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Wednesday, September 08, 2004

It isn't all about Iraq (or Vietnam)

Gerald F. Seib has a well written editorial in the Wall Street Journal about the debate that is not happening this election season.

The far bigger question is whether the U.S. is engaged in a historic clash of civilizations with the Islamic world. It is fair to say that while the U.S. has some strategies for pacifying and exiting from Iraq, and some plans for thwarting terrorist attacks, it has reached no consensus on a strategy for dealing with a clash of civilizations. ... What's needed here is some new thinking. The old way of analyzing "Islamic extremists" needs to be thrown out, probably along with much of the vocabulary Americans use to address the threat. A good starting point is a careful reading of the 9/11 Commission's final report, not for its discussion of how the terrorist attacks happened, but for its illuminating description of the motivation of Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants. The bin Laden goal isn't simply to humiliate the U.S. Nor is it to overthrow the government of Saudi Arabia, or Egypt, or Jordan. The goal is to eliminate those governments -- in fact, to eliminate those nations. Mr. bin Laden's dream is to remake the world order, uniting the world's billion-plus Muslims under a new caliph -- that is, a modern-day successor to the Prophet Mohammed who would rule the broad Islamic world spanning the continents. "For those yearning for a lost sense of order in an older, more tranquil world, he offers his 'Caliphate' as an imagined alternative to today's uncertainty," the 9/11 report explains. Thus, the extremists who target the U.S. aren't interested in changing nation-states, but in wiping them out. Because the U.S. supports those nation-states, the first step is to cripple America. In sum, the militants really are revolutionaries.
I agree with him on these points. My answer is that democracy and freedom will heal the rot in the Arab world. I acknowledge that this will not be a quick solution. It will not be quick in Iraq and it will take even longer for this to spread to the other countries that are badly in need of reform. In the meantime, the uncertainty of transition and the growing desperation of dead-enders will both contribute to an increase in Islamic Terrorism. Active attempts to hunt down these killers, working with many governments throughout the world and an interdiction of terrorist financing can help limit these effects but the plain truth is that more attacks will happen. Worst case scenarios involve weapons of mass distruction which is why it was so critical that Saddam Hussein, who clearly had ambitions for WMD was removed and why Iran represents such a clear danger. The democratization process takes time and will cost lives. The west can afford these lives, horrible though the cost is, if the attacks remain conventional. 9/11 will pale in comparison to a nuclear detonation in a major city and if that happens the luxery of a slow process will probably disappear. I believe that organized terrorism will be eliminated in my lifetime. It will have to be. Globalization and the magnifing power of technology will make it impossible for civilization to allow this sort of group to exist (although individual crazy people will remain a growing problem.) I see three possible paths that can allow this to take place. 1) Democracy and opportunity spread, cutting off the root impulses of discontent that spawns much of this violence. The Arab world is most urgent in this process but eventually it covers the globe. This democracy has many flavors, but fundamental rule of law, self determination, and capitalism are common features. 2) Massive attacks cause vast retalliation. Several Arab cities are destroyed and the survivors are placed under military occupation (of a nature quite different from what is currently going on in Iraq) a process to destroy Arab culture, widely believed to be too dangerous takes place. This probably occurs in tandem with increasing fascism and militarization in the West as the threat is clearly seen. Other regions of the world are also kept under close watch and emerging terrorist tendancies are brutally crushed. 3) Capitulation in response to Islamist terrorism. The west retreats from the middle-east. General revolution and war in the middle-east disrupt oil supplies causing world wide recession. This accellerates disengagement. Virtually unopposed, terrorists establish an Islamic Caliphate. This resulting govenment bruttally quashes in terrorist tactics but the tactics are exported to other regions. Eventually only brutal regimes survive in a new dark ages. Those are the choices that I see. None of them will come to pass quickly, but what we do now, will determine the outcome. Only the first option is one that I want to see come to pass. I wish I could see more good options. I wish I had a back-up plan. There are times though when there is no back-up plan, no second best outcome. When those times occur, winning is the only option.


Blogger Cubicle said...

and that is why we need more fully automation assualt weapons in the usa today

9/09/2004 08:20:00 AM  

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