Skip to comments.The (Middle East) Allies Who Made Our Foes
Posted on 09/23/2001 3:36:17 PM PDT by veronicaEdited on 09/03/2002 4:49:20 AM PDT by Jim Robinson. [history]
Oct. 1 issue — There is a debate raging within the Bush administration over what to do after it strikes Afghanistan. Some argue for a relentless attack on the Qaeda network of terrorist groups. Others want to broaden the war to fight states like Iraq, Iran and Syria that help other terrorists. But what are we going to do about countries that are the real source of modern Islamic terrorism—our faithful allies Saudi Arabia and Egypt?
(Excerpt) Read more at c.moreover.com ...
The Saudis will no longer pretend that they are not funding terrorism indirectly
And we will no longer pretend that the Oil Cartel is illegal by our definition, and admit our payments at the gas pump is funding the terrorists too!
The more I read and learn about the Arab states, the more difficult it is becoming to have any kind of regard for any of them.
It is U.S. soldiers who are protecting the holy sites of Mecca from destruction.
And Israel guarantees freedom of access to the Muslim semi-religious sites.
Hey you two...denial is not just a river in Egypt, eh?
I'm sorry to ruin your ideal of idealistic terrorists, but they are just criminals, and they make their money like all criminals do.
And ALL the ID's were not forgeries. I know the facts herein bother you. Too bad. The truth shall set you free!
Saudi Arabia pays protection money, through some influential business owners, to bin Laden to keep him at bay.
These money trails will be the key links to tying terrorist networks to states.
Saudi Arabia wouldn't mind a bit if Iraq were next. I'd bet they will be.
Thomas L. Friedman The New York Times Saturday, September 22, 2001
In February 1982 the secular Syrian government of President Hafez Assad faced a mortal threat from Islamic extremists, who sought to topple the Assad regime. How did it respond? President Assad identified the rebellion as emanating from Syria's fourth-largest city - Hama - and he literally leveled it, pounding the fundamentalist neighborhoods with artillery for days. Once the guns fell silent, he plowed up the rubble and bulldozed it flat, into vast parking lots. Amnesty International estimated that 10,000 to 25,000 Syrians, mostly civilians, were killed in the merciless crackdown. Syria has not had a Muslim extremist problem since.
I visited Hama a few months after it was leveled. The regime actually wanted Syrians to go see it, to contemplate Hama's silence and to reflect on its meaning. I wrote afterward, "The whole town looked as though a tornado had swept back and forth over it for a week - but this was not the work of mother nature." This was "Hama Rules" - the real rules of Middle East politics - and Hama Rules are no rules at all. I tell this story not to suggest this should be America's approach. The United States can't go around leveling cities. It needs to be much more focused and smart in uprooting the terrorists. No, I tell this story because it's important to understand that Syria, Egypt, Algeria and Tunisia have all faced Islamist threats and crushed them without mercy or Miranda rights. Part of the problem America now faces is actually the fallout from these crackdowns. Three things happened: First, once the fundamentalists were crushed by the Arab states they fled to the last wild, uncontrolled places in the region - Lebanon's Bekaa Valley and Afghanistan - or to the freedom of America and Europe.
Second, some Arab regimes, most of which are corrupt dictatorships afraid of their own people, made a devil's pact with the fundamentalists. They allowed the Islamists' domestic supporters to continue raising money, ostensibly for Muslim welfare groups, and to funnel it to the Osama bin Ladens - on the condition that the Islamic extremists not attack these regimes. The Saudis in particular struck that bargain. Third, these Arab regimes, feeling defensive about their Islamic crackdowns, allowed their own press and intellectuals total freedom to attack America and Israel, as a way of deflecting criticism from themselves.
As a result, a generation of Muslims and Arabs have been raised on such distorted views of America that despite the fact that America gives Egypt $2 billion a year, despite the fact that America fought for the freedom of Muslims in Kuwait, Bosnia and Kosovo, and despite the fact that Bill Clinton met with Yasser Arafat more than with any other foreign leader, America has been vilified as the biggest enemy of Islam. And that is one reason that many people in the Arab-Muslim world today have either applauded the attack on America or will tell you - with a straight face - that it was all a CIA-Mossad plot to embarrass the Muslim world.
