Last Build Date: Wed, 22 Mar 2006 21:49:56 -0600Copyright: Copyright 2007
Wed, 22 Mar 2006 21:49:56 -0600
Other indications point to the centrality of the Middle East. and Gulf states. Iraq is mentioned by name 57 times, while China is named just 28 times and Russia 17 The most dangerous state? "We may face no greater challenge from a single country than from Iran," asserts the report. And the Syrian regime, which "has chosen to be an enemy of freedom, justice, and peace," will be held to account.
This focus on the Middle East makes sense, given the region's many urgent threats to America Unfortunately, the NSS then insists on a rosy-tinted outlook, either understating the region's problems or approaching them too optimistically.
Circumstances in Iraq are presented as a mere challenge to be overcome. "We will work with the freely elected, democratic government of Iraq - our new partner in the War on Terror - to consolidate and expand freedom, and to build security and lasting stability" - as though the specter of civil war were not looming.
That "every time an American goes to a gas station," as Gal Luft puts it," he is sending money to America's enemies," is a rude problem absent from the NSS, other than a vague acknowledgment that "oil revenues fund activities that destabilize [the producers'] regions or advance violent ideologies."
The report minimizes the threat of radical Islam via the fiction that a "proud religion" has been "twisted and made to serve an evil." Not so: Islamism is a deeply grounded and widely popular version of Islam, as shown by election results from Afghanistan to Algeria. Reliable opinion polls are lacking from majority-Muslim countries but repeated surveys in Britain give some idea of the harrowingly extremist attitudes of its Muslim population: 5 % of them support the July 7, 2005, terrorist attacks in London and say more such attacks are justified; 20% have sympathy with the feelings and motives of the July 7 attackers and believe that suicide attacks against the military in Britain can be justified. These results are probably typical of Muslim populations globally, as recent polls of Indonesians and Palestinian Arabs confirms.
The NSS omits any mention of Turkey and Bangladesh and it refers to Saudi Arabia only in passing, suggesting that the Islamist leadership in these states poses no particular concern. The administration's grievous error in helping a terrorist organization, Hamas, reach power in January 2006 is glossed over with soothing words ("The opportunity for peace and statehood ... is open if Hamas will abandon its terrorist roots and change its relationship with Israel").
Thus does the NSS accurately reflect the yin and yang of the Bush administration's Middle East policy: a much-needed, relentless focus on the region's sick political culture and the threats it poses to Americans, mixed with an insouciance that current policies are just fine, thank you, everything is on track, and problems - Iraq, terrorism, and the Arab-Israeli conflict in particular - will soon enough be resolved.
Significantly, only the Iranian drive for nuclear weapons does not inspire that glow of confidence. Here, the administration is frankly worried ( "if confrontation is to be avoided," states the NSS, diplomatic efforts must succeed in convincing Tehran to restrict its nuclear program to peaceful purposes). This observer wishes that comparable doubts accompanied other American policies in the region.
