nimh on another thread had wondered about the causes or "Roots" of terrorism:
"...But where does its sudden increase in financial and human support come from, this last decade? What fuels the radical Islamist movement, in general? If you dont tackle the root causes, whether they be poverty, injured pride, Palestine, name it, and focus solely on military clampdowns, you risk the thing about, err, slamming the bubble under the carpet. Everytime you slam it, it props up somewhere else." .
This question intrigued me to the point where I felt compelled to do a little research about the subject. I would like to share my findings and perhaps some thoughts of my own. I would like to apologize for its length but I kept finding more material and in reality this short dissertation of 9 or so pages (You have been fore-warned) still just skims the subject. I would invite you to read the text, criticize, and comment honestly if you are so inclined.
Naturally, the first step in solving a problem is its definition. Because this is a complicated subject I am going to try to limit my discussion to Terrorism of Middle Eastern origins. However at this point I would like to acknowledge the feelings of devout Muslims that published a strong condemnation against all forms of terrorism and feel that the term "Islamic Terror" is misleading and inflammatory.
Author of article cited below, Harun Yahya wrote:
"You who believe! Enter absolutely into peace (Islam). Do not follow in the footsteps of Satan. He is an outright enemy to you.
The values of the Qur'an hold a Muslim responsible for treating all people, whether Muslim or non-Muslim, kindly and justly, protecting the needy and the innocent and preventing the "dissemination of mischief". Mischief comprises all forms of anarchy and terror that remove security, comfort and peace. As God says in a verse, "God does not love mischief makers". (Surat al-Qasas: 77) ".
This from "Islam is Not the Source of Terrorism, But its Solution
" at: http://www.islamdenouncesterrorism.com/mainarticle.html
They believe, as does Christianity and other religions that their religion proscribes acts of terrorism.
Therefore I will only employ the simple term "Terrorism" or that of "ME Terrorism".
So, how shall terrorism be defined? Well, The Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), which met early in the spring of 2002, found this endeavor so arduous as to eschew the exercise altogether. Iran's Foreign Minister said:
"It is not for us to define international terrorism for the international community. It is for us to ask the international community to start a process of defining terrorism."
Oh?,.. It is not always a wise decision to let others define the debate, but let us press on. Surely though, the act of a young Palestinian man wearing a vest stuffed with explosives entering a crowed hotel in Israel and detonating his payload with the resultant deaths and injuries to civilian men, women, and children qualifies as a terrorist act. Well...No. The OIC is clear in its efforts towards blame deflection:
"We reject any attempt to link terrorism to the struggle of the Palestinian people in the exercise of their inalienable right to establish their independent state. . . . We reject any attempt to associate Islamic states or Palestinian and Lebanese resistance with terrorism." It seems Terrorism should be differentiated from "legitimate struggles . . . against foreign occupation."
Hmmmm... Well, if the above act resulting in innocent death is not terrorism, what is it? The OIC Secretary General was more interested in fighting the "unjust" nomenclature of "terrorist" referring to Palestinians and condemning "state terrorism" demonstrated by Israel in its "terrorist means" and "terrorist acts".
There were a number of bright spots when rays of reason peaked through as when the Foreign Minister of Bosnia-Herzegovina stated:
"I don't care about race or religion. . . . If a person kills or harms a civilian, he is a terrorist, no matter how noble his struggle may be."
However, typical thoughts were expressed by the Palestinian Foreign Minister in relation to Israel and the territories under dispute:
"the highest and worst kind of terrorism." It is this "state terrorism," he continued, that is the "reason" for "the human being . . . who sacrifices his life." "It is not necessary," he said, "to condemn the suicide bombers because we have to take into consideration the reasons behind somebody willing to lose his life."
So the ends justifies the means, but does the foreign minister see that what is good for the goose is good for the gander? In any event, we see that the OIC is perfectly at ease using a term it refuses to define to:
"condemn terrorism in all its forms and manifestations"
Socrates would not be amused.
I am confused at this point as to how the members of the OIC would define the acts of the IRA in Northern Ireland. Perhaps terrorism is somewhat like pornography: hard to define, but we know it when we see it.