The United States needs the moderate Arab states as partners. But it needs them to be intelligent. I don't expect them to order their press to say nice things about America or Israel. They are entitled to their views on both, and both at times deserve criticism. But what they have never encouraged at all is for anyone to consistently present an alternative, positive view of America - even though they were sending their kids to the United States to be educated. Anyone who did would be immediately branded a CIA agent. And while the Arab states have crushed their Islamic terrorists, they have never confronted them ideologically and delegitimized their behavior as un-Islamic. Arab and Muslim Americans are not part of this problem. But they could be an important part of the solution by engaging in the debate back in the Arab world, and presenting another vision of America.
So America's standing in the Arab-Muslim world is now very low - partly because the United States has not told its story well, partly because of policies it adopted and partly because inept, barely legitimate Arab leaders have deliberately deflected domestic criticism of themselves onto America. The result: The United States must now fight a war against terrorists who are crazy and evil but who, it grieves me to say, reflect the mood in their home countries more than we might think.
Supported by the pennies sent to them by the grateful poor.
Only a moron wouldn't believe that.
I wait with anticipation for the war to begin.
GOD BLESS AMERICA. We are going to wipe out all the terrorists.
Are you Arab?
If so, you ought to be denouncing these terrorist-loving cretins.
The truth is, the U.S. has got Saudi by the balls. Our soldiers keep Mecca safe from outlaws like bin Laden. And, we keep Hussein at bay as well.
Saudi Arabia will do whatever the U.S. tells them to do.
Right -- it will turn out that all those murdering bastards were red haired Scots with blue eyes, that dyed their hair black.
Those murdering bastards were Islamic radicals who became terrorists.
That is not far from simply saying they were Islamic terrorists -- is it?
Have any Islamic "Holy Leaders" -- taken a stance against any of the Islamic terrorist organizations? If so, I certainly have missed it.
Nice to have you back loser.
What about the problem of 'concensus' within the community of believers in Islam, which seems to hold as a virtue unanimity in public questions.
I suspect that reluctance to speak out within one's own ethnic community in this instance has grounds in their religious, rather than ethnic identity, therefore.
Any Islamists here?
All the middle east governments are under attack by these criminals.
These terrorist cells don't operate by government approval, they operate through threats and violence.
By attacking the power of the terrorists we are helping them make their lands safer for themselves.
They don't want to live in fear of these criminals.
At worst, some of their volountary support for the Palestinians goes to help terrorists.
No, I'm not employed by terrorists.
No, I'm not dumb as a post.
I'm an American, that served my country.
I'm simply trying to determine if you are simply a disrupting Arab asshole - or a brain dead moron.
Since you won't answer my earlier question - I'll be forced to assume you are both.
You are quite correct. We are not at war with the Arabs or Moslems. We are at war with a specific group ochestrating a power play which intends to prey upon all the region. The vast majority of moderates in the area should, and I think eventually, will, become allied with our cause as it will be mutually beneficial. Read this thoughtful analysis by poster JasonC. It lends many insights
I do understand your point, and you are asking the right question. Is that what is going to happen? That is Bin Laden's -plan-. It is his expectation, what he is counting on. His attacks are meant as recruitment posters, and the retaliations are meant to serve as additional recruitment posters, and all the new recruits are meant to overthrow moderate governments and back his ideas.
That is what he wants. It is the logic of guerilla war, which tries to radicalize and polarize populations, forcing those who initially have only limited interest in a particular fight to take sides, and along the precise cleavage or fault line the guerilla strategist intends beforehand.
Bin Laden could not get the votes of a billion people for a policy of murder, nor any sizeable fraction of them. He is trying to divide an "us" from a "them", of his own choosing and following his own policies, in order to rule what he has no mandate, or support, to rule.