Tue, 14 Mar 2006 14:57:59 -0600Until his would-be murderous rampage, Mr. Taheri-azar, a philosophy and psychology major, had a seemingly normal existence and promising future. In high school, he had been student council president and a member of the National Honor Society. The Los Angeles Times writes that a number of UNC students found him "a serious student, shy but friendly." One fellow student, Brian Copeland, "was impressed with his knowledge of classical Western thought," adding, "He was kind and gentle, rather than aggressive and violent." The university chancellor, James Moeser, called him a good student, if "totally a loner, introverted and into himself." In fact, no one who knew him said a bad word about him, which is important, for it signals that he is not some low-life, not homicidal, not psychotic, but a conscientious student and amiable person. Which raises the obvious question: Why would a regular person try to kill a random assortment of students? Mr. Taheri-azar's post-arrest remarks offer some clues. * He told the 911 dispatcher that he wanted to "punish the government of the United States for their actions around the world." * He explained to a detective that "people all over the world are being killed in war and now it is the people in the United States' turn to be killed." * He said he acted to "avenge the deaths of Muslims around the world." * He portrayed his actions as "an eye for an eye." * A police affidavit notes that "Taheri-azar repeatedly said that the United States government had been killing his people across the sea and that he decided to attack." * He told a judge, "I'm thankful you're here to give me this trial and to learn more about the will of Allah." In brief, Mr. Taheri-azar represents the ultimate Islamist nightmare: a seemingly well-adjusted Muslim whose religion inspires him, out of the blue, to murder non-Muslims. Mr. Taheri-azar acknowledged planning his jihad for more than two years, or during his university sojourn. It's not hard to imagine how his ideas developed, given the coherence of Islamist ideology, its immense reach (including a Muslim Student Association at UNC), and its resonance among many Muslims. Were Mr. Taheri-azar unique in his surreptitious adoption of radical Islam, one could ignore his case, but he fits into a widespread pattern of Muslims who lead quiet lives before turning to terrorism. Their number includes the hijackers responsible for the attacks of September 11, the London transport bombers, and the Intel engineer arrested before he could join the Taliban in Afghanistan, Maher Hawash. A Saudi living in Houston, Mohammed Ali Alayed, fit the pattern because he stabbed and murdered a Jewish man, Ariel Sellouk, who was his one-time friend. So do some converts to Islam; who suspected a 38-year-old Belgian woman, Muriel Degauque, would turn up in Iraq as a suicide bomber throwing herself against an American military base? This is what I have dubbed the Sudden Jihad Syndrome, whereby normal-appearing Muslims abruptly become violent. It has the awful but legitimate consequence of casting suspicion on all Muslims. Who knows whence the next jihadi? How can one be confident a law-abiding Muslim will not suddenly erupt in a homicidal rage? Yes, of course, their numbers are very small, but they are disproportionately much higher than among non-Muslims. This syndrome helps explain the fear of Islam and mistrust of Muslims that polls have shown on the rise since September 11, 2001. The Muslim response of denouncing these views as bias, as the "new anti-Semitism," or "Islamophobia" is as baseless as accusing anti-Nazis of "Germanophobia" or anti-Communists of "Russophobia." Instead of presenting themselves as victims, Muslims should address this fear by developing a moderate, modern, and good-neighborly version of Islam that rejects radical Islam, jihad, and the subordination of "infidels."[...]
Wed, 01 Mar 2006 16:15:37 -0600
That said, Iraq's plight is neither a coalition responsibility nor a particular danger to the West.
When Washington and its allies toppled the hideous regime of Saddam Hussein, which endangered the outside world by beginning two wars of expansion, by building a WMD arsenal, and by aspiring to control the trade in oil and gas, they bestowed a historic benefit on Iraqis, a population that had been wantonly oppressed by the Stalinist dictator.
Unsurprisingly, his regime quickly fell to outside attack, proving to be the "cakewalk" that many analysts, including myself, had expected. That six-week victory remains a glory of American foreign policy and of the coalition forces. It also represents a personal achievement for President Bush, who made the key decisions.
But the president decided that this mission was not enough. Dazzled by the examples of post-World War II Germany and Japan – whose transformations in retrospect increasingly appear to have been one-time achievements – he committed troops in the pursuit of creating a "free and democratic Iraq." This noble aim was inspired by the best of America's idealism.
But nobility of purpose did not suffice for rehabilitating Iraq, as I predicted already in April 2003. Iraqis, a predominantly Muslim population newly liberated from their totalitarian dungeon, were disinclined to follow the American example; for their part, the American people lacked a deep interest in the welfare of Iraq. This combination of forces guarantees the coalition cannot impose its will on 26 million Iraqis.
It also implies the need for a lowering of coalition goals. I cheer the goal of a "free and democratic Iraq," but the time has come to acknowledge that the coalition's achievement will be limited to destroying tyranny, not sponsoring its replacement. There is nothing ignoble about this limited achievement, which remains a landmark of international sanitation. It would be especially unfortunate if aiming too high spoils that attainment and thereby renders future interventions less likely. The benefits of eliminating Saddam's rule must not be forgotten in the distress of not creating a successful new Iraq.
