Back to the Future
Old War, New Media Bottles
Bush has naively insisted that the September 11 attacks were an attack on democratic values. Unfortunately, this tragic situation has almost nothing to do with politics. If this was simply a brutal clash between cultural, political or economic systems it would be much more straightforward for conservative George to redefine this conflict on Howdy Doody media-understandable terms.
In truth, there is no easy or simplified way to define this conflict in terms other than that of a religious war. For the better part of the last thousand years, the world was somewhat neatly divided up based on religious systems. The U.S. and Europe are merely returning to the planet's old geo-theistic ways. Interestingly, so too is Holy Mother Russia, which is once again allying itself with the Christian West against the invading Mongol hordes.
True, political repression in many Arab states, coupled with an almost complete lack of opportunity for college educated professionals and grinding poverty all played their roles in providing fertile fields to sow radical Islam. Its also true that the U.S. narrow-mindedly dropped the ball, when, after helping the Afghans defeat the Russians more than a decade ago, it simply abandoned the region and allowed the country to go to wrack and ruin. But these relinquished Rhode Island roosters are not the first foul tempered birds to come home to roost.
The fowl ghosts from the 19th century Great Game of Chicken are also coming back to haunt the dilapidated coop. Today's Afghanistan was drawn on the map at the political whim of the British more than a century ago, which also helps explain why the ethnic groups that make up the warring Afghani factions spill out of the country and into other places in the region.
Much of the Mideast was similarly drawn up in an ad hoc, greedily carve up the spoils manner by Europe and Russia after the fall of the Ottoman Empire at the turn of the last century. Thus the UN-left-holding-the-bag conundrum: How do you nation build when the essential common cultural ingredients required for national cohesion are scattered all across the area map?
Ironically, even if a magic cold fusion technology bullet appeared that overnight cut the world's dependency on Mideast oil, the resulting collapse of propped up petro-regimes would only accelerate a downward spiral into social chaos. Such social disruption would further aid and abet those who madly crave suicide bomber fueled Jihad.
As for how we might go about assisting the more moderate Islamic and secular Arab political movements, one might look to Iran, which has a group of moderates struggling to bypass the dictatorial mullahs. But after the fall of the Shah, any blatantly visible Iranian involvement/aid by the West would assuredly backfire. The same also goes for any overt or discovered meddling by the West in other Islamic countries.
The most we can practically hope for is a prolonged containment of the radical elements that want to gravely -- if not mortally -- wound the West. And meanwhile, quietly help moderate Islamic elements and secular Arabs to gain sufficient strength so they can forcibly restrain their hell bent holy warriors.
But whether we can attain even that modest goal is open to question, as most who are handling this ugly situation can't see much beyond their having a bin Laden head on a blue plate luncheon special. Osama is merely a nasty symptom of old world global reheