December 28, 2004

Is Islam the Next "Ism" Confronting the West?

"Islam has replaced Marxism as the ideology of contestation," says Olivier Roy, a French scholar of European Islam. "When the left collapsed, the Islamists stepped in."

--Craig Smith, in the NYT.

Abizaid believes that the Long War is only in its early stages. Victory will be hard to measure, he says, because the enemy won't wave a white flag and surrender one day. Success will instead be an incremental process of modernization of the Islamic world, which will gradually find its own accommodation with the global economy and open political systems.

America's enemies in this Long War, he argues, are what he calls "Salafist jihadists." That's his term for the Muslim fundamentalists who use violent tactics to try to re-create what they imagine was the pure and perfect Islamic government of the era of the prophet Muhammad, who is sometimes called the "Salaf." Osama bin Laden is the best known of the Salafist extremists, but Abizaid argues that the movement is much broader and more diffuse than al Qaeda. It's a loose network of like-minded individuals who use 21st century-technology to spread their vision of a 7th-century paradise.

Salafist preachers see themselves as part of a vanguard whose mission is to radicalize other Muslims to overthrow their leaders. Abizaid likens them to Lenin, Trotsky and the other Bolshevik leaders. During a gathering of foreign-policy experts in Washington last October, he posed a haunting question: What would you have done in 1890 if you had known the ruin this Bolshevik vanguard would bring? At another point, he urged the audience to think of today's Islamic world, wracked by waves of violence, as akin to Europe in the revolutionary year of 1848. The Arab world's spasms of anarchy and terror, like those in Europe 150 years ago, are part of a process of social change -- in which an old order is crumbling, and a new one is struggling to be born.

David Ignatius, in the WaPo.

It's not really Islam writ large that is the next "ism" confronting the West. As Abizaid, and others have noted, it's radical Islamists like the Salafists. But the theater where this war will be fought will be the Islamic world writ large. And, worth noting, an "incremental process of modernization" is really, all told, the best tool in our arsenal. It's, of course, in Iraq where this effort has now been most fully joined.

This struggle will be on par, quite likely, with the Cold War struggle against Communism. So why haven't we gotten (much) more serious about our moribund public diplomacy efforts, for instance? Put differently, why haven't we better understood the ideological component of this struggle? Part of the reason, I suspect, is that we too easily assume that our caricature-like vision of Islam will hold no real appeal to right-thinking souls (unlike, say, what we feared might prove the overly tantalizing egalitarian utopias engendered in Marxist folkore--until such visions were unmasked to the world as more constitutive of an 'equality of poverty' than some bountiful paradise).

Why haven't we, more vigorously, described to the great European, Latin American, and Asian publics what is at stake in this struggle? Why, put differently, does the global war against terrorism too often look like some noxious, militaristic American adventure? For sure, there is great envy at the hyperpuissance so that assorted gaggles of neo-Gaullists, self-righteously pacifist German Greens, knee-jerk 'Yankee Go Home' Latin American leftists are all stock-full of the predictable and tired protestations. But can't we do better, nevertheless? After all, we must be able to persuade our fellow democratic societies of the justness of our cause if we are to win this long struggle. Is it that we have become so different than they in terms of value-sytems; or that we are reacting too irrationally to a gruesome one-off terror attack; or that, instead perhaps, our former allies in the Cold War have become asleep to the massive perils that gather in their and our midst? My money is on this last--but I nevertheless believe we are failing in making a better case as to why the neutral, "spectating" camp must get into the arena. It's true, of course, that countries like France or Brazil were not necessarily in the anti-communist vanguard, of course. There has always been a vague casting about for a "third way,' or a 'non-aligned movement,' or some other contrarian formulation doubtless often meant to dispel the image of too much servility to one or the other superpower.

This isn't about all the old circa 2003 battles about whether to go to war in Iraq. The French and Germans might say that, but for Iraq, they would have stood with us shoulder to shoulder in the war on terror. But this is too convenient and easy a retort. And, regardless, history has moved on. Fateful decisions were made. The Iraq project, which I still think may prove successful, is now at a critical juncture. A defeat there would have devastating ramifications vis-a-vis aiding radical Islamists that are the current enemy of all those who share Enlightenment values.

Why, say, can't the land of Diderot and Voltaire find more common cause with that of Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson? Something is being lost in translation. A better meeting of the minds must be struck in Bush's second administration. I trust and suspect Condeleeza Rice, if she hopes to aim for success measured in historic terms, will realize that such a rapprochement, along with a better explanation (let's beat back all the hyperbole about the jingo-militarisic preemption a bit, no?) of what is meant by this war on terror to the international community, steadfast movement towards modernization of the Middle East, and a sustained, disciplined effort at forging an Israeli-Arab peace will be the keystones to a successful stewardship of our nation's foreign policy in the years ahead.

All this said, it is almost beyond contempt how paltry French and German offers of aid have been with regard to Iraq. When will responsible leaders in such countries realize that, whatever enjoyment they are deriving from America's travails in Iraq, it is manifestly not in their interests to see America flounder there? The sad truth, perhaps, is that we live in an era largely defined by underwhelming political leadership. From Asia to the Americas to Europe we see chancelleries, ministries and presidential retreats populated by mediocrities. Bush, if he were to preside over an Iraq that appears to be more democratic than not by '08, and can bring about a two-state solution in the Holy Land, could still arguably make a bid for greatness (though pulling those twin feats off is a long shot indeed). Blair too, has been admirable through this turbulent post 9/11 period. But the pettiness and short-sightedness of leaders like Chirac and Gerhard Schroder has been dismaying. The buffoonery of a Berloscuni, if predictable, quite sad too. There is little by way of leadership that gets the pulse racing in Asia or Latin America as well. It's little wonder that most of the best and brightest, even after an event of the historical magnitude of 9/11, head to the salt-mines of the private sector for their professional formations.

P.S. More on why, just maybe, a more pro-American shift may be in the offing in capitals like Berlin and Paris soon (hint: it's hip to be pro-American in French academia!).

NOTE: This post has been updated with some additions. Regular readers probably notice that I do this pretty often. I guess I should more routinely say "This post has been updated," or "clarifications to the intitial content have been made," and so on. I mostly write in stolen fits and spurts given significant time constraints. So please forgive me sometimes sloppy after the fact updates, awkward grammatical constructs, spelling errors. As well as surreptitious 'updates'. The objective is not stealthful--it's just about saving time.

MORE: The pithiest man on the web (and I mean that as a compliment!) has more. He espies shades of gray amidst the Salafist groupings.


Posted by Gregory at December 28, 2004 06:08 AM
Comments

"What would you have done in 1890 if you had known the ruin this Bolshevik vanguard would bring? "

That's pretty simple - moved heaven and earth to avoid WWI. The Bolshevik revolution was the collapse of a backward society under the immense strain of industrialised war, just as the Chinese Revolution in 1949 was. But one would do that anyway, because WWI was a disaster for the whole human race in many ways, not just because of the Russian Revolution.

Likewise, Islamic fundamentalism poses only a small threat to Western society as long as our countries are in reasonable good health. Terrorists may kill many people (though most Western countries are much tougher targets now than they were a few years ago), but they will not overthrow Western society unless we weaken our societies to such an extent that they are easy targets (unless they get their hands on nukes, in which case all bets are off). It's basically impossible to overthrow a stable, prosperous Western society, except through nuclear blackmail. Though terrorist attacks get huge coverage, we mustn't lose sight of the fact that even in 2001, cigarettes or motor vehicles killed many times more Americans than terrorists did, and if you take the past decade, the discrepancy is huge. That is why American rhetoric, which concentrates on the terrorist threat above all others, appears hysterical to many Europeans.