His natural enemies in this process are not only us in the U.S. or in the west or in the first world. Other governments and parties and ideas in the Islamic world are also natural enemies of this attempt. Those following his fault-lines, dividing friends from enemies as he has chosen, are not listening to their legitimate leaders on the same question.
The government of, say, Turkey, does not want the citizens of Turkey deciding who is an enemy and who is a friend according to the machinations of a Saudi exile plotting in the mountains of Afghanistan. The government of Turkey would like to decide who are its enemies and who are its friends, on its own. You have to see the second edge of Bin Laden's campaign and of his problems. He is a usurper, to almost all states in the region. He wants their job, and he is not asking.
So your question, will this necessarily happen and will all the moderate governments in Islamic civilization be overthrown by polarized populations, reduces to the question, is it inevitable that Laden will win and his plan will work? And the answer is obviously no, it is in no way fated. And our strategy ought to be directed precisely at preventing that sequence of events.
This is why it is so important to understand that we are in a battle of ideas, and that sweeping categorizations play into Laden's hands. Reaching for ruthlessness does not work. It is the precision with which we divide our enemies from our friends that will be tested. And the attractiveness of the rival ideas moderate governments in the region can offer, compared to Laden's medieval vision.
There are two main ideas in the Islamic world that we ought to be backing and encouraging in this fight. One is the traditional legitimacy of moderate monarchies. We should encourage them to become constitutional monarchies, but understand that such shifts must be done with care. The second political idea is the national republic, which we should encourage to be constitutional and representative, again with care about transitions. I will explain some of the reasons for each.
The traditional monarchies are status quo regimes. They do not seek revolutionary change, and tend to avoid violence in external relations. They are often culturally conservative, and the first pitfall we must avoid is thinking we can castigate them for this with safety. When such regimes force secularizing and westernizing cultural trends on their people, especially when they do so undemocratically, they create legitimate grievances for those who see important values in their traditional culture. This drives some otherwise decent people into the arms of the Islamicist groups, which exploit this legitimate desire and tack on all of their far less legitimate baggage.
This is part of what happened in Iran under the Shah. During Desert Storm, many criticized the Saudis for their hidebound cultural traditions, but believe me they are mild next to what Islamicists enact. And if e.g. the Saudi monarchy dropped a culturally conservative policy, they would undermine the traditional legitimacy they possess as kings. Everyone who cared for traditional culture would flock to the opposition, and the kings would not remain on their thrones for long. The Shah of Iran thought he was safe against this, but badly miscalculated the state of internal sentiment.
One corrective to such problems in the long run is for traditional monarchies to grant constitutions, and then act as limited monarchies, effectively sharing power with a parliament. That provides for a pace of reform and cultural change that the people desire themselves. It also releases the political pressure that can otherwise build up in favor of socialist policies, from the extreme concentrations of wealth, and from government corruption, to which monarchies without parliaments are exposed.
But making the move to a parliamentary system is a ticklish business. It can't be done safely (from the stand point of the rulers, who decide of course) at a time when the immediate result would be either Islamicists taking over the country at the polls, or anti-western socialists doing so, or when civil war rather than stability would be the likely result. So we should encourage and reward such reforms, without insisting on them as a condition for decent relations.
A similar set of issues arise in the case of nationalist republics in which the military dominates politics. In Turkey, for instance, the general government attitude toward anything non-secular is violently hostile, in ways that you or I would recognize as illiberal and repressive. It is one thing to not require women to wear veils, and another to forbid them to do so. In Egypt and Pakistan the issues are somewhat different - each of those is more culturally conservative, and less secular, than the previous.
Some of these regimes use harsh internal measures - party bans, torture, suspending elections or mounting coups against unwelcome governments - that inevitably provide just grievances for some internal opposition, which often moves to radical groups, whether Islamicist or anti-western socialist in outlook. Sometimes these are measures of survival, in need of the excuse of necessity; sometimes they are the high handedness of unnecessary tyranny.