In my reading I came across a few definitions of Terrorism but none seemed satisfactory so I formulated one I believe is fair and in line with the preceding paragraph.
: Those acts engaging in or supporting political action by violent means of which the defining entity disapproves.
Seems to lack a hard edge though, doesn't it? If you have a suggestion please help me!
We can all agree then, when Lord Clement Attlee's elephant named Terrorism enters the room we have no problem sensing its presence. So, why has its keepers chosen to victimize the West (Europe and the U.S.) in general and America specifically? Many feel this is something relatively new... it is not. In the past we have seen examples of Terrorism and Religious Extremism such as Genocide in Kosovo and Bosnia, Khmer Rouge actions in Cambodia, The Turks genocide directed towards Armenians, and Hitler's Final Solution
of the "Jewish Problem".
While these events may seem somewhat disparate they all share a common psychological trait. The perpetrators may be characterized as a group that feels it is oppressed and seeks its solutions in the eradication of perceived oppressors. The general concept at work here is known as Totalism
Totalism is often used in explaining the behavior of followers of cults but is valid in a partial explanation of our subject when one encounters charismatic leaders not only like David Koresh (The April 1933 Waco, Texas/FBI Debacle) but also Hitler and Osama Bin Laden.
Suppose when you were a young child, a man in a black coat and hat was rude and mean to you. As you grow up you realize all men in black hats and coats are not necessarily going to be mean to you. However the totalistic person has difficulty making the distinction and he/she tends to view whole groups as evil. This is the type of behavior fostered by such leaders of cults and those of Bin Laden's ilk. They use this then to project the "oppressed groups" rage onto a general group of perceived Bad Guys. To followers of Osama, America is the bad guy, the Great Satan. Obviously all followers of Osama Bin Laden are not "mentally ill", but because of their perceived down trodden position in the world they are looking for a scapegoat or oppressor to blame. Are those in the Middle East right? Is Western Civilization to blame for the usual conditions of Poverty, Injustice, Exploitation
(PIE), and manifest frustration felt in the area?
A natural question that always arises in the West is "Why do they hate us so?" This might seem to imply that those in the Middle East suffering from PIE have good reason to hate those who relegated them to such a fate. If the West is to blame (I plan to address this assumption a little later) it would also make sense if those visiting terrorism upon us were doing the actual suffering, however this is mostly not the case. Since our focus is on "Root" causes we must look towards terrorism's leaders and not the rank and file.
Osama and his money aside, all members of the 9/11 group were from a privileged background, either well off Egyptians, Saudis, or rich sons of Lebanon educated in and quite familiar with Western ways. Many in the ME are merely Fans of terrorism. If the poor directly engage in terrorism it is mostly in ancillary ways, often even in disposable capacities where the only rewards are the dubious distinction of martyrdom. The key or choke point of terrorism lies with its leaders. Al Qaeda has little use for the Middle Eastern peasant. Through no fault of their own, the poor of the ME are incapable of the planning and financial support required of the Al Qaeda operative.
In searching further we find more examples of middle and even upper-class origins of terrorist actions. These stretch as far back as the 19th century starting with the "invention" of revolutionary violence by Russian intellectuals. Terrorists have sprung from middle and upper-class ranks, definitely educated, but not poor. Examples: South American Tupamaros and Montoneros in the '70's. Then came the German Baader-Meinhof Gang, Italian Red Brigades, France's Action Directe, Sandinistas in Nicaragua, and preceding it Fidel Castro in Cuba. Who else has the time, energy, and planning skills? It is hard to sustain indignities when you spend dawn to dusk breaking your back while starving and competing with a multitude of others in the same boat of despair.
It may be possible to draw comparisons between the Marxist Totalitarian's pursuit of a stateless communist utopia and the Islamic dream of a Caliphate to lead a world wide Muslim community, but it would seem ME terrorist movements, just as Marxist or secessionist ones, are more about gaining political power then preventing or addressing injustice and exploitation of the masses. Indeed, the leaders of terrorism exploit the very people they claim to be "working for".
