solution you gave: Build a wall and wait for peace to come. Is this still an option today? Has the emergence of Osama bin Laden made it impossible to treat the Palestinian situation independent of the global Islamic unrest?

Dr. Krauthammer:

That's not what I said. The links people have developed between that and 9/11 is a fabrication. The president himself said that Osama had never even mentioned Palestine before 9/11. The planning of this attack on 9/11 went on for a year and a half. At that time, we were on a peace summit with the Palestinians.

To say that the reason this happened is because fighting broke out in the Middle East is wrong, because we know the operation was planned before that.It's used by bin Laden to stir up animosity toward the U.S. But he's concerned about U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia, because that's the holy Mecca for him. It's the 1990-91 war against Iraq that has made his cause for him. He's about expelling the infidel from the home of Mohammed.

Chris Edmonds:

Let's turn our focus to domestic issues. It looks like we are returning to politics as usual. The level of partisanship is rising, President Bush took a public swipe at congressional inaction yesterday, and almost every postwar initiative appears to be stalled in Congress.

What's your take on the political landscape? Will we get an airline security package and a reasonable stimulus package, or was the post-September congressional unity rhetoric just that?

Dr. Krauthammer:

Yes and yes. We'll get the airline package by tomorrow and the stimulus in a few weeks. It's normal politics. We are a democracy, and we're not going to suspend all our differences.

The president has enormous power and he's using it. That's good. That's how you lead in wartime, and this is what this is. In World War II there were a lot of debates in Congress.

Chris Edmonds:

Understanding your focus is politics, I am curious as to your thoughts on what impact the military action and congressional response is having on the economy, consumer confidence and the markets.

Dr. Krauthammer:

We're getting a return to semi-normal. The president has a stronger hand than before 9/11 and he'll get his way in most of these issues. My view is that the 9/11 was a great shock to the economy.

What it did was accelerated trends already happening. I'm not an expert, but I think it made what was going to happen, happen a little more quickly. Folding of the airlines and Polaroid. Companies on the edge fell off earlier with less agony. We've compressed in time the bottom of that recession.

I'm hoping what we find is a sharper V shape rather than a U shape. I'm guessing and reading the markets -- there seems to be a sense that we'll get a sharper rebound than what we think, because of this artificial collapse we got after 9/11. I don't believe it.

Eric Gillin:

Speaking of domestic issues, the terrorist network that committed the World Trade Center attack operated in Florida, New York and New Jersey -- three states affected by the first wave of anthrax attacks.

Yet the government has come out and said domestic terrorism could well be the culprit. Can we really believe that? Who do you think is responsible for this?

Dr. Krauthammer:

It's extremely unlikely it's domestic.When there was one case in Florida, it sounded like a nut. But now with more cases and the fine powder in the Daschle letter, I think the likelihood it's domestic is low. Question is, is this Al Qaeda, and did they get it from Iraq? If so we're in very serious waters. A confrontation between us and Iraq, which would be monumental.

Chris Edmonds:

We have some reader questions.

Reader:

What do you make of the concerns of the India/Pakistan flair up?

Charles Krauthammer:

It's a balancing act. We have to balance Pakistan and India. Their war has been running 50 years. The Muslims and non-states have been in war ever since. India has offered us airspace and help, and that has not yet alienated us from Pakistan. Each is trying to be our friend so as not to have the other with America alone on their sides.

Reader:

How likely are bioterrorist attacks? And what do you think about all the warnings the government is giving?

Dr. Krauthammer:

I think they're just covering their asses. I don't know if it helps to give these warnings. They feel they have to share with a time-limited alarm.

It just scares everyone. It would help if we had more details. Bioterrorism is here. The question is, how sophisticated and widespread are our enemies? We have to get them before they get us.

Reader:

What are the odds we still try to remove Saddam Hussein and attack Iraq as part of this campaign?

Dr. Krauthammer:

It depends. If we succeed in Afghanistan we put pressure on other countries to cough up their terrorists. We cannot live with Saddam building up chemical and nuclear weapons.

He and his regime we'll have to destroy. It's a monumental task. The war on terrorism cannot be won unless Iraq is changed.

Chris Edmonds:

Charles, thanks for being with us.

Dr. Krauthammer:

My pleasure.