The purpose of Tony Blair's and US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's peripateticism of recent days has repeatedly been described as to ”shore up” the international coalition against terror. When a phrase such as ”shore up” is used over and over again in press, radio and TV reports one can be fairly sure that it was first heard in official media briefings. The dictionary tells us that ”shore up” means to put a prop or beam against something weak or unstable as a support. If the coalition needs supporting in this way before it has even met its first challenge then the prospects for its long term existence cannot be good. President Bush and Mr Blair have been writing IOUs all over the place to recruit unlikely allies to their anti–terrorist cause. Some of these have already been presented for payment – especially those made out to the government of Pakistan which in quick order has not only been forgiven for its military take–over of the country and its development of nuclear weapons but has been released from international sanctions and also guaranteed a substantial loan from the International Monetary Fund. If such concessions are the tip of the iceberg that we have been allowed to see, imagine what others must be hidden just below the surface. If the coalition has been indeed been satisfactorily shored–up by the travels of Tony Blair and Donald Rumsfeld it is probable that military action will follow very soon before further cracks appear in its structure. Whether the coalition will survive the use of force is a different matter entirely.

RAY FLEMING

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