Therefore, we may have to discount poverty as a direct cause of terrorism and assign it a supportive role at best. We could also mention the wealthy Saudi connection with terrorism and the Western educated Kuwaiti yuppie ingratitude towards the homelands of their alma maters and support for the PLO (whose leader Yasser Arafat literally showed up on Saddam Hussein's doorstep with hugs and kisses after Saddam ravaged their country in 1990). Explaining it, however, is more difficult and Arafat's actions certainly don't demonstrate a spirit of Pan Arabism.
Perhaps the questions should be:
"Are those in the Middle East Misdirecting their Anger? Would it be better for them to light a candle rather than just curse the darkness?"
In Search of Reason
"By all standards of the modern world--economic development, literacy, scientific achievement--Muslim civilization, once a mighty enterprise, has fallen low. Many in the Middle East blame a variety of outside forces. But underlying much of the Muslim world's travail may be a simple lack of freedom
Bernard Lewis: The Atlantic Monthly | January 2002"
With the advent of the twentieth century it became obvious something had gone quite wrong, as a once mighty civilization seemed on hard times. Thus a collection of once proud and powerful people who developed a civilization encompassing literature, mathematics, technology, and science and allowed it to flourish even while Europe languished during its dark ages were surpassed by Western civilization. Why was it a European expedition that discovered the new World and not that of an Arab or Persian? All evidence points to human civilization beginning right here in the Fertile Crescent area surrounding Baghdad. This is a question that might be better answered in Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel
(note: I will make a short attempt at explanation in my summary). But it might be instructive to view those reasons Middle Eastern people have put forth.
It is always easier and less painful to blame others for one's plight and the people of the ME are no exception. For a while the Mongol invasions were held responsible. But upon close examination both Muslim and other historians found problems with this explanation. First some of the region's most important contributions to the world came after the Mongols appeared in the region. Second if the Muslim empire was so mighty how was a bunch of gypsy horseman able to bring it down? Next the concept of nationalism from Europe allowed blame to be placed on the Turks for causing Arab civilization stagnation. Of course the Turks could lay blame on the Arabs for sapping empire building energy from them. The Persians in turn now seemed willing to blame Arabs, Turks, and Mongols.
As the 19th century rolled into the twentieth, Anglo-Franco colonialism afforded the ME the new whipping boy of Western Imperialism. The Western dominance introduced new ideas and concepts of progress and civilization success so then those in the Middle East began to feel the sting of their backwardness, (This does not speak towards any genetic fault but only addresses a moment when the scales started to fall from Arab and Persian eyes exposing, to their horror, how backward they were in relation to the West in all areas of civilization measure.)
In 1968 the official role of Bad Guy was transferred to the U.S. when the United Kingdom relinquished its security responsibilities "east of Suez". However, the concept of the U.S. with its "hob nailed boot" holding down ME states is invalid for the same reason the incursions of other empires fail: The U.S. is in the region because the ME is weak. U.S. presence is a consequence of this weakness and not a reason for it.
Next up was anti-Semitism, specifically of course, "the Jews". This had been imported from Europe also. Traditionally Jews were better off under Muslim rule where they were regarded with a merely dismissive attitude but this soon changed. When a bunch of "Jews" heaped further humiliation upon those in the ME by establishing the state of Israel under their very noses the despair was crushing.
The Cold War witnessed individual ME state's "alignment" with either superpower, therein acquiring modern weaponry. But it was just another futile exercise where ME states employed other more technological states in an attempt to modernize without actually developing their own technological base. As long as the old ME states kept their conflicts to themselves they had no problems with their self-delusions. However, Israel's overwhelming victory in the 1967 conflict (The 6 Day War) against Egypt, Syria, and Jordan backed with reinforcements from Kuwait, Algeria, Saudi Arabia and Iraq where after just six days of fighting, Israeli forces broke through the enemy lines and were in a position to march on Cairo, Damascus, and Amman exposed the extreme weakness of all these states. A small gang of Jews had decisively defeated the combined forces of 8 of the Arab world's strongest nations and in addition positioned them selves to invest three Arab national capitals...truly a wake-up call.
Lastly the ME states used their last psychological gasp at "sour grapes" rationalization: The message given to them about modernization and specifically "Westernization" had obviously been wrong. They now felt they had been duped by the western infidels into thinking its ways were best. There now seemed only two things that could save them and that would prove the superiority of their civilization.
