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Monday, July 12, 2004

American Foreign Policy At a Cross Road

American Foreign Policy At a Cross

The present direction in American foreign policy is frought with peril. The Bush administration seems to not understand the nature and scope of the peril we face. Our President has apparently misread the true meaning of the September 11th 2001 terrorist attacks. These attacks were not state sponsored terrorism. They were not carried out because the terrorists hate freedom or hate our way of life even though they do hate what they perceive as our decadent western culture. The terrorists attacked us as part of a long term strategy to reestablish an intercontinental Islamic empire, one which the world has not seen since what we in the west call the middle ages.

Al Quaeda, “The Base” in Arabic, is a new type of enemy, different from any that we have faced in the past. Al Queada is a loosely knit confederation of terrorist organizations who share a common goal and a common religious based revolutionary agenda. Their common agenda centers around their shared desire to establish a Koran based Religious theocracy in all of the current and formerly held Muslim lands. These lands include all of the lands in Asia and Africa where there are large Muslim populations as well as the formerly Muslim controlled lands in Europe such as Spain and present day Bosnia. They share a dangerously ambitious dream. In their minds we westerners are simply infidels, non believers. The fine details of our western cultures are inconsequential in their world view.
This dream of a modern Koran base Islamic empire was first nurtured in the religious schools in Egypt Egypt, during the nineteen fifties by a group calling itself the Islamic Brotherhood, decades before the formation of Al Queada. During the nineteen fifties the socialist Egyptian leader, Jamil Nasser sought to crush this organization by imprisoning it’s leadership as well as many of its rank and file followers. The next Egyptian leader, Anwar Sadat, as part of his political reforms, released many of this groups members from jail. Shortly after Sadat entered into a peace treaty with the state of Israel members of the Islamic Brotherhood assasinated Sadat. Sadat’s successor, Hosni Mubarak has led Egypt since the 1973 assassination. The United States has helped Mubarak remain in power by supplying his repressive regime with large amounts of foreign aide. Only Israel receives more American foreign aide than Egypt. This policy of financing this repressive government has successfully kept the the lid on this Egyptian fundamentalist pressure cooker for over thirty years. Mubarak is seventy-six years old and reportedly in poor health. He recently was in Germany undergoing back surgery. How long will his regime last? Are we in the next few years facing an Iranian style Islamic Revolution in Egypt? What would be the consequences of such an occurrence be for Israel or the whole region? I shudder over the thought of such a disastourous occurrence.

Al Queada was formed by Osama Bin Ladan and other veterans of the war fought by the people of Afganistan
and their foreign allies to repel the 1979 invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union. This war to defeat the infidel Soviet Union became a rallying cause for Islamic fundamentalists from all over the region. These fighters, known as the Mujah Hadin, received substantial aid from both the United States and wealthy Persian Golf states such as Saudi Arabia. This cause brought Osama Bin Laden, a member of the wealthy Saudi, Ben Laden, family to Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, Bin Laden brought to the table, his families great wealth and connections. Even though he was a young man he rose to a position of leadership in the Musha Hadin resistance movement.

The defeat of the Soviet Union and its subsequent collapse further emboldened Bin Laden. If a super power could be defeated by Islamic revolutionaries what else was possible?

In 1991 the Arab world was shaken by Sadaam Hussein’s invasion of the neighboring, small, oil rich kingdom of Kuwait. The Saudi royal family, the household of Saud, felt threatened by Saadam’s actions. They agreed to the first Bush administration request to station American troops on Saudi territory. This stationing of western, non Muslim troops, on Saudi Arabian territory enraged Muslim fundamentalists around the world. They were enraged by the fact that infidel, non Muslim, troops were in the land which hosted two of the three holiest sites in all of Islam. These sites are Mecca, the location of a yearly international pilgrimage and Medina. The third site is the Mosque of the “Dome of the Rock” in Jerusalem, also the exact site of the last temple of ancient Israel destroyed by the Roman emperor Titus in 63 A.D..
Al Qaeda was born as an unintended consequence of the Gulf War of 1991. American efforts to repel an invasion by an aggressor, Iraq, contributed to the development of America’s first post Communist era foe, the militant international fundamentalist, terrorist movement known as Al Qaeda.