Posted by: PJ at December 28, 2004 12:02 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

C'mon Greg, if we STILL need to convince the French and Germans (and EXPLAIN to them) the importance of the War on Terror after all the things that have happened over the last 3 years -- I have only 2 words: Hopeless cases

The only way they'll ever be convinced of the serious threat is when the islamic terrorists detonate a nuke in Paris or Berlin. Then and only then will they understand what the stakes are.

Greg: "All this said, it is almost beyond contempt how paltry French and German offers of aid have been with regard to Iraq."

Er, because they want us to fail? because they disagree with the Iraq war and want to teach the US a lesson... you need "allies" (France, Germany), you need the UN, going "unilateral" will always lead to failure...

Posted by: john marzan at December 28, 2004 01:03 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I believe you are conveinently overlooking, ignoring, or denying what is perhaps the biggest problem here.

Our policy under Bush has been "You are with us or against us", and by that he means - do what I say or you are our enemy.

When the French and Germans wanted more time to assess the Iraq connection to 9/11 and whether or not Saddam was still a viable threat, they were told they were irrevelant. When we addressed the UN, they were given information that most already knew was a fantasy, and Bush publicly stated that a vote of the Security Council was of the highest importance. When it became obvious that the vote wouldn't favor our view - we told the UN they were irrevelant. We invaded Iraq with a tiny handful of allies, and told the world that those who didn't fall in line were fools, traitors, or enemies.

Both President Bushs will be defined forever by a major lie. For Bush 41 it is "Read my lips - no new taxes" For Bush 43 it is "I'm a uniter - not a divider!"

Bush is a serial divider and clearly doesn't give a damn about those who are not in line to lick his boots. You can see this in full bloom as he renominates the 12-13 justices that the Dems fought to reject over the last four years - all of them. I'm guessing that this has never happened before in the history of this country. But, this is classic Bush "stick in the eye" diplomacy.

The world is watching. They see how Bush treats anyone in this country not on his side, and the world knows they will get no better.

I believe you'll have to wait another four years to see any real improvement because it is hard to bridge diplomatic gaps with those you simply don't trust. The world doesn't trust Bush, and Bush trusts nobody but Republicans.

Posted by: Mark-NC at December 28, 2004 02:11 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I agree Bush has been ham fisted in his diplomacy; after 8 years of locquacious Slick Willie, the American people misinterpreted Bush's terseness and syntax problems as integrity -- he didn't have the verbal talent to lie to us. They were wrong in considering this an endearing quality, and we are paying for it now. SDI was and is a military-industrial complex boondoggle. Making an issue of Kyoto after it was already defeated in the Senate 95-0 was the equivalent of kicking a dead skunk. But none of these errors justify the behavior of our French and German "allies" working vigorously to make sure as many American boys die as possible in Iraq to register their sense of pique. At the UN France could have said the following: "We vehemently oppose your analysis of the Iraqi situation, we will not support your efforts, but Americans are our friends, they have given thousands of lives for France, we agree that Saddam does not deserve anyone's sympathy either so we are going to abstain." Americans would have uniformly respected that decision. That is not what was done, and we should remember how the Europeans have treated us in our hour of need in all further relations with them.

Posted by: wayne at December 28, 2004 03:19 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

After rereading my last entry let me apologise for the run-on sentences -- thats what happens when you try to talk to a boring client on the phone and blog at the same time. Also to PJ above, I'd like to remind you of the much more likely existencial threat we face, no matter how inconvenient it is: bio/weapons from crop dusters, or just spewed around the Atlanta Airport, could put millions of Americans in their graves or, worse, in nursing homes for the rest of their lives. What would that do to our civilization? That threat was and is the primary justification for our war in Iraq, why I supported it then and why I support it now.

Posted by: wayne at December 28, 2004 03:43 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg, Greg, Greg, you miss define the situation again - thereby beginning your theis from a false premise - because you refuse to acknowledge American culpability.

First, Islam, even radical Islam, does not hate the US for its freedom, for its opulance, or even because of Hollywood. No, It hates the US because of its actions toward Muslims.

As Bin Laden said, if his attacks were based on hatred of freedom, he would attack Sweden.

Take Bin Laden at face value. He has explained why he attacks. This would be largely for the US support of Isreal, the US support of the Saudi and other oppressive Arabic regimes; regimes deemed unjust and unholy by Islamisists, US occupation of Holy lands, and various other instances of US imperialism in the ME. Iraq being the most recent and one of the most obvious cases.

Bin Laden does not want to destroy Western civilization (really, by what fantasy means could he?). That's fear inducing hyperbole to distract from true causes and solutions.

Bin Laden would be happy to stop at having the US out of the ME physically and politically.

This al qaeda terrorism is a US problem. It is not, for the most part, a European problem. Why should Europe jump on board and become targets for our sake, for our policy?

Invading Iraq was a policy with no clear pay-off, no clear plan, no clear raison d'etre and most likely a violation of international law as well as likely a precedent for US imperialism.

But Europe should have gone along just because......

Friends don't let friends drive drunk.

Posted by: avedis at December 28, 2004 03:45 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"bio/weapons from crop dusters, or just spewed around the Atlanta Airport, could put millions of Americans in their graves or, worse, in nursing homes for the rest of their lives. What would that do to our civilization? That threat was and is the primary justification for our war in Iraq, why I supported it then and why I support it now."

Wow, talk about starting from a false premise!

That is an impossible scenario in every way.

You cannot find a single bio-weapons expert who will argue for potential validity of that scenario.

Posted by: avedis at December 28, 2004 03:48 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Avedis,

In 2003 we had two options; either Saddam or sanctions would have been gone in two years. If we threw in the towel on sanctions, Saddam's meglomania, and checkbook, would have given Dr. Germ all the resources she needed to develop alot of very nasty stuff. Read David Kay's report, where he determined Saddam was a greater, not lesser threat than he thought prior to the war. What do you make of the Congo/Crimean Hemorragic Fever spores and samples they were experimenting with? These were threats that we, (and your "experts") would have been foolhardy to place in the hands of a man who dreamed of turning Tel Aviv into another Auschwitz, or New York into another Chernoble.

Posted by: wayne at December 28, 2004 04:37 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Wayne,

Do you have a link to that copy of the Kay report because the one I read told how Saddam was less of a threat than previously anticipated because his weapons systems were completely inactive, and he possessed no WMDs. Thanks.

As for UN sanctions, their demise was not a fait accompli, especially if the US made their continuation a matter of urgency. While difficult, that task would have been much easier than some we are attempting at this juncture.

Posted by: Eric Martin at December 28, 2004 04:59 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

During the cataclysmic war between the Christian West and the Islamic Turkish Empire in the 1500s, with many engagements on land and sea, including the great naval battle of Lepanto, the French, ever seeking advantages against their neighbors, sided with the Turks.

So Gaullism did not launch the French strategy that the economists call the "Free Rider" problem, i.e., benefitting from the efforts of others without bearing a share of the burden. The French go the economists one better: Their strategy seeks actively to undermine the strength of their protectors. French elite parasitism is of long standing, and is by now an inherent and predictable feature of French civilization.

As Wretchard said in a post a few weeks ago, our relationship with the French is solid and reliable - They'll always be there when they need us.

This does not in any way counter your call to improve our abysmal public diplomacy. We do have a problem, though: the "transmission belt" for whatever message we seek to send is not only broken, but is in the hands of our enemies. How do you fix that?

Posted by: T J Ready at December 28, 2004 05:08 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"When will responsible leaders in such countries realize that, whatever enjoyment they are deriving from America's travails in Iraq, it is manifestly not in their interests to see America flounder there?"

They realize it. But this is not the only thing they realize.

They also realize that Bush will only accept cooperation on servile terms. This might not be so bad if Bush had made good decisions on Iraq--but he does not. There might be some reason to cooperate if their cooperation would somehow modify Bush's terms--but Tony Blair has shown that it does not.

They also have electorates to face--electorates that, whether rational or not, do not want to feel like Bush's slaves.

Posted by: Joe S. at December 28, 2004 05:11 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Wayne, I think you're taking Kay out of context on that - I think, but am not certain so I will accept correction on that point if need be.

However, I am not aware that such spores as you mention were found in a bio weapons type setting or any other setting.

Do you have a citation for this type of WMD discovery post 9/11?

Saddam's meglomania......often cited by the pro-war crowd, but without evidence (e.g. war on Iran at the US' encouragement. Invasion of Kuwait more complicated in its origins that generally understood by the US public. Seen by Saddam - and many Iraqis - as an act of self-defense (see oil pricing, slant drilling, British drawing of borders, etc).

Otherwise, not much to go on vis a vis meglomania, especially post GW1. This combined with no fly zones, poorly equiped armed forces, etc.

"....threw in the towel on sanctions...." who advocated that? We had inspectors poaking around in every nook and cranny of the Iraq for months prior to the invasion. They found nothing despite the US claiming it knew what Saddam had and where he had it. Inspections could have continued.

I am not aware that Saddam had ambitions to turn NY into another Chernoble. Where does this assertion come from?

As for Tel Aviv....maybe. How were Saddam's designs for Isreal different than any other of the Muslim countries'. And maybe that fact points toward an entirely different paradigm for solving hostilities in the ME.

My point being that radical Islam does not want to destroy us or our way of life.

They want us out of Muslim politics and out of Muslim lands. They want us to stop backing Isreal regardless of what Isreal does.

Attacking and invading Iraq confirmed Islam's worst perceptions of us and no doubt has brought many moderates into he ranks of the radicals - polls show that this has in fact happened.

There were other options for handling Saddam that would have been better regarding our long term position in the region.

Posted by: avedis at December 28, 2004 05:13 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Eric,

Start here, this was the first Google of thousands I pulled up:

www.chron.com/cs/CDA/ssistory.mpl/special/iraq/2369886

Posted by: wayne at December 28, 2004 05:15 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Avedis,

Thanks for your calm demeanor this time. Let me address a few points:

Saddam's meglomania -- was it the act of a rational leader to have his intelligence service put a bomb under GHW Bush's car? to provide refuge for the bail jumpers from the 1993 WTC bombing? (6 Americans dead, dozens wounded, but for 50 meters and the grace of god Bin Ladin would have been upstaged) to provide abu nidal a villa?

Sanctions were working just fine? Yep, because we had 200,000 troops sitting in chem weapons suits in unair-conditioned tanks on the border -- leaving these men to make it through the 130 degree days of summer might have been a little too much to ask. No sincere analysis of the prewar situation can avoid the fact that sanctions were collapsing.

Posted by: wayne at December 28, 2004 05:26 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Wayne,

Thanks for the link, but that says what I said:

The bluntly worded conclusion by the chief American arms inspector in Iraq, David Kay, that Saddam Hussein "got rid" of his unconventional weapons long before the Iraq invasion last year underscores a point that has become clear to intelligence experts in the past few months: President Bush moved first, and most decisively, against a country that posed a smaller proliferation risk than North Korea, Libya and Iran, or even one of America's allies, Pakistan....

But the new information also shows that the National Intelligence Estimate, produced in 2002 by the CIA and other agencies, significantly overestimated Iraq's current abilities. The document provided the rationale for going to war quickly, without waiting for the U.N. Security Council to become convinced of the threat...

In a carefully worded assessment in his State of the Union address, [Bush] said Kay's group had found evidence of "WMD-related program activities," words drawn straight from Kay's interim report to Congress. But he avoided any mention of Kay's broader conclusions at the time, that Iraq had no active stockpiles of chemical or biological weapons, much less the chief inspector's more recent conclusion that it was highly unlikely that such stockpiles would ever be found.

Posted by: Eric Martin at December 28, 2004 05:28 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Also Wayne, this article in Foreign Affairs provides an interesting take on how effective sanctions were:

http://www.cfr.org/publication.php?id=6966

In short, sanctions and inspections were extremely effective at disarming Saddam and crippling his military capacity. There was some movement to erode certain elements of the sanctions regime, but the sanctions could have been maintained especially if the US threatened military action in their stead. In short, we could have made efforts to keep them in place, eliminate corruption, and "smarten" them to ease the burden on the citizenry.

Take this conclusion from the Duelfer Report:

"The former Regime had no formal written strategy or plan for the revival of WMD after sanctions. Neither was there an identifiable group of WMD policy makers or planners separate from Saddam. Instead, his lieutenants understood WMD revival was his goal from their long association with Saddam and his infrequent, but firm, verbal comments and directions to them."

Posted by: Eric Martin at December 28, 2004 05:40 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Eric,

Your Dowdification of the article is, unfortunately, typical of leftist argumentativeness these days. Kay report said, viewed in it's entirety, that Saddam's WMD programs were more, not less, dangerous than he thought when we were going into the war. That was the primary conclusion that he thought should be taken from his findings and the fact that was deliberately downplayed by the media.

Posted by: wayne at December 28, 2004 05:45 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Wayne,

You made a statement about Kay's report that is in contradiction to everything that I have seen Kay say himself, and every written account of his report. I asked for a link detailing Kay's views which you claim he holds. You provided a link which only confirmed my understanding. I quoted direct pasages from that article. I did not perform any "Dowdification" of the article, whatever that is supposed to mean.

I am sincerely interested in reading about what you claim are Kay's actual conclusions since they are unknown to me. I still would welcome a link which explains his position as you have made it out to be. However, if you provide another link to a story saying how Kay's conclusions were what I said they were, I can only quote those passages and make my request anew.

I eagerly await the provision of a link that will expand my understanding of David Kay's report. Thanks, and I apologize for any unintended argumentativeness, I am merely trying to dialogue with you in a constructive manner.

Posted by: Eric Martin at December 28, 2004 06:03 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

[Bin Laden] has explained why he attacks. This would be largely for the US support of Isreal, the US support of the Saudi and other oppressive Arabic regimes; regimes deemed unjust and unholy by Islamisists, US occupation of Holy lands...

I am always amazed that people can cite "the US support of the Saudi and other oppressive Arabic regimes" as if it were some sort of reasonable or mitigating factor in Bin Laden's rationale. Whenever Bin Laden's ideological ilk have gained control of a country, they put all those "unjust and unholy" former repressors to shame, in the name of justice and holiness (cf the Taliban).

Furthermore, US support of Saudi Arabia did not exist to prop up its oppressive, fanatical princes against the just wrath of the oppressed but even more oppressive and fanatical Islamists, but was meant to keep Saudi Arabia from being seized by the decidedly unholy Saddam Hussein.

Frankly, your explanation of Bin Laden's reasons amounts pretty much to "He leads a gang of religious nutz whose imperialistic designs on the Middle East -- with the destruction of Israel as a special project -- are being thwarted by the US." Pardon me if I do not feel our foreign policy requires re-evaluation, when seen in that light.

