November 2001

Afghanistan: US calls the shots

The Finnish press has welcomed the rout of the Taliban and many commentators think that the turn of events has vindicated the bombing of Afghanistan. However, the leader writers agree that many problems and dangers remain.

In a close look at the course of events, the Helsingin Sanomat columnist Olli Kivinen writes (15 November 2001) that many important factors have become clear during the dramatic crisis.

"The central factor is the United States' indisputable power. It wants to conduct the war on its own terms and accepts only reluctantly the allies' offers of troops — in no way would they be allowed to participate in decisions on the conduct of war. Simultaneously, the United States' actions in, for instance, questions of justice have irritated even its allies.

"A second fundamental question is the shape of the EU common defence; it does not exist now or in the near future. This reality is wecome to many and uncomfortable to others, but there is no way around it. The EU has fifteen member countries which promote their own interests, and not even the big ones have military forces which they could use in faraway places. The self-serving actions of big members ensure that the psychological preparedness for common defence will not be created in the foreseeable future. In other words, NATO's status will be strengthened at the cost of the EU and the EU will remain what it originally was created to be, an economic superpower without teeth.

"The third very important factor of current reality is the cleavage between the Muslim countries and mainly Christian industrial countries. Belonging to the same alliance easily confuses this fact. Muslim countries participate in the coalition for many reasons and the terrorism of extremists is only one of them. There is also much opportunism, need to please the United States and economic interests. The squirming of the participating Muslim governments is a clear sign of how difficult it is for them to follow the West's lead.

"Fourth, the United Nations has again turned out to be a useful organisation. Its aid is important even to the mighty ones: its actions will be needed for a long time in order to return Afghanistan to some sort functioning realm after decades of suffering."

Kivinen thinks that the United States' stronger position makes it even more important to ask whether the Bush government has really turned towards a multi-polar international action or what has been seen now has been only a temporary stage. The columnists says that the United States has had many chances to prove its new attitude in protection of the atmosphere, the UN International Court, banning of small weapons and, most of all, missile defence — all questions which irritate even its closest allies. Ultimately, according to Kivinen, a good barometer is the Middle East — whether the US is really promoting peace between Israel and Palestine.

"The United States has not moved in a meaningful way on these questions. This has increased fears that it will continue its self-serving and selfish policies when the war against terrorism has brought some kind of positive results."

See also:

From the archive:

Distorted world media

2 October 2001

"I am not at war, are you?"

24 September 2001

"New epoch has begun"

13 September 2001

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