They decided that they must return to basics. First they must return to fundamental Islam. Secondly they must punish the infidels for their treachery. It was a plan, but the planners must answer an important question:
Had the lives of those under control of regimes such as the Taliban in Afghanistan and the Islamic Fundamentalists in Iran become better or worse?
Recipe for the Prevention of Terrorism:
The measure of the American Ingredient-- A Level Teaspoonful or a Full Cup?
Many have voiced an opinion that the U.S. is the Major cause of Middle East Terrorism because its presence is at least an irritant to the masses in the region. Those sharing this opinion in the U.S. point to the U.S. support of Israel underlying this irritant, but some in Israel see the more deep-seated reasons I have aforementioned. Thus, we see the former PM of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, writing in The Jewish Bulletin of Northern California
"...The main motivation driving the terror network is an anti-Western hostility that seeks to roll back the West and install an extremist form of Islam as the dominant power in the world. And it seeks to do this by destroying the enemy...Thus, the soldiers of militant Islam do not hate the West because of Israel, they hate Israel because of the West -- because they see it is an island of Western democratic values in a Muslim-Arab sea of despotism. That is why they call Israel the Little Satan, to distinguish it clearly from the country that has always been and will always be the Great Satan -- the United States."
I have formed the same opinion from my readings. Those blaming Israel for U.S. ME problems are merely engaging in deflection. In either case, it would seem the Middle East sans the U.S. presence might be the answer to the region's problems. But, as usual, it is just not that simple.
That which is good in preserving the ME as an enclave of medieval societies is unacceptable for the rest of the world. The blessing bestowed upon many of these nations of oil reserves, also is the Middle East's curse. The U.S role in the region as the stabilizer of oil availability and price is unilateral, America alone posses the resources for this task. This responsibility has nothing to do with whether the price of gas is 1 or 2 Dollars lower or higher at the pump or what Petroleum Company gets which contract from whom. Simply put, the economy of the world is based on free flowing oil with a stable price--remove this and the world economy would at least be severely damaged, if not collapse altogether.
Today about 25% of world production comes from Saudi Arabia and two factors make this area unique in its importance:
1). This region's oil is extremely inexpensive to pull out of the ground (Russia's production cost 5-10 times as much for the same amount of oil).
2). Saudi Arabia has the world's largest reserves of oil and with this reserve they are able to stabilize prices by varying their production.
Loss of Saudi oil by conflict in the region could very well create a global depression even worse than that seen in the 1930's. The U.S. presence prevents any one particular ME state seizing control of the world's oil and holding the entire world's economy hostage. In addition military access in the region is strategically important to the U.S. to maintain its influence with not only the ME but also Central Asia, Eastern Africa, and South Asia. This gives greater flexibility in America's new policies regarding the physical deterrence of terrorism and police action if necessitated.
I believe that we must resolve ourselves to the fact of a permanent U.S. "Influence" in the region. Perhaps the U.S. might use a two pronged approach in decreasing the base for terrorism by first employing diplomatic efforts with the region's governments and then sponsoring humanitarian efforts aimed at the area's populations thereby fostering better understanding between the people of America and their counterparts in the ME.
" I am afraid, my friend, this will be an undertaking fraught with difficulties"
William Clark's reply to Merriweather Lewis on the latter's request for Clark's Participation in The Corps of Discovery's expedition westward
Three main difficulties present:
Iraq's security, Iran's nuclear bid, and civil unrest in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC): Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.
forces must be strong enough to discourage and balance Iran but not so much as to threaten Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Iraq will be banned from WMD development but must be strengthened enough for its own security and will have to be allowed a considerable conventional force to obtain the above goal.
, from all reports, seems to be very serious in developing nukes, mostly to deter U.S. attack.