This al qaeda terrorism is a US problem. It is not, for the most part, a European problem. Why should Europe jump on board and become targets for our sake, for our policy?

Right. It's not like Al Qaeda sympathizers will be blowing up European train stations, or anything.

Posted by: Angie Schultz at December 28, 2004 06:09 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"First, Islam, even radical Islam, does not hate the US for its freedom, for its opulence, or even because of Hollywood. No, It hates the US because of its actions toward Muslims." avedis

This could not be more incorrect.

The current Salafist incarnation (Al Queda, et al.) is based, in large measure, upon the writings of Sayyid Qutb, a member of the Society of Muslim Brethren (Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood) who was hanged by the, then Egyptian Head of State, Gamal Abdul Nasser in 1966. In his book Signposts Qutb states: “Any society that is not Muslim is Jahiliyya [in a state of pre-Islamic barbarism]” p 98.

Gilles Kepel in Muslim Extremism in Egypt writes of Qutb’s premise “If it is true that contemporary society can be reduced to pre-Islamic Jahiliyya, of which it is no more than a sophisticated copy, then Muslim must view it just as the Prophet and his companions viewed their society.

The reason the Salafis wage jihad upon, currently, the West in the form of America, is that their commitment to the Prophet requires them to bring barbarian societies to worship Allah alone. It is no coincidence that the era they seek to re-create (the first 300 years after the Prophet) was the apex of Muslim military expansion against Jahiliyya.

Our actions are not the premise for Salafist jihad.

Posted by: DaveK at December 28, 2004 06:10 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

True, Bin Laden et. al. is opposed to Western ideals in principle. However, he plays to the mainstream by leveraging widely-held grievances in the Arab world, such as U.S. over-solicitousness toward Israel.

Posted by: praktike at December 28, 2004 07:06 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

".........The reason the Salafis wage jihad upon, currently, the West in the form of America, is that their commitment to the Prophet requires them to bring barbarian societies to worship Allah alone. It is no coincidence that the era they seek to re-create (the first 300 years after the Prophet) was the apex of Muslim military expansion against Jahiliyya......."

That is an opinion. An opinion that has little, if any, basis in evidence and fact.

It is also an opinion that is convenient to US ambitions and the strategies of the current administration.

That opinion, further, exonerates the US of any responsibility; again, very convenient.

And again, that opinion is wrong. Bin Laden - in his own perception and in the perception of comrades and followers - is engaged not in offensive jihad, but in a defensive jihad.

This is why he has only attacked those countries that have first impinged on the muslim world, starting with the Soviet Union after it attacked Afghanistan and then, after defeating the USSR, moving to target the US.

As for Angie's comment, I probably did not make myself clear. It is not oppressiveness per se that is the issue. It is injustice and straying from the path per Islamic law that is at issue; combined with alliance with infidels.

The Saudi royalty - by inviting the US onto its soil, making oil deals with the US that are short-term beneficial to the House of Saud, by notoriously whoring and boozing at locals worldwide while beheading citizens who engage in far more minor transgressions against Islamic law- has lost its legitimacy in the eyes of not only al Qaeda, but the majority of Arabs as well.

It is the oppression of Islamic law that is an issue.

Please point to an example of al qaeda attacking a country that did not first impinge on Islam and second, that failed to hede the warning that Islam would attack in defense.

Please point to an example of Islamic expansionism in the last 500 years. Please point to evidence of Islamic expansionism today.

Please explain how bin Laden - an intelligent, worldly, well educated man - could seriously believe that he could destroy America or somehow cause its population to convert to Islam; which seems to be what you suggest.

No, his stated goals seem to conform to his actions. HIs stated goals being the expulsion of the US from the ME, just as the USSR was expelled from Afghanistan.

There is no evidence to support your contentions and plenty to go against them.

Posted by: avedis at December 28, 2004 08:43 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Put differently, why haven't we better understood the ideological component of this struggle? Part of the reason, I suspect, is that we too easily assume that our caricature-like vision of Islam will hold no real appeal to right-thinking souls (unlike, say, what we feared might prove the overly tantalizing egalitarian utopias engendered in Marxist folkore--until such visions were unmasked to the world as more constitutive of an 'equality of poverty' than some bountiful paradise)."

I think at the very least, the Bush administration most certainly realizes the danger and attractiveness of the ideology in the Muslim world.

The problem is they've never been willing to risk naming the enemy for what it is, a strain of a major world religion, whose support is much more widespread than we acknowledge it.

That risk is total fear mongering and scaremongering within the media and world community at American bigotry and Crusader mentality.

Instead our leadership is forced to deny the extent of the enemy infrastructure within the Muslim world.

Posted by: Cutler at December 28, 2004 10:23 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The French and German leadership don't want us to win, it is that simple. They'd like to see nothing more than to see the Americans limp out of Iraq, its self confidence and prestige shattered.

"Saddam's meglomania......often cited by the pro-war crowd, but without evidence (e.g. war on Iran at the US' encouragement. Invasion of Kuwait more complicated in its origins that generally understood by the US public. Seen by Saddam - and many Iraqis - as an act of self-defense (see oil pricing, slant drilling, British drawing of borders, etc)."

-Quick to condemn the United States, but just as quick to apologize for Saddam Hussein.

No further comment needed.

Posted by: Cutler at December 28, 2004 10:44 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I probably did not make myself clear. It is not oppressiveness per se that is the issue. It is injustice and straying from the path per Islamic law that is at issue; combined with alliance with infidels.

No, you were pretty clear, although I'm glad to see that you're not trying to hide behind the Righteous Wrath of the People excuse. Essentially, you're saying that Al Qaeda (and associated groups) are larger, better-armed versions of the extremist Christian groups we have here -- the kind who believe that non-whites are subhuman "mud people" who need to be driven from the holy White Man's Land (i.e., the entire US).

No one takes these groups seriously, as far as their ideology is concerned. That is, people will ruminate on the "root causes" of such extremism, and usually conclude that "more education" is needed (oh, yeah, in the ZOG schools, like that's going to help). But no serious person suggests that the federal government retreat from Montana, or that Japanese automobile plants flee Tennessee in terror. One does not negotiate with crazies.

In fact, you have painted Islamists as nothing more or less than Nazis, but Nazis claiming some sort of religious justification. You'd think we'd be able to recognize them when we saw them again. (I am also amazed at the endless excuses people are prepared to make when fascism has a religious component -- even people who declare themselves indifferent or hostile to religion. "You don't understand -- they have to believe that. It's their religion.")

Posted by: Angie Schultz at December 28, 2004 11:25 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Avedis,

If Sayyid Qutb's are just opinion, then they are an opinion as germane and foundational to current Salafism as Hitler's Mein Kampf was to Nazisim.

I certainly respect your right to disagree. Presenting your viewpoint in a well reasoned and intellectually supported argument is essential to advancing your opinions. When you develop one, I’ll look forward to reading it.

Posted by: DaveK at December 28, 2004 11:28 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Angie, I don't have any idea what you're talking about. I certainly did not say nor imply any of those analogies.

DaveK and Cutler, It is well known that bin Laden, if he compares himself to anyone, takes Saladin as a role model.

Saladin was a jihadist hero that defended Islam against the crusaders of the second crusade.

Bin Laden himself has stated clearly in words and in action that he and his organization are, like Saladin, engaged in a defensive Jihad.

Misunderstanding the objective of Bin Laden will lead to catastrophic results. And you misunderstand.