Fixing Iraq is neither the coalition's responsibility nor its burden. The damage done by Saddam will take many years to repair. Americans, Britons, and others cannot be tasked with resolving Sunni-Shiite differences, an abiding Iraqi problem that only Iraqis themselves can address.
The eruption of civil war in Iraq would have many implications for the West. It would likely:
* Invite Syrian and Iranian participation, hastening the possibility of an American confrontation with those two states, with which tensions are already high.
* Terminate the dream of Iraq serving as a model for other Middle Eastern countries, thus delaying the push toward elections. This will have the effect of keeping Islamists from being legitimated by the popular vote, as Hamas was just a month ago.
* Reduce coalition casualties in Iraq. As noted by the Philadelphia Inquirer, "Rather than killing American soldiers, the insurgents and foreign fighters are more focused on creating civil strife that could destabilize Iraq's political process and possibly lead to outright ethnic and religious war."
* Reduce Western casualties outside Iraq. A professor at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School, Vali Nasr, notes: "Just when it looked as if Muslims across the region were putting aside their differences to unite in protest against the Danish cartoons, the attack showed that Islamic sectarianism remains the greatest challenge to peace." Put differently, when Sunni terrorists target Shiites and vice-versa, non-Muslims are less likely to be hurt.
Civil war in Iraq, in short, would be a humanitarian tragedy but not a strategic one.
Thu, 16 Feb 2006 08:05:37 -0600* Trade: Boycotts now exist in both directions. Even as the U.S. government sanctions Iranian products, Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says his government will "revise and cancel economic contracts" with countries where newspapers published the cartoons. Several Muslim countries have suspended trade with Denmark, while Muslim-owned stores in Canada have removed Danish products. The Pakistani medical association even announced a boycott of medicines from five European countries. * Consumer items: Muslims are increasingly replacing Western consumer items with their own. They purchase the extremely modest Fulla and Razanne dolls rather than the busty Barbie. In France, Beurger King provides halal food, competing with Burger King, just as Mecca Cola takes the place of Coke and Pepsi. Al-Jazeera is starting an English-language channel to go up against CNN and the BBC. * Financial investments: As a result of freezes on funds and the designation of terrorist entities, Muslims have moved large amounts of capital out of the West and invested these either in their own countries or in other places around the world, such as East Asia. Middle Eastern oil exporters before 9/11 annually put as much as $25 billion into American investments; since then, the amount is about $1 billion a year. * Emigration: 9/11 caused a significant increase in obstacles to Muslims traveling to the West, so fewer Muslim business executives, students, hospital patients, conference goers, and workers are reaching there. * Tourism: Islamist atrocities such as the murder of 60 Japanese, German, and Swiss tourists in Luxor in 1997 or the abduction of 32 German and other travelers in the Sahara in 2003 had already led some Westerners to avoid discretionary travel in the Muslim world. Cartoon-related violence has prompted a Danish advisory warning citizens against travel to fourteen Muslim countries. Scandinavian tourist companies have cancelled many tours to North Africa. *Foreign aid: Muslim aggression against aid workers in Indonesia, Lebanon, Pakistan, and the Palestinian Authority have led to the partial or complete withdrawal of European missions. In Chechnya, the Danish aid mission was expelled and the Iraqi transport ministry has rejected any future offers of Danish reconstruction money. * Embassies: From the seizure of the American embassy in Tehran in 1979 to the multiple attacks on Danish and other European embassies this month, the assault on Western diplomatic missions in Muslim countries is causing them to take on the features of armed fortresses, to be removed from the center of towns to the peripheries, and in some cases to be closed down. * Westerners providing services: Zayed University in Dubai fired an American professor, Claudi Keepoz, for distributing the Muhammad cartoons to her students. Rampaging Palestinian Arabs caused the foreign observers staffing the Temporary International Presence in Hebron, or TIPH, to flee Hebron. These developments suggest what the prime minister of Malaysia, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, has called a "huge chasm" between the Muslim world and the West. Or, in the more bellicose wording of the influential Sunni imam Youssef al-Qaradawi, "We must tell Europeans, we can live without you. But you cannot live without us." Should the chasm widen, with its concomitant lessening of human interaction, commercial relations, and diplomatic engagement, the Muslim world will likely fall further behind than it already has. As I wrote in 2000, "Whatever index one employs, Muslims can be found clustering toward the bottom – whether measured in terms of their military prowess, political stability, economic development, corruption, human rights, health, longevity, or literacy." Disengagement will only worsen the Muslim predicament. Reduced contact with the world's most modern, powerful, and advanced countries would likely cause Muslims to do even worse in those indexes and lapse deeper into a condition characterized by self-pity, jealous[...]
