What Terrorism is really about - an interesting view

Discussion in 'Middle East - General' started by Abbey Normal, Jul 20, 2005.

  1. Abbey Normal

    Abbey Normal Senior Member

    Jul 9, 2005
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    Mid-Atlantic region
    This writer for a French magazine sees it as a non-religious battle. Interesting...

    "The world is trying to find its way but keeps getting lost. The issue is the compass. Ours has lost true north since the attacks of September 11, 2001 (9/11). Neither New York nor Madrid, hit in recent years, nor London, hit last week, understand the reason for these vile attacks. Stuck on these tragic events, our compass needle is pointing toward the wrong magnet. If we want to understand the times we are living in, it is necessary to go back to an even more symbolic date: November 9, 1989 (11/9), the fall of the Berlin wall, which marked the end of an epoch and the beginning of a new era. It is necessary to look at these two mythical dates together: “9/11” vs. “11/9.”

    The horror, the novelty and the emotion evoked by this series of attacks prevents us from deciphering our world accurately. But terrorism, as horrible and spectacular as it may be, is not the new driving force behind History. It has not replaced the ideological confrontation between East and West that was our structure from 1945 to 1989. But there are other forces that are deeply changing our world. To perceive them, it is necessary to start with November 9, 1989. That is where everything starts. Or rather, where everything restarts.

    Dr. Francis Fukuyama[Dr. Francis] Fukuyama was wrong: the crumbling of the Eastern Bloc did not mark the end of History, but instead its new rise. If anything ended, it was only the ideological struggles. In 1989, and much more spectacularly in 1991, with the disappearance of the Soviet Union, the world ceased fighting over ideological issues. It acknowledged the victory of the West and accepted the politico-economic framework of the market economy that it proposed. Today, even China, which is theoretically communist, is successfully adopting the rules of liberalism. Only North Korea and Cuba remain. But for how much longer?

    The context determines everything. Have conflicts thus disappeared? No. Quite the contrary, they remain the primary dynamic of History, but they have changed. It is no longer an issue of ideological struggle, but of a “societal” war. The confrontation is taking place on the level of values. It remains to be seen which ones will dominate the world and who will bring them.

    The big game has globalized and socialized. It is no longer a question of conquering territories and subjugating populations, but of winning people over mentally by imposing cultural norms using modes of consumption. And what better tool is there to meet this goal but the economy? Controlling values is to possess the power to model societies. But people are resisting. From New York to Jakarta, from Helsinki to Pretoria, the cultures, ways of life, systems of organization and development are different and wish to stay that way.

    Thus the debate on the clash of civilizations, which adds to the confusion, should be over. At best it is an incomplete theory, at worst a delusion! According to Samuel Huntington, the main instigator of this apocalyptic vision, the world is divided, torn into eight cultural groups: Westerners, Confucians, Muslims … It is along the borders of these civilizations that the conflicts will be the worst, this Cassandra predicts.

    However, what is even more surprising about Samuel Huntington’s approach is the absence of analysis of the existence of a clash within these “homogenous” civilizations themselves. Not a word on the sometimes fundamental disagreements that exist within the Western camp between the American and European visions of the world. Is it necessary to insist, to describe the ways of life in Europe and the United States, to realize that they diverge and that neither the Americans nor the Europeans wish to adopt the other’s societal model? According to Charles A. Kupchan, a former adviser to Bill Clinton, “Huntington is right when he predicts numerous confrontations, but they will take place between blocs of power and not between civilizations.”

    Another misleading element of the clash of civilizations theory: assuming that the clash essentially stems from religious beliefs. In terrorism, religion is only a pretext, a point of protest, certainly powerful but insufficient to cause a religious war. Furthermore, there is no fundamental text of al-Qaeda, of bin Laden or of his lieutenant Zarkawi that illustrates any sort of theological dispute between the Koran, the Bible and the Torah. Bin Laden is not Coligny, George W. Bush bears no resemblance to Charles IX and the September 11, 2001 attacks are not the Saint Bartholomew’s day massacre. Al-Qaeda was not born out of religious protest but out of a political event: the withdrawal of the Red Army from Afghanistan in 1989. Bin Laden switched to terrorism in 1991 after the refusal by King Fahd of Saudi Arabia to expel Saddam Hussein from Kuwait himself. The former freedom fighter, a resistor of Soviet oppression, did not accept the presence of American troops in the holy land of Saudi Arabia. It was then that he broke with the Saudi kingdom, exiled himself in Sudan and started his long descent into hell.

    1989 and 1991, two historic years linked to the most important events of the last twenty years: the fall of the wall and Soviet defeat in Afghanistan in 1989; the Gulf War and end of the USSR in 1991. Is this a simple historical consequence or should it be admitted that these events are part of a certain historical logic?

    One thing is sure, we are far from religion. All one has to do is read bin Laden’s writings to understand that his claims center, above all, on sovereignty. Under the guise of religion the true dispute is political. The terrorists in training have often become jihadists without becoming religious. Their knowledge in this domain is often very limited. They are manipulated, not by claims that Allah’s word is superior to that of God and Yahweh but by bombardments of images of mistreated Muslims in Bosnia, Chechnya, Palestine or Iraq.

    Except for the most excited Allah fanatics, the objective for the very large majority of al-Qaeda’s top leaders is not to unfurl the green flag of Islam over the Palais Bourbon or the Capitol, but to put an end to Western influence over Arab-Muslim territory, to substitute it with a theocratic society that would likely be dark, closed and anti-democratic. Bin Laden has always presented himself to the Arabs as the best guarantee of the sovereignty of this region and the most faithful protector of the values it incarnates. Values that, according to Islamist militants, are seriously threatened by competition from the Westerners who currently dominate the world.

    A complex world shaken by two contrary forces: that which pushes for the integration of peoples and nations and that, on the other hand, which leads to a fragmentation of cultures. The political scientist James Rosenau talks of “fragmegration.” His colleague Benjamin Barber evokes the struggle of jihad against MacWorld which opposes those who dream of a world without borders, even uniform, that is to say strongly tinged by Americanization, to those who are fighting to preserve their identity.

    In this globalized world, the domain of the fight extends to identifying values. Competition touches every aspect of life. Just as competition incarnates the essence of liberalism, hypercompetition is the essence of globalization. This hyperconfrontation affects regional blocs that are being constituted little by little and which correspond more or less to the geography of the continents: Europe, North America, and Asia.

    In the great Middle East, so dear to George W. Bush, people feel like they are not in charge of their own destiny. That is why they wish to regain their place in History. They thus manifest their right to choose their social model and their values. Bin Laden understood that well and manipulates Islam to fan the flames.

    In reaction, we have become autistic to the point of not understanding the new international stakes that arose immediately following the end of the iron curtain. Playing the game of extremists by placing terrorism on a solely religious level leads us to an impasse. In addition to the reinforcement of security measures, if we really want to eradicate this scourge, it is necessary to carry out a geopolitical analysis of the phenomenon.

    For the West, the question is the following: is it ready to limit its influence over others in order to build a world that respects the plurality of different value systems?"

    * Researcher at the Institute of International and Strategic Relations (IRIS). Author of Jihad en Europe et des Secrets de la guerre économique (Seuil).


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