Again we ought to encourage representative government in these places, without insisting on the timing, or forcing regimes to oust themselves. Both types of friendly governments often have problems from ordinary economic mismanagement, or the ordinary vices of government in our day and age. But they have less room for error in these matters, as every failure swells the ranks of the waiting extremists, who are ready to blame all ills on the whole modern world.
In the past the U.S. has had a major problem with these friendly Islamic countries. We take them for granted and ignore them. When they do the slightest thing wrong from our perspective, we chide them, restrict trade, etc. They still come through for us when the chips are down, and we thank them heartily for it - for about five minutes. Nothing does more to feed the internal political success of men like Laden. The governments go far to work with us in critical times, and internally they get thought of as lackies because of it. If success followed, the bargain might be appreciated. When being ignored, economic failure, and contempt follow instead, another slice of the population will draw the conclusion that the west are fundamentally unfriendly whatever policies are followed.
Our goal is to stop Laden's plan from succeeding. His plan depends on people in the Islamic world siding with his ideas against the rival political ideas available in the contemporary Islamic world. The wedge we need to drive in, to derail his plans, is not the one he wants, between us and Islam as a whole. Instead we need to drive the wedge between his vision and those offered by moderate Islamic governments.
Which means driving our wedge between a political order as wide as the whole civilization, acting as a horde of assassins externally and internally condemning as treasonous anything modern, liberal, or western - and the alternative, in which Islam as a religion is practiced and respected, culture changes only as fast as the people choose, where there is peace and civilized life, friendly relations with the outside world, and their countries are respected and heard.
The moderate Islamic governments have every reason to side with us in this endeavor. Because as you saw, there is no place for them in Laden's vision of religious war. And those governments do not rule most of that part of the world by accident. They know quite a bit about what their people demand, about what sort of world they want to live in. They don't always give it to them, and their people are almost always quite divided on the subject. But the governments know opinion in their countries. And respond to it, however they choose to "play" each issue or crisis.
How do we go about driving such a wedge? First and foremost, simply by aiming well. We cannot afford to lump all Islamic countries, all their parties, all the citizens of each of them, into one big ball and swat away at it. That way lies sorrow. The first requirement is discrimination in targets, in who we treat as our enemies. The second requirement is that we remember the whole formula, and do good to friends as well as harm to enemies. When a government bends over backwards to support us against the Islamicists, we must remember it, and treat it not just as a matter of course, but as deserving of acknowledgement, respect, and reward.
Some might think that with men willing to kill themselves it hardly matters what rewards or punishments are held out over them, to dissuade from hostile and encourage to friendly courses of action. But this is a misunderstanding of the nature of extremism. Extremism is a rare condition selected out of a mass of mostly agreeing sentiment. For every man willing to do what the men did on Tuesday, there are a thousand willing to help them but not to go that far themselves. And for each of them, there are another thousand who agree with them theoretically, though they are not radicalized to actually do evil directly. Even the most extreme bunch depends on a mass base of opinion, out of which to select the most strident. Shrink that base, and they will feel it.
It is a war of ideas. The rewards and punishments we can hold out, by diplomacy and by military action, have a political aim. To swell the ranks of those in the Islamic world willing to side with us against a policy of murder, and to shrink the ranks of those on the other side. Including their motives as well as their numbers today.
Understand that Laden is one man. He has not insignificant organizational skills, and access to a lot of money, which would not die with him although it might otherwise be frozen or impounded, if we knew enough about how he hides it. But fundamentally, these two are amplifiers rather than the real source of his evil power. That evil power comes from his ideas. And ideas are not mortal as single men are mortal. That, too, is something he and his followers count on.
We have to engage on the plane of ideas, as well as militarily. Which means understanding the chain of action and reaction he is trying to trigger, and derailing it. By driving the wedge where we choose - between moderate Muslims and Laden - not where he chooses - between Muslims and non-Muslims.
I hope this is interesting.
61 Posted on 09/16/2001 20:37:02 PDT by JasonC
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