It is encumbent on you to prove that there is an offensive aspect to this jihad. Again, why would Bin Laden believe that he could destroy or convert the entire world to Islam? It is encumbent on you to prove your assertion that al qaeda has primary roots in Salafism. I say you're wrong. In fact, I know you're wrong. Show me some scholarly articles as reference (emphasis on scholarly-not some yahoo's opinion piece).

When has Bin Laden ever attacked a country that did not first attack or otherwise threaten Islam?

As far as defending Saddam, I only do so to the extent that a defense of Saddam is also a defense of previous administrations' ME policy; a policy that seemed to me more effective than our current neocon pipe dream. The US, through assination and other means, essentially placed Saddam in power. This so Saddam could keep a diverse and potentially disruptive population out of the grasp of shi'ite fundementalists and other anti-US interests.

The US not only condoned, but supported with aid of conventioanl and non-conventional weapons, Saddam's war on Iran.

Stating that fact is not to condemn nor defend either Saddam or the US. It was the realpolitik of the times. To condemn Saddam for it, as you would do, is not only hypocrisey of the highest order, but ignorance of the realities of the region.

We are finding out now how difficult it is to make a cohesive US friendly country out of Iraq. Saddam played his role well.

At the end of the adventure we may end up with another Saddam by another name in Iraq. Or we may have handed the country to Iran......

Posted by: avedis at December 29, 2004 01:38 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Anyhow, Abizaid is a zombie. Someone pulled his string and the recorder is playing the approved message.

He demonstrates that he knows nothing of the Muslim world.

Greg Djerejian further demonstrates that he despises and fears Islam as he has posted a provocative piece designed to bring out the kill 'em all crazies.

Much better discusion over at Iglesias (which is linked to by Greg).

Posted by: avedis at December 29, 2004 02:30 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Angie, I don't have any idea what you're talking about. I certainly did not say nor imply any of those analogies.

Ah, sorry. I didn't mean to imply that you did. Let's try it again: the way you have described Bin Laden's ideas makes him seem indistinguishable from our own contemptible home-grown religious crazies, from the Nazis. You don't say that. I say that.

I do not believe you have misrepresented Bin Laden; you have described him accurately.

Posted by: Angie Schultz at December 29, 2004 04:16 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Angie, hardcore fundementalists are the same everywhere. Only the name of the cause is different.

Intolerant, uncompromising, and in the extreme, justifying horrendously inhumane acts.

Yet, a cornered threatened culture will act the same. Witness the US in WW2, firing bombing Dresden and Tokyo, using nuclear weapons on civilaian populations.

So how can we say that Islamic groups such as al qaeda are=nazis based soley on their actions as prima facia evidence when threatened cultures will react with similar measures against the perceived threat?

Bin Laden says Islam is threatened and enumerates how. He says his actions are a response to the threat.

He has no reason to lie. He is a wanted man regardless of what he says.

But the difference has meaning to us.

If Islam simply wants to take over the world then we have one response set.

If Islam is reacting to perceived threats then we have another possible response set.

That is why I believe that it is important to make a proper distinction.

Posted by: avedis at December 29, 2004 05:00 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

1. I don't think there is any ambiguity about the message here--whatever the various nations' chattering classes may say, it is perfectly apparent that the governments of, say, France and Germany are aware of the overall threat and are cooperating with the U.S. at the level of national police, international interdictions, etc., even though for what I think are obvious political reasons they are not cooperating overtly with troops or [much] Iraq aid.

2. At least one commenter has been wanting proof of Al Qaeda attacking a country that hadn't already "atttacked Islam." The excuse given is that "all" Bin Laden wanted is the U.S. out of the middle east. The problem with this reasoning is that the U.S.'s presence in the middle east can only be seen as an attack against Islam if there is something about America that is inherently offensive to Islam. Certainly our "presence" in the middle east was not a force to institute attacks on anybody. And America, chief among non-Islamic countries, is highly offensive to radical Islamic fundamentalists, from miniskirted women to blasphemous TV to general infidelism. The Muslim Brotherhood, from its founding in the 1950s, has advocated a new world-wide caliphate, and no sensible person can doubt that such views motivate many in the radical Islamic movements operating around the world today.

Posted by: John at December 29, 2004 05:26 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"...Certainly our "presence"......."

No it's not our presence per se it's our policy. Some people use the presence as meaning policy. Presence, like making yourself felt in a region.

Certainly Amsterdam has more vice than any single point in the US, but al qaeda does not attack there....

Anyhow, I am amazed at how ignorant so many people are of just what the US has and has not done in the ME in the past sixty years or so.

Just keep in mind Henry Kissinger's statement, "Middle Eatsern oil is of too important an interest to the Uninted States to be left to the Arabs".

That statement is a reflection of our policy. It always amazes me how foreigners know more about US foreign policy than do the people in whose name the policy is implemented. But, then again, the foreigners must live with the immediate ramifications of the policy and usually the short end of the stick.

If you knew more about what has been done in your name in the ME you might begin to have a clue as to why Bin Laden and his ilk would make a jihad against the US.

Not that this excuses his actions. It does not. He must be stopped.

However, understanding your enemy, knowing his motivations, is a precursor for victory and for establishing a lasting peace.

It's reassuring in some ways to believe that Bin Laden is just a deluded mad man. There is no responsibility on anyone's part.

However, he is not a simple mad man. Nor is Islam an inherently more violent religion that causes adherants to attack innocent peoples.

Again, Bin Laden is exactly what he says he is. He is a defender of Islam (his perception, not necessarily mine) against the imperialism, colonialism and general interference in Islamic lands by non-believers.

In the catagory of non-believers is also the Saudi royals and Saddam Hussein as well as the royals of other Gulf states.


Posted by: avedis at December 29, 2004 01:08 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

avedis, you are borderline delusional. Radical Islam is in a state of warfare virtually everywhere Muslim nations and territory border the non-Islamic world. Look at the Kashmir, at Indonesia, in Spain and Morocco. The list goes on. Sure, they have greivances, but most of these date backs hundreds of years.

And you can claim they merely wish to reclaim historically Islamic territory, but that is simply an affirmation of your opponents position--they kill because they wish the world were different than it is.

What's more, pointing at Holland and Sweden as potential targets if UBL were really hating freedom is too cute by half. First of all, these nations are already practically Islamic (okay, hyperbole alert) and more importantly, they could not threaten his plans if they wanted to.

Finally, UBL's hit list is topped by the House of Saud, as you concede. Our support for the Sauds is one of necessity, but that doesn't make the Sauds evil or their opponents somehow superior. Our presence in the Gulf has been largely a benign one, but we stand in the way of UBL's dreams. That's non-negotiable and he knows it as well as we do. He is left to foment discontent at that presence by playing into the hands of those, like you, who believe there are policy decisions we could make that would assuage him.

What would that buy us, really, except a few years for the Wahabbis to solidify their hold on Gulf oil? How long until a stronger radical Islam came for us because we don't stone homos?

Guys like me find your proclivity to blame America a little too convenient, largely because we've heard it all long before UBL ever fired his first AK.

Posted by: spongeworthy at December 29, 2004 09:58 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Sponge,
First, I am not blaming the US. I am simply stating that OBL is not attempting to spread Islam throughout the world.

He is attempting to defend Islam from what he - and many muslims see - as an attack by corrupting an non-Islamic influences.

And that attack is not about mini-skirts and hollywood. Much western culture is appreciated and enjoyed in Islamic countries, even Iran.

