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September 11, 2001: Ten Ways To Look At What Happened And What To Expect By: Michael Radu
FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, September 18, 2001


AS THE  NATION – or nations,  since some 40 countries lost citizens in  the New  York City attacks – recovers from the immediate shock and outrage over the events of September 11, it is necessary to understand the phenomenon that led to the atrocities, lest our response be incomplete or misguided.

1. This  is not a war between the West and Islam but between the West  and a  large segment  of the  Islamic  world,  the fundamentalist  minority.    For  the  fundamentalists,  the problem is  not U.S.  policy toward  Israel,  the  Gulf,  or anywhere else,  the problem  is the  United States itself – not what we do, but who we are.

2.   While Arab leaders and our own  leaders are  right to admonish us  to avoid confusing Muslims with terrorists, the fact is  there are  no  known  cases  of  contemporary  mass terrorism in the name of   Judaism,   Christianity, Confucianism, Buddhism  or Hinduism.  There thus appears to be something in Islam  that allows the likes of the Taliban or bin  Laden to  thrive.   Only the Muslims themselves can root it out. What America needs from the Islamic world far more than  military or  political  support  is  for  Muslims themselves – from the  smallest mosques  in New York City, Peshawar, or  Hamburg to the largest in Mecca – to read the fundamentalists out  of Islam.   In  the long  run, the most effective  counter-terrorist  force – potentially – is Muslims who proclaim that terrorism is anti-Islamic.

3. It is said that Pakistani President Musharaf sees Mustafa Kemal "Ataturk," the builder of modern Turkey, as his model. Let us  hope that  is true, and that more Muslim leaders see Ataturk as a model.  For Turkey alone in the Middle East has succeeded in demonstrating that Islam and Western political values are not incompatible.  It is ironic, in this respect, that our   European  friends   often  think  that  Ankara's crackdown on  Islamic fundamentalism  is an  infringement on human rights.

4. Speaking of our European friends, their expressions of solidarity cannot help but  move us  all.    Let us hope, however, that   we don't find  ourselves  debilitated  by unrelenting objections  over strategy  and tactics, or, even worse, the attempt to solve the "root causes" of terrorism – the  surest path  to retreat.   It was not a European, however, but  a prominent  American professor  at MIT,  Noam Chomsky, who  interpreted the  events of September 11 as "an atrocity answering American atrocities."

5. There  are innumerable Islamic terrorist cells throughout Western Europe  taking advantage,  as they do in the United States, of  democracy's openness.   When we hear  that some Islamic leaders  in England  or Germany still preach support for the  perpetrators of  the crimes in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania – and do so publicly – one has to wonder. When dozens, or hundreds, of Islamic terrorists indicted or even sentenced for crimes in Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Turkey and so on are still being  given asylum in Western Europe, one has  to question  how serious  our allies  are.  What we need to know from the Europeans is whether they are in this for the  long haul  and whether  they are  prepared to  take stiff measures  to stem  the terrorist threat.  Judging from the European press, not all the signs are encouraging, for the Atlantic may be wider than we thought.

6. President Bush has described the terrorist attack and its aftermath as  "a different kind" of war.  How "different" is it?  To begin with, it is a protracted conflict in which the distinction between domestic and foreign, police and military can no longer be made.  It is a seamless conflict in which the link between the internal and international operations has a clear name – intelligence.  Indeed, in the long run, the most important and decisive role is going to be played not by the military but by institutions that Western democracies do not normally see as associated with war: police and intelligence. The U.S. and allied militaries obviously have an important role in the short  term,  but ultimately this is a war to be won or lost on the streets of New York,   London,  Hamburg and Paris, by innumerable policemen and plainclothes FBI and other security personnel, as well as by plainclothes men of the Jordanian, Egyptian, and Algerian secret services.

7. Legislation has to be dramatically changed in Washington as well as Ottawa, Brussels, Strasbourg, and all the  EU member states.   If  this war  is to  be won,  the  European obsession with  American death  penalty legislation  has  to give way to higher  priorities,  such  as  extraditing or putting down terrorists for  good.  The politically correct campaign in Europe and  the United  States against  "racial profiling" has  to stop:  after all, looking for tall, blond and blue-eyed  persons  in  order  to  stop  Middle  Eastern terrorism makes no sense.

8. The terrorists of New York have many potential allies in the anti-globalization  movement who share anti-capitalist, anti-democratic, and anti-Western ideas.  It is not that the "anti-globalists" are terrorists, or even support them, but they will likely oppose  the tough anti-terrorist measures that are required to meet the threat.

9. In  the short  run, the  military  questions  most  often mentioned are targeting, logistics, and numbers. The targets could be  limited, at  least initially,  to the  Taliban and Osama bin Laden leadership.  One has to remember that many, probably most Afghans, are at least tired of, if not hostile to, the  Taliban rule.   The notion that myriads of Afghans, plus some  refugees in camps in Iran or Pakistan, would join the "jihad"  requested by  the Taliban is probably nonsense; it may  well be  a call  to  war  few  would  rally  around. Logistically, Pakistan,  Russia, and  Russia's protectorates in Central  Asia (all  of whom  are Turkic speakers) are the keys for a ground operation. That operation has to be short, sharp, and  effective. At the same time, we must get out the word to  the Afghan people that the Taliban rulers and their criminal guests  are the  enemy, not the Afghans themselves. Many  Afghans   would  cooperate   with  the  U.S.  if  that understanding were clear in their own minds, and if the idea of  an  American  occupation  of  Afghanistan were dispelled beforehand.

10. Ultimately,  this is a protracted conflict, to be won by Western police,  intelligence, and military forces, with the vital support  of Muslim  intelligence resources. It is not, as I  said earlier, a war between Islam and the West, though irrationality and fear could  make it  so. And, whether we like it or not, the map of the Islamic world is going to be different  from what it is today – politically  and culturally.

This said, we should not forget that international terrorism is not  limited to Islamist fanatics,  even if they are the most numerous,  best organized,  and widespread.   There are still the  Basque Euskadi  ta  Askatsuna  (ETA),  the  Irish Republican  Army,  and  the  Tamil  Tigers  lurking  in  the shadows, planning  murder and  mayhem in many countries, and receiving support from many more. They are part of the enemy in this war.


Michael Radu is Senior Fellow and Co - Chair, Center on Terrorism and Counterterrorism, at the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia.


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