For George W. Bush, the answers never seem to be overly complicated. Schools are failing? Test more. Economy slowing down? Cut taxes. Terrorist attack on the United States? “Smoke them out of their holes.”
All these solutions sound fine on paper, and they are easy sells to the American public. Personally I would prefer the simplest plan possible. But with education, the economy and, perhaps especially, international terrorism, a single stimulus on its own cannot make for the kind of drastic change he promises.
Thus, his “hole-smoking” plan for the terrorists in Afghanistan is necessary — but it is only a start. Thousands will stand where bin Laden falls, even angrier than before at the United States. Better intelligence might stop some terrorist plans, but it cannot stop them all; if terrorists continue to proliferate in the Middle East as a result of our foreign policy there, thousands of plans could be hatched at the same time. Anti-terrorism efforts might stop some of them, but in a free society, they cannot stop them all.
The answer, then, lies in erasing these potential terrorists’ motives for hatred — that is the only way for Bush to truly ensure the safety of future generations. He should look to the aftermath of WWII and the Marshall Plan, an economic package for countries decimated by the war that turned our two former enemies, Germany and Japan, into two of our strongest allies during the Cold War. Passing such an act and paying more attention to the Middle East might, at first glance, appear to be giving in to the terrorists themselves. But safety might cost some pride, and Bush would do much better in this regard by making friends rather than inciting potential enemies.
But hey, don’t take my word for it. If you feel military action without any economic or diplomatic improvement in the Middle East is the way to go, you play President Bush in this “Afghani Adventure.” Start at No. 1 and make your choices, and maybe you can find peace and safety through purely military means . . .
1. The time has come for military action, but the targets are still unclear. Most nations worldwide believe we should merely go after Osama and his followers to avoid a messy war. But you promised to punish not only the terrorists, “but the countries that harbor them” — and even though the Soviet Union failed to take over Afghanistan in the 1980s, you think we might have a chance at uprooting the Taliban as well as the actual terrorists.
If you go after BIN LADEN, go to 6
If you go after the TALIBAN, go to 2
2. The Taliban has gotten out of control — you must take out their followers now or pay the consequences later. But soon after deploying ground troops, you realize this isn’t the kind of war you had in mind: The Taliban are the most battle-hardened people in the world, have no real bunkers or structures to capture and never surrender. To combat these struggles, you move more and more troops into the region — and make the already wary Arab countries demand that the United States go home or face the consequences.
If you GO HOME, go to 3
If you KEEP FIGHTING, go to 4
3. So you’ve decided to give up on the search for justice and security. But now that you’ve run from your international problems, there is chaos within American borders. Terrorist acts continue, since the terrorists know there will be no real repercussions for their actions, and the people demand a leader that ensures their safety. To make everyone secure, you are forced to throw out the Constitution in monitoring everyone, spend trillions to make the American border airtight and cut off international trade as the nation founded on the ideals of Jefferson, Madison and Hamilton is now relegated to the history books. As you watch America falling apart, you can’t help but ask yourself, “How the hell did Osama bin Laden ever get the best of the most powerful nation the world had ever known?”
Go to 15
4. You refuse to back down, calling the nations of the Middle East on what you hope is merely their bluff. You soon learn otherwise, however, as Pakistani, Saudi, Iraqi, Iranian, Syrian, Libyan and Egyptian forces batter U.S. targets overseas. We fight back with our full arsenal, but with a billion Arabs in the region, we need the help of the rest of the world.
However, much of the rest of the world — now engulfed in a depression from the lack of Middle-Eastern oil — demands that we stop the war that has caused such global misery. Many of these countries trade arms and military personnel to the Arabs for oil to keep their economies from total collapse.
They are ready to force a decision upon you: Give up the war in the Middle East, or prepare for the prospects of a global thermonuclear one.
If you GO HOME, go to 3
If you TELL THE WORLD TO BUZZ OFF, go to 5
5. America has never backed down from a fight before, and you’ll be damned if we start now. You try to make the rest of the world see your point of view, but its people are hungry, desperate and not in the mood for negotiation. As Putin thinks about the implications of global war, former Soviet military personnel take over an ICBM silo in Central Asia and make the first strike at the United States. You, believing the strike came from Putin’s orders, order the full deployment of all U.S. nukes at targets around the world. Minutes later, full deployment is also ordered by Russia, France, Pakistan, China, India, North Korea and every other nation that might have nuclear technology we didn’t know about. As you sit in the Oval Office, your fiery death just minutes away, you wonder to yourself, “How the hell did Osama bin Laden ever get the best of not only the United States but also the world?”
Go to 15
6. You decide to limit your actions to finding Osama, and much of the world praises your restraint. After a few weeks, you get reliable intelligence reports that he is either in a certain mountain cave or a desert tent village several miles away in the Afghani wasteland. He won’t be in either place for long, and you only have one small unit of troops in that part of the country that can get there in time.