Tue, 14 Feb 2006 15:30:13 -0600How did the U.S. government perceive Islam as a political force in the old days? For an answer, I propose a look at a "confidential" 76-page study (declassified in 1979) published sixty years ago tomorrow by the Military Intelligence Service of the U.S. War Department. The 1946 report, which I have posted online in pdf format (warning: it is a large document that may be slow to load), is the inaugural issue of a series of weekly reports titled simply Intelligence Review. This series presents "current intelligence reflecting the outstanding developments of military interest in the fields of politics, economics, sociology, the technical sciences, and, of course, military affairs." Chapter headings in this first issue include: "Transition of Major Powers to Peacetime Military Systems," "Manchuria: Soviet or Chinese Sphere?" and "Wheat: Key to the World's Food Supply." Of particular interest is an 11-page chapter that deals with "Islam: A Threat to World Stability." It opens with some bleak observations: With few exceptions, the states [in the Muslim world] are marked by poverty, ignorance, and stagnation. It is full of discontent and frustration, yet alive with consciousness of its inferiority and with determination to achieve some kind of betterment. Two basic urges meet head-on in this area, and conflict is inherent in this collision of interests. These urges reveal themselves in the daily news accounts of killings and terrorism, of pressure groups in opposition, and of raw nationalism and naked expansionism masquerading as diplomatic maneuvers. The report then explains these two urges and rightly begins by focusing on the long shadow of the premodern period. The first of these urges originates within the Moslems' own sphere. The Moslems remember the power with which once they not only ruled their own domains but also overpowered half of Europe, yet they are painfully aware of their present economic, cultural and military impoverishment. Thus a terrific internal pressure is building up in their collective thinking. The Moslems intend, by any means possible, to regain political independence and to reap the profits of their own resources. … The area, in short, has an inferiority complex, and its activities are thus as unpredictable as those of any individual so motivated. Looking at Muslims in psychological terms is characteristic of that era, when social scientists frequently viewed politics through the prism of individual behavior. (For a famous example of such an analysis, see Ruth Benedict's 1946 study, The Chrysanthemum and the Sword: Patterns of Japanese Culture, which argued that the Japanese national character is formed in part by stringent toilet training techniques.) The other fundamental urge originates externally. The world's great and near-great Powers cover the economic riches of the Moslem area and are also mindful of the strategic locations of some of the domains. Their actions are also difficult to predict, because each of these powers sees itself in the position of the customer who wants to do his shopping in a hurry because he happens to know the store is going to be robbed. In an atmosphere so sated with the inflammable gases of distrust and ambition, the slightest spark could lead to an explosion which might implicate every country committed to the maintenance of world peace. The introduction concludes with a justification for the present analysis: "An understanding of the Moslem world and of the stresses and forces operative within it is thus an essential part of the basic intelligence framework." The chapter proceeds with a one-page sketch of Muslim history that includes this observation: "At the present time there are no strong Moslem states. The leadership of the Moslem world remains in the Middle East, particularly in Arabia." Given the backwardness of Arabia in 1946, this statement was either very ill-informed or very prescient. The bulk of the chapter lo[...]