He decries the treatment of Palistinians by the US backed Isreali government. Similarly he had a problem with the Isreali occupation of Lebanon and the Russian occupation of Afghanistan.

He sees natural resources of Islamic countries being exploited by the US and other powers. He would hold back oil production and charge higher prices.

He saw Saddam, and sees the Sauds and the various kings and princes of the Emmirates as corrupt and oppressive (which they are by anyone's standards). He also sees them as tools of the US (which they pretty much are).

He sees the US' decade old plan to "democratize" the ME as an attack on Islam because the US is pushing for secularized democracy.

He sees the invasion of Iraq as further colonization of the ME by the US and as attack on Islam.

He is trying to drive the US out, not convert the US.

Bin Laden is a clever, intelligent, rational and educated man. He is an ideologue. He is not evil incarnate. He is not delusional. Therefore he is not attempting to do what he knows is impossible; to convert the world to Islam.

Yes, maybe the is some attempt at conversion on the fringes of the Islamic world, but that is normal for any religion or idealogy, including capitalism.

Bin Laden is not about blaming the US either. He has always been clear that he faults Muslims for problems in the Islamic world.

Bin Laden is about al qaeda. Al qaeda is first and foremost a military organization. It is a pan islamic military training and supply organization. The fighters and supplies are to be used anywhere in the Islamic world that Islam is under attack.

Like any military there are also special forces. Some of these are engaged in what we call terrorist activities. But these are not the bulk of al qaeda forces.

As for US involvement in Islamic realms being benign, it's you who is delusional now. Was Saddam Hussein benign? We put him there and we supplied and backed his war against Iran. I could list many malignant examples of US involvement, examples that would be deemed malignant by most objective observers.

However, there is also the matter of perceived malignancy, and here you can get into yet a larger list of events and circumstances perhaps less obviously malignant - the realm of shades of grey - to the objective observer, but certainly seen that way by al qaeda.

And I strongly resent you inferring that I am anti-American. I will put my patriotic credentials up against most anyone's.

And I believe that you too are concerned for your country. I am merely attempting to dispell some erroneous perceptions of al qaeda because one of the first rules of warfare is to know your enemy.

And I am not afraid to call reality for what it is, Too often Americans want a good versus evil comic book version of reality. In this view bin laden is a depraved psychotic with delusions of detroying western civilization. As I have said, this view is wrong. Give the devil his due. The man has a better sense of reality than many running our government.

Finally, there is nothing unpatriotic about noting one's country's moral and/or strategic failings. By admitting strategic mistakes we learn to be better. By admitting moral failings we can ensure that we come closer to achieving our highest values and associated aspirations.

Patriotism without honest self-evaluation is cheap, even the Nazis had that.

Sponge said, "How long until a stronger radical Islam came for us because we don't stone homos?"

And he calls me borderline delusional?

For the record, I would like to personally kill bin laden. Killing him won't do much to stop the al qaeda movement, though.

The US must develop a new set of policy options. Invading and attempting to spread democracy at the muzzle of a rifle should not be one of the options because that only confirms the fear that drives people into al qaeda's arms.

Backing Isreal regardless should not be an option either for the same reason. Ditto support of corrupt kings.


Posted by: avedis at December 30, 2004 02:24 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

oh yeah, one more thing spongey, your comment that Islam kills because the world is not as they'd like it to be.

Funny.

You really do wear some kind of mono-lense when looking out at the world.

All countries have killed because the world is not as they'd like it to be.

I'd put the US right up there near the top of the list in the twentieth century and looks like the 21st won't be much different at the rate things are going.

Take a look at the US involvement 1970s through 1980s south and central America.

Look at any number of brutal dictators the US has backed, including Saddam.

Vietnam?

Get real, kid.

Posted by: avedis at December 30, 2004 02:37 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Point being, if you're singling out Islamic groups like al qaeda because they kill to achieve their objectives, then you're not really pointing out anything unique. You're saying they're pretty average in their approach.

Posted by: avedis at December 30, 2004 02:42 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Avedis, you are really dense on this point, the US along with most of the world, including France,
Germany, India, Belgium et al; did tacitly support
Saddam, as a counter weight to Iran, but we didn't
make Saddamm do anything. His exposure to that
veteran of the' anti-British, anti- colonialist Rashid Ghailani, as Susan Watkins of the NLR, describes
him, uncle Adnan Khairallah, 'author of that classic
track, 'Flies, Pigs, Jews, & Kurds' or words to that
effect, had more than anything to do with it. As
for that old tale about the evils of American involvement in Latin America, spare me; how is
Max Hernandez in El Salvador, whose brutal reign
occurred during the Roosevelt administration, any
less reprehensible than the counter insurgency
campaign in the 80s. or Ubico, & Cabrera, in the
30s and the 188Os respectfully in Guatemala, or
the merry go round of goosestepping Prussian
wannabes in 30s and 40s era Argentina, or
Integralist Estado Novo Brazil(that includes Nazi war loot laundering Juan Peron, maybe that was where Evita's supposed largesse came from) It was the century of Prussian and later French counter
insurgency, that was more influential in the latter half of the 20th century's sad role in that region, than the US contribution with the school of the America's. Besides the fact, that the military had been put back in the barracks, just when Castro came into power, driving the left out of power
for a generation.

As to the earlier point. Wahhabi/Salafi/Hambali
Islam, hasn't been stamped out in Saudi, it's
been the only political and social currency. And in countries where it has been under siege, like Egypt, Algeria, et al; it has still been given room to grow. Something Bolshevism never benefited from,
that distinguishes it from the Green Menace. It is
true that WW 1 did nothing to hold the feudal czarist
state together, but the reality of a rampaging Prussian army, at your side, left few options. Ironically, it was the shortsided actions of the Narodniks and other anarchist bands, which prompted the backlash, that sundered any reform
efforts for a generation, the myopia of the last
Nicolai and Rasputin, did the rest. When the change
did come, the regime's power centers evolved rather than were shattered, as the Okrana (including its one time informant Stalin) and its
foreign branch, the Agentura, were folded into
the Cheka; much like two generations later, the
Savama, replaced the Savak, in the Islamic revolt
in Iran. to much more gruesome effect. with its
effects felt in Lebanon, the land of General Abizaid's
ancestors birth, whose imperfect attempt at democracy, was crushed with the help of Syria.
one of our other staunch Al Queda opponents, the
actions from which our brief attempts to forestall
were lessons first for Mr. Muqniyeh, the scion of
Najafi mullahs, and the godfather of the terrorism
we see in Iraq, and due course Bin Laden, and
Al Zawahiri.

Posted by: narciso at December 30, 2004 04:38 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Wow, Global history from the gamma quadrant via narciso.

The error of you ways is of such a magnitude that a response is barely worthwhile except for the feable hope that you may become marginally less ignorant.

As for South and Central America, I was referring to Alende/Pinochet (Chile) and the Contras and ........well just start by educating yourself with those two. We can go through the long list with time.

I really don't understand your attempt to justifying American involvement in atrocities by stating that such things had occurred previously (ie Max Hernandez in El Salvador, whose brutal reign occurred during the Roosevelt administration).

I guess people that listen to conservative anger radio think that liberals worship Roosevelt and perhaps you are, therefore, trying to draw his name into this in some sort of "liberal presidents are as dirty as conservative ones" moral equivalency excuse. I don't know because I don't get the allusion. At any rate, I'm an Independent and could care less about partisan hackery. Let the chips fall where they may.

As for Saddam, we put him in power through a CIA operation - historical fact.