George W. Bush’s war against Sadaam Hussein was an ill advised ideologically driven diversion from the real war against terrorism. Hell bent on regime change in Iraq Bush allowed Bin Laden and his cronies escape in the Toro Boro region of Afghanistan, near its border with Pakistan immediately after the United States over through the Taliban regime who were stubbornly giving sanctuary to Al Qaeda. Bush and his secretary of defense Donald Rumsfield failed to put a sufficient number troops in the field to complete the job. As a result of this poor decision making many of the Al Qaeda leadership and the former Taliban leadership of Afghanistan were able to escape. Instead of focusing on defeating Al Qaeda the Bush administration prematurely engaged in a preemtive war in Iraq. As a result of this policy many of the top Al Qaeda leadership escaped.

The various semiautonomous components of the Al Qaeda confederation use Islamic Schools, Mosques’ led by radical clerics and terrorist actions to recruit new members. Like any revolutionary group they seek to foster revolution by utilizing time tested revolutionary methodologies. The leadership of Al Qaeda is both well educated and patient. The policies of the George W. Bush administration demonstrate a woeful ignorance of basic revolutionary philosophy and strategies. Professor Tilden Lemelle, formerly Provost and chairman of the Department of Black and Puerto Rican Studies, Hunter College C.U.N.Y. developed a theory of revolution which he taught in a Black Political Thought class I took in 1972. He argued then that there were certain circumstances which were needed for any revolution to occur. To grossly over simplify his theory his theorem required 1) a disaffected group which was a small group of activists who wanted a dramatic change in the political structure 2) An elite or power structure which the disaffected group views as intransigent 3) One or a series of “X” factors. X factors are events which bring about a leadership crisis for the intransigent elite. The key as to whether a revolutionary situation arises lies in the ability of the disaffected group to expand its size and to effectively destroy the emotional, social and economic ties that bind the disaffected group to the elite. The goal is for the leadership of the disaffected group to convince a large number of that groups membership and sympathisers that the elite is intransigent, meaning both unwilling and incapable of meeting the wishes or desires of the disaffected group. This is done in large part by the disaffected groups leadership provoking the elites by acts of terrorism to become more and more repressive. The revolutionary leadership seeks to create “X” factors in order that they cause the society to conclude that the elite regime is both intransigent and dysfunctional.

This type of revolutionary theory or argument can be found in similar form in early Soviet Bolshevik leader Leon Trotsky’s pamphlet Terrorism and Communism. If one understands this strategy it is easy to understand why the current war in Iraq has been a dream recruiting tool for Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda has been able to effectively link Arab governments of predominately Muslim countries like that of Saudi Arabia and Indonesia with the United States and her alies such as Great Britain, Spain, Japan and South Korea. The stated goal of Al Qaeda is to remove the western presence from Islamic lands. The terrorist attacks in Indonesia Saudi Arabia and in Spain are a direct attempt to both destabilize these governments. The attack in Spain led directly to a change in the Spanish government coupled with a removal of Spanish troops from Iraq. The Al Qaeda leadership knows what it is doing.

The Iraqi prison scandal is another example of how the Bush administration’s inept foreign policy has created a recruiting bonanza for Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda can now use the prison pictures to recruit fighters to come to Iraq to fight Americans. I have heardmany well intentioned Bush supporters argue that it is better to fight Al Qaeda in Iraq than in the United States. They are correct. It is better to fight Al Qaeda anywhere but in the United States but what they do not realize is that for the foreseeable future Al Qaeda has an inexhaustible supply of recruits. We cannot win this war on the battlefield simply by killing more of them than they kill of us. The only way to win this war is for us to win the hearts and minds of the young people of the Islamic world. We must show these young people that they have alternatives to the poverty and corrupt governments that controls their lives. We must reach Muslim youth like we have reached the youth of China and India. They must, in their lives, see the realistic possibility of obtaining for themselves what we call the good life. Instead of seventy virgins in the after life young Muslins must learn to see that they can become upwardly mobile within their societies. This is not their present reality. Preemptive wars such as the ill advised war in Iraq may successfully change a regime but will it end the translational recruitment of young terrorists? I do not believe that it will. America must encourage a policy of openness and restructuring of the economies of the Islamic world. Hope for the young people must be the centerpiece of our war on terrorism. Our military must systematically crush the Al Qaeda leadership but it must be sophisticated enough to appreciate the difference between secular political movements like the Iraqi and Syrian Bathist parties and religious movements like the Shite political and religious movement in Iran and in Iraq and the predominantly Sunni Al Qaeda movement which developed in Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia with its philosophical roots deriving from the Egyptian Islamic Brotherhood. We must learn to effectively navigate through the intricate strands of religious and secular politics in the Muslim world. All Muslins are not alike. We must win the hearts and minds of the young while defending ourselves against our ever present enemies. Time is short. I hope America understands what we are facing soon.

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