If you go to the CAVE, go to 7
If you go to the VILLAGE, go to 8
7. You decide Osama is probably in the mountain cave. American troops enter the vast, vaulted cave and soon find it is indeed a terrorist compound full of arms and scientific equipment. Stepping into the first chamber, however, the troops’ hearts soon jump into their throats — they tripped an alarm, and a large timer begins counting down. Ten seconds later the cave explodes, spewing the largest biological weapon stockpile in the world high in the earth’s atmosphere. More than a billion deaths later, you wonder to yourself, “How the hell did we ever let it come to this?”
Go to 15
8. You decide to raid the desert village — and they find him there, sitting in a tent, just minutes before he was to start his escape from Afghanistan!
You have contact with the army officer seconds later via satellite, and he gives you perhaps the most important question you have yet to face: “Do you want him dead or alive?”
If you want him DEAD, go to 9
If you want him ALIVE, go to 10
9. You decide to be done with this business as quickly as possible, and you order the officer to put a bullet through the skull of the world’s greatest terrorist. You claim victory, our troops come home, and you promise the American people to keep a more vigilant eye on terrorism in the future.
Months later, however, little ground has been made in finding terrorists, and Osama’s supporters are enraged at the death of their spiritual and financial leader. A major biological-weapons attack in the Midwest, suspected to be the work of more Taliban-supported terrorists, leaves you with no choice but to go in and remove the government that has cost so many American lives.
Go to 2
10. You decide taking him alive will bring more satisfaction to an American people hungry for justice, and you transport Osama to the United States for trial.
The trial is put on the fast-track, and the jury — understanding the kind of international implications of their verdict — requests to make secret contact with you. The foreman says they know bin Laden is guilty, and will give him whatever sentence you suggest.
If you tell him to give Osama the DEATH PENALTY, go to 11
If you tell him to give Osama SIX THOUSAND CONSECUTIVE LIFE SENTENCES, go to12
11. You decide that only the death penalty will do for such a heinous crime, and the American people get great satisfaction in watching the lethal injection slowly take away the life of the world’s most notorious terrorist.
But this spectacle causes great concern among many of our allies (most of which outlawed the death penalty long ago) and absolute fury among many in the Middle East. Viewing Osama as a great martyr to the cause, they take to terrorism against the U.S. with an unprecedented fervor. The United States suspects most of them are again hiding out in the caves of Afghanistan — to many, a new “Holy Land” — and you have no choice but to go back to Middle East and take out the Taliban, once and for all.
Go to 2
12. Concerned over the international implications of putting Osama to death, you decide to merely give him 6,000 consecutive life sentences in the smallest possible cell in federal prison. He stays there for years, but he is not forgotten by the millions of frustrated Arabs who have now exalted him to god-like status. The “Free Osama” movement grows overseas, full of angry followers who believe bin Laden to be a scapegoat for the Trade Center bombings — and the new president fears more terrible acts of terrorism. She gives you a call, and agrees to go along with your recommendation on how to respond.
If you LET OSAMA GO, go to 13
If you KEEP HIM IN PRISON, go to 14
13. OK, let me get this straight: You go to great lengths to capture the world’s most diabolical terrorist, the man who masterminded the deaths of thousands of innocent Americans, and you think you are going to just let him go? You think the families of the people who died in the Sept. 11 attacks are going to accept that? You think anyone will? Try again, jackass.
Go to 12
14. You don’t care what anyone says, you’re not dumb enough to let Osama out in the open again. But the movement does not get any weaker, and soon American interests are once again under attack — and with these angry followers more resourceful and determined than ever before, these attacks are far more horrific than those when bin Laden was free. Amid the chaos, the new president is voted from office, and the American people demand that you — the one who captured bin Laden in the first place — take over to finish the job. The 22nd Amendment is repealed, and you take over again.
Intelligence officials suspect most of the new terrorists are again hiding out in the caves of Afghanistan — to many, a new “Holy Land” — and you have no choice but to go back to the Middle East and take out the Taliban, once and for all.
Go to 2.
15. In taking on these missions of the mind, we see Osama’s act has truly put America’s collective back against the wall. We must take military action against these terrorists — they do not respect weakness and may only double their efforts if we do not — but taking this action alone can only bring more insecurity. We might kill Osama, but in doing so, in acting only out of hatred, we ourselves may be creating the next generation of angry foreigners.
The Devil may have painted the United States into a corner, but there is a way out — take out the motives of the enemy. Just as World War II was in many ways a result of the Allies’ harsh punishment of the Germans after World War I, punishment alone only creates new motives. But generosity and genuine interest in the region that produced these terrorists can erode bin Laden’s spell on many in the Middle East, perhaps many yet to be born.
It is easy to lose sight of such potential dangers in the face of the tragedy, when anger seems to be the only logical response. But Bush must realize that by using violence alone in this war for security, we cannot truly be victorious. With a man so willing to invoke Scripture sitting in the White House, I would have thought he’d understand: We best fight Satan by being saints. We cannot win any other way.