We encouraged his war with Iran, supplying him with conventional weapons and non-conventional weapons (read WMD) - also historical fact. If Saddam is culpable in this regard, then so are we.

Oh, speaking of Iran, while you're out profiting from research ativities, look up US involvement in the last Sha's ascent to power and his brutal rule. Far from "benign".

Look it up. Do your homework

Posted by: avedis at December 30, 2004 10:56 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I'd like to see a credible link on your contention we supplied Saddam with unconventional weapons as well as WMD's. And spare me the garbage about agricultural exchanges of botulism spores.

For anyone who's interested, here a link spelling out the true purveyors of Saddam's conventional arsenal.

http://projects.sipri.se/armstrade/Trnd_Ind_IRQ_Imps_73-02.pdf

We just don't agree on UBL. I don't find your contentions re: Israel compelling at all as he rarely mentions the State and only recently at that. Far more frequent are his references to slights to Arab dignity and encroachements on historicall Islamis territory.

But rather than bicker over a batch of contradictory pronouncements, why don't you suggest what policies you would alter and how exactly you see it playing out from there. Spare me the "even-handedness re: Palestine" stuff, though. You have to know being even-handed isn't going to be enough if Israel is truly a big concern of UBL's.

And feel free to include exactly why these policy concessions you appear to advocate don't amount to Danegeld and how this wouldn't embolden Islamic terrorists to further attacks.

I'm not buying what you're selling, but my mind is open. Convince me.

Posted by: spongeworthy at December 30, 2004 04:36 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

So how can we say that Islamic groups such as al qaeda are=nazis based soley on their actions...

Not their actions -- their ideals. (Though their actions are not exactly endearing either.)

As for Saddam, we put him in power through a CIA operation - historical fact.

Well, now we know we can safely ignore anything else you say. Why didn't you just say this in the first place? I wouldn't have wasted so many precious seconds of my life on you.

Posted by: Angie Schultz at December 30, 2004 06:29 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Sponge,

You said:

"Spare me the "even-handedness re: Palestine" stuff, though. You have to know being even-handed isn't going to be enough if Israel is truly a big concern of UBL's."

The point is, that we need to repair our image in the region, and minimize the appeal of Bin Laden. Bin Laden is primarily a propagandist (aside from his logistical role in al-Qaeda). He is seeking to win converts to his brand of Islam from within the Muslim world. In order to achieve this end, he uses examples of American aggression against the Muslim world and exploitation of its resources. These are not hard to find. Whether or not we aided in Saddam's rise to power, there is no doubt that we provided him with money and arms throughout the 80's. But there are more examples of funding corrupt, brutal and repressive regimes.

In the 1950's, the CIA engineered a coup in Iran that toppled a democratically elected president (Mossadegh) and imposed a dictator (the Shah). This is actually a documented fact thanks to the availability of declassified documents obtained through FOIA requests. Few unbiased historians dispute this. Much of the anger over this regrettable chapter in US foreign policy fueled the events of 1979 in Iran. Other examples abound.

You are right to point out that Bin Laden would likely not be satisfied with any balance we brought to the table vis a vis Israel, but the point is not satisfying Bin Laden necessarily. What we should be trying to do is weakening his case and isolating him within the Muslim world. We will never prevail in this struggle unless we can appeal to more Muslims than he can, unless we can minimize his importance and support and let his movement wither on the vine.

One of the ways, not the only way, but one of the ways to accomplish this is to reassess the impact our foreign policy has had on the mindset of the average Muslim and attempting to make adjustments accordingly. For most of the century our only concerns have been maintaining an ample supply of affordable oil, and being an unequivocal and always uncriticial ally of Israel.

There is room for improvement on these fronts. Note: I am not advocating abandoning Israel, that is ludicrous, but it is equally ludicrous to suggest that Israel is infallible, but if you witnessed our actions from the outside, that would appear to be our position.

Therefore, our even handedness would not be designed to cater to Bin Laden, but to win hearts and minds amongst people who have at least some justification for their suspicion and mistrust of our policies and motives.

Posted by: Eric Martin at December 30, 2004 08:39 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Angie, "Well, now we know we can safely ignore anything else you say. Why didn't you just say this in the first place? I wouldn't have wasted so many precious seconds of my life on you."

Why, you don't like discussing with people who deal in facts?

Sponge, unfortunately, much of what I would suggest as potentially useful pocily is what could have been; it's too late for some of it.

First, Bin Laden and al qaeda remain a deadly threat. There is about a 90% correlation with what he says and what he does. Thus I take him at his word that there will be a devastating attack in the US in the near future.

We should have gone into Afghanistan with massive and overwhelming US force 150,000 to 200,000 troops. We should have sealed all borders and we should have killed the Taleban and al qaeda to a man.

Relying on afghanis to be the anvil to our hammer was stupid and a failure (see Tora Bora, etc.)

Concentrating on capturing cities was a useless strategy that has given us negative returns. Elections are moot. Karzai is effectively the mayor of Kabul and a tentative one at that.

The bad guys are loose in the countryside and across the border, waiting to return to power; which they will. Afghanistan will once again become a base of power and operations.

The citizens of the US must be made to realize that sacrifices are necessary. We must tax and raise sufficient monies to acquire the men/women and materiel to fight effectively.

Next, we should not have invaded Iraq. Inspections would have been fine. The invasion accomplished nothing other than swelling the ranks of al qaeda. The invasion confirmed for many muslims the words of OBL.

Next we should condemn certain actions of Isreal (as they are condemnable) and move strongly and certainly for a Palistinian state.

We should condemn the regimes of Saudi and the emirates.

Essentially we are in a war for the hearts and minds of the Islamic people. Bin Laden now carries an appeal for many. We must undermine that appeal by acting fairly and justly.

We should publicly repent our past mistakes in the region.

Publicly denounce colonialism.

Simultaneously we must kill jihadis and kill more jihadis.

It is a delicate balancing act, however, I believe it can be done - or could have been without the invasion of Iraq (which burned all our post 9/11 political capital).

Posted by: avedis at December 30, 2004 08:43 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Sponge,

For a look at the US dealings in bio and chem agents with Saddam, check out this post which quotes from a WaPo article:

http://tianews.blogspot.com/2004/07/do-you-remember-when.html

Some relevant excerpts from the article:

The story of U.S. involvement with Saddam Hussein in the years before his 1990 attack on Kuwait -- which included large-scale intelligence sharing, supply of cluster bombs through a Chilean front company, and facilitating Iraq's acquisition of chemical and biological precursors -- is a topical example of the underside of U.S. foreign policy.

A review of thousands of declassified government documents and interviews with former policymakers shows that U.S. intelligence and logistical support played a crucial role in shoring up Iraqi defenses against the "human wave" attacks by suicidal Iranian troops. The administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush authorized the sale to Iraq of numerous items that had both military and civilian applications, including poisonous chemicals and deadly biological viruses, such as anthrax and bubonic plague....

When United Nations weapons inspectors were allowed into Iraq after the 1991 Gulf War, they compiled long lists of chemicals, missile components, and computers from American suppliers, including such household names as Union Carbide and Honeywell, which were being used for military purposes.

A 1994 investigation by the Senate Banking Committee turned up dozens of biological agents shipped to Iraq during the mid-'80s under license from the Commerce Department, including various strains of anthrax, subsequently identified by the Pentagon as a key component of the Iraqi biological warfare program. The Commerce Department also approved the export of insecticides to Iraq, despite widespread suspicions that they were being used for chemical warfare...