(An Aside: This thinking by Third World Nations has always puzzled me. Surely they misunderstand the doctrine of MAD (Mutual Assured Destruction)! MAD implies some military equality between belligerents. In addition, the U.S. was fully prepared to invade Iraq knowing full well Saddam would use WMD. Apparently there is still wishful thinking in some corners of the world that the U.S. is casualty adverse and will balk when threatened with possibilities of conflicts that may result in large numbers of American soldiers being killed. The reality and history of U.S. military action is in opposition to this thinking, one Black Hawk Down situation and all the bad guys seem to get their hopes unduly raised. They then are surprised when the propaganda that they have been exposed to for so long turns out false. Besides, exactly what do the Iranians think the U.S would do if they used a nuke on our own fighting men, or in any case? Have they drawn no lesson from the Taliban's rich military experience stemming from 9/11?)
Military preemption is not nearly the option it was in Iraq. Iran is larger (by 5 times) with more difficult terrain and possesses citizens that have closed ranks with the regime when trouble looms on its horizon. It is possible this problem could solve itself with recent uprisings but I would not hold my breath. The Bush Administration will have to do more to help the student uprisings than express support and tell the mullahs not to hurt those threatening their regime. Action trumps lip service in this area of the world and realistic U.S. policy must discount student upstarts and look to different efforts to contain Iran.
As noted before, a decreased U.S. presence could lower tensions with the populace by removing that bit of propaganda espoused by terrorists. However, this might increase the possibility of civil war in the GCC states. Contrarily, even though U.S. troop removal could lessen civil tensions and allow regimes to start reforms, this might allow the regimes to feel less pressure to enact these reforms and in addition would remove a major deterrence now containing Iran.
So what's a superpower to do? Kenneth M. Pollack has responded with 3 tactics: Off shore balancing, a ME defense pact, or attempt a ME security condominium.
With off shore balancing
some bases in friendly areas could be retained and new ones established in Iraq. Military materiel could be left in place allowing small troop presence, rotation, and training in the area. In the extreme case, materiel and a small administrative and security force could be kept at Diego Garcia ready for future deployment if need be. The U.S could keep its relations with members of the GCC and form the same with a friendlier Iraq.
This then might lower the potential for civil unrest in these states. However, there is the aforementioned possibility that less U.S. direct pressure in the area would encourage business as usual by the GCC state's regimes that then would forgo the reforms so badly needed.
The idea of a ME defense pact
has been employed before in the region (i.e. Baghdad Pact) but, unlike that realized in Europe (NATO), it suffered from lack of a common threat. NATO balanced the Warsaw Pact. However the nations of the Baghdad Pact had dissimilar security concerns: Pakistan vs. India, Iran (Persians) vs. Middle East (Arabs), etc. In addition, earlier Iraqi and Iranian revolutions provided additional destabilizing turmoil. Given the conditions now, this approach may have a better chance.
The advantage of the defense pact is that it would afford the U.S. a formal defense alliance with GCC members. This would lock in an American security agreement in the ME, deter Iranian aggression, and legitimize U.S. presence. Also, The GCC states and Iraq could answer some of their security concerns about Iran, a common threat. Convincing those ME citizens that the U.S. was a valued member in the pact would go a long way to decrease U.S./ME related tensions.
The disadvantage of this pact is that GCC regimes might not be able to convince the populace of America's benevolence.
The third answer might be to establish a security agreement via a (ME security condominium
) involving the U.S., GCC states, Iran, and Iraq. To start off, relative issues of security would be debated, while exchanging ideas and framing those to be agreed upon. This could get the ball rolling and lead to eventual arms agreements, address security concerns, and eliminate WMD. The advantage here is that all these desired actions could happen under the umbrella of Middle Eastern security and cooperation amongst equals thereby empowering these nations with the ability to decide their own destinies. An added advantage is that a member dissenting will appear an outcast by its neighbors rather then a leader against the U.S.
The main difficulty lies with the real world reality we see in a similar arrangement found in Europe between NATO allies and the Warsaw Pact countries--it took about a quarter of a century to achieve the result. In addition Iran could demand the participation of Israel in the security arrangement. Then, when Israel predictably refuses, it would then appear the pariah state.
Obviously, each political track mentioned has drawbacks but perhaps some combination may work towards bringing both the U.S. and the Persian Gulf states into a legitimate relationship thereby enabling reduced tensions especially with the ME populace.