Although U.S. arms manufacturers were not as deeply involved as German or British companies in selling weaponry to Iraq, the Reagan administration effectively turned a blind eye to the export of "dual use" items such as chemical precursors and steel tubes that can have military and civilian applications. According to several former officials, the State and Commerce departments promoted trade in such items as a way to boost U.S. exports and acquire political leverage over Hussein.

Posted by: Eric Martin at December 30, 2004 08:49 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I read the piece at the time and debunked virtually all of it. The strategic help they refer to is satellite images we forwarded to Saddam. BFD. The anthrax was part of an agricultural exchange--the stuff was everywhere at the time. The poisonous chemicals they refer to are agricultural pesticides. It goes on and on. I will state this as one who has researched this extensively--the U.S. can by no means be considered a major or even minor supplier of non-conventional arms to Saddam. It never happened. You can see for yourself from the link I provided what portion of conventional arms we supplied Iraq. The piece is crap.

We were wrong to support the Shah as long as we did, but whether supporting him in the first place was a mistake we'll never know. The idea of a Soviet client in the Gulf seems a bit more benign to us now than it did then, and who knows how things would have turned out. That said, didn't Jimmy Carter already apologize for this?

UBL recruits from a pool of disenfranchised underemployed misogynists. We can get on our knees and beg their forgiveness but we cannot change who we are. We will always make videos for MTV that frighten these guys. We will have gay men and women in prominent positions in our culture. And we will buy their oil at prices manipulated by their oppressive rulers.

And because of this these people will always be susceptible to an appeal to some rallying cry framed in their religion. Sucking up to UBL won't change that. What will change that is a liberalization of the region which it appears will not go quietly.

Some of us prefer to address the real cause of Isalmic backwardness, which is the proclivity of their leaders, both "legitimate" and otherwise, to use their religion to manipulate their people and remain in power. And we choose to do this on our feet rather than on our knees. Disagree as we might about the motives of UBL and his followers, there is no longer time for debate on how we address it.

Yes, I'd like a better image in the Arab world, but if it means we change and they stay backward, forget it.

Posted by: spongeworthy at December 30, 2004 09:34 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Sponge,

You missed my point entirely. I was not saying we should suck up to Bin Laden. Quite the contrary, I said we probably wouldn't make headway with him. We should, however, seek to marginalize him and one of the ways to do this is to reassess the impact of our policies. That is common sense, not some radical abandonment of our values.

I will never get on my knees for Bin Laden. The suggestion is just sloganeering.

Posted by: Eric Martin at December 30, 2004 09:58 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Yeah Sponge, I researched the US lunar landings and my research tells me they were fake; made in a NASA screen set.

But seriously, I guess people will believe whatever they want to believe regardless of what evidence is laid before them.

No doubt the photo of a smiling Don Rumsfeld shaking Saddam's hand during the Iran/Iraq war was to congratulate Saddam on his most excellent argricultural pesticide dispersal campaign. Rumsfeld has always been a proponent of bumber grain crops.

"UBL recruits from a pool of disenfranchised underemployed misogynists."

Wrong again, spongey. You've got to get past that ideology. Mysoginists? Certainly. The rest is BS. He recruits from Muslims that perceive Islam under attack. They come from all walks of life and all socio-economic levels.

As Eric noted, nobody suggests bowing before OBL, or even apologizing to him. The idea is to undermine his recruitment base by taking a true new policy direction in the ME; a policy direction that addresses past wrongs and moves forward in a manner that truly projects the best of what the US has to offer while being respectful of Islamic culture and perception.

Posted by: avedis at December 30, 2004 10:48 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

OK, glad to see Avedis has shown his spots. "If it werent' for those troublesome JEWS!"

Gee, I recall Bin Laden bombing the CRAP out of our embassies while CLINTON was trying to secure a peace deal with Israel and the Palestinians.

Bin Laden is interested in being the new Caliph. Period. He is also, as Avedis points out, intelligent. But then so was Hitler. Both Bin Laden and Hitler were warped and skewed by their shared hatred of Jews, Modernity, and significantly, America.

Bin Laden and Al Queda would attack us, with signficantly bigger casualties, even if the Left had it's dream fulfilled and Hitler had killed every Jew (see! no more troublesome jews to disturb the Muslims! Peace EVERYWHERE!) The average Muslim in Egypt, Iraq, Iran, and Pakistan is not personally impacted by the State of Israel existing and Jews living in the Middle East. Instead the pals of Avedis recycle the blood libels of the Protocols of Zion. Iranian TV has a "miniseries" describing how Israelis steal poor Palestinian organs to keep evil Jews alive. Not to be outdone, Saudi newspapers are alleging that the US is in Iraq to steal organs from poor Iraqis. Wow.

There is something radically wrong in Islamic societies, wrong like Freikorps wrong in Weimar; wrong like Hitler's beerhall putsch. Bin Laden is the biggest sypmtom, but he's not the only one. Anti-Semitism is the canary in the coal mine, and it spews out like sewage on Islamic TV and media. I'm not surprised Avedis solution is to throw the Jews/Israelis over the side first in hoping to appease the crocodile. [Note: I am not Jewish, I do however oppose anti-semitism unreservedly]

This is the big problem with the folks like Avedis (I've heard much of this argued on the Left). If we just let Bin Laden go kill the Jews (and leave the Middle East), he'll leave us alone as he has no beef with America. The technical term for this is willful stupidity.

Bin Laden himself has said that Democracy is sinful, as no set of laws devised by man can or should supplant the divine law revealed to the faithful by the Prophet (peace be upon him). He has also said that it is the duty of EVERY MUSLIM to engage in jihad, worldwide. Among other things, he wants the recovery of Al-Andulus. Yes, Spain, as it used to Muslim lands. Include most of the Balkans, up to Southern Poland. Eventually, America. Al Queda is involved in terrorist actions in Thailand, Indonesia, Phillipines, Maylasia, and XianXing Province in China, none of whom have any involvement with Iraq or the US in the Middle East.

Does Bin Laden think he can overthrow us? Of course. He thinks he defeated the Soviet Union and caused it's collapse, so why not the US (he's wrong of course). By his lights the US is even more sinful and corrupt than the Soviets, BECAUSE of our Democracy and commitment to toleration and human rights. He thought the collapse of the WTC would cause America's collapse, was disappointed when it did not, and doubtless plans a nuclear attack to make that happen. He's certainly steadily increased the scope and lethality of attacks. He's reasonably informed of current events, but has the typical sheltered Islamist views of America, not understanding it's real strengths and weaknesses.

Islamic societies are very sick, and will be in conflict with America because of this just as it was inevitable that Hitler's Germany and FDR's America went to war. Islamic societies can't approve of democracy and human rights, since that conflicts with Sharia, and the unchanged Islamic society (imagine Christendom stuck in say 1100 AD and you get the idea). The treatment of women, children, minorities, etc. is fundamentally incompatible with modernity; as is their goals for society. As long as America remains the beacon of freedom, democracy, social mobility, and human rights, we will be in conflict with OBL and people like him regardless of Jews existing in Israel or not.

Ultimately Arab and Muslim countries need their own Ataturks, we can't provide that for them, merely assistance to reformers who wish to make Islamic countries into modern countries like Japan, South Korea, or China.

Posted by: Jim Rockford at December 31, 2004 07:53 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"WMD-related program activities"

Why does this always remind me of "artificial processed cheese food product"?

Cheese. Ummm.

Posted by: J Thomas at January 4, 2005 04:33 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

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Posted by: David at January 6, 2005 11:31 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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