For many years (at least 20) organizations such as Hamas (Yes, that Hamas) and the Islam organization Muhhammadijah have provided "cradle to grave" social services involving networks of schools, clinics, hospital, and university level institutions. This from organizations banned from political activity. Is this a possible area of involvement for the West? I am not proposing that this is Islam's soft underbelly (more on this in the following summary), but perhaps a long term serious effort at winning hearts and minds in the ME can be at least Hippocratic and maybe even advance America's reputation in the region.
It would seem that Islam prefers to place blame for its shortcomings on others. In addition to being unfair this action just avoids corrective measures. This is only because of Islam's deeply rooted culture that forbids introspection.
Unlike Western culture Islamic Society has never achieved secularization:
It has become the fashion to level the charge of Eurocentricity at the West for ignoring our debt to the achievements of other civilizations. Yet while fully acknowledging this debt, we must still ask why the West, after the end of the Middle Ages, so rapidly overtook the great civilizations of the East. In the venerable civilizations of the East, custom was king and tradition the guiding principle. If change came it was all but imperceptible, for the laws of Heaven existed once and for all and were not to be questioned. That spirit of questioning, the systematic rejection of authority, was the one invention the East may have failed to develop."-- E. H. Gombrich
Even if one insists Medieval Europe was originally and overwhelmingly ecclesiastical, one cannot deny the march towards secularism through the reformation and the Bi-polarization of Roman Catholicism and Greek Orthodoxy in Christianity, which can be viewed as the beginnings of pluralism. The mere fact that those members of the original church of Jesus Christ were able to formulate and differentiate themselves and their preferred doctrine suggest the greater march of free thought with that of the action of questioning of authority ultimately leading to secularization.
When it was decided that their would be at least a little toleration this then opened the door for a little more... and so on. A free market in some opinions becomes a free market for all opinions.
One sees the roots of secularism in Christianity via the New Testament's Matthew 22 verse 21 in which Christ says" Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's and unto God the things that are God's"
For Muslims it is different, thus Bernard Lewis informs us:
God was Caesar, the state was God's state, the army God's army, the enemy was God's enemy, and above all, the Law was God's Law. The problem of separating mosque and state did not arise as there was no mosque as an autonomous institution to be separated. Mosque and state were one and the same. Muhammad was both a prophet and soldier, prophet and statesman. His career as a statesman was an essential part of his prophetic mission. Thus from its very inception, Islam was associated with the exercise of power.
So the problem is not so much Islam as it is the clash between Western tenets and those of Islam. The two apart present no conflict, but such a Utopian condition cannot exist. Not only does the West demand Oil so does the rest of the World for its lifestyle and this is not to be denied.
The West is pluralistic and Islam is not. Islam claims to be the only answer, the only truth, and therefore superior to all other beliefs or systems. This all knowing truth is contained in one book, the Koran, and all dutiful Muslims are required to bring the world into line with this philosophy. These facts correlate closely with that of communist ideology and this fact may suggest not a solution but a way of dealing with those who would threaten us. There are radical Islamists that have tried indoctrinating children in their schools by various methods. In addition to spreading their venomous attacks against the West they have forced the children to learn phrases from the Koran, which are in turn used as catch phrases to stimulate doctrinal thinking and prevent self-thought. In addition they are taught to think of themselves only as Muslims and not as both Muslim and say, Egyptian or Syrian. This can only foment social unrest in their homelands and further reduce the children's ability to tolerate others in the world by way of an "Us against Them" mentality. It does not have to be a zero sum game.
The West must be more visibly involved in humanitarian efforts in the region. It must also seek political measures to not only help join the nations of the ME but institute a policy of containment (similar to that used in the Cold War) to eliminate the cancer of radical Islamists whose sole goal is the destruction of Western people and their values. It is important that the containment strategy is employed in conjunction with encouragement of the ME states to develop reforms leading to constitutional libertarian governments with explicit efforts for separation of church and state. Any shying away from this effort will only prolong suffering in the ME and further alienate those in the Middle East from the modern world. This would be a disservice to those affected in the region and the global community.
These changes would enable the ME states to overcome backwardness, unemployment, and exploitation by both governments and charismatic "Leaders" such as Osama Bin Laden. Enabling all ME citizens to strive for a better life, these changes would work towards the elimination of terrorism simply because the people would now have much to lose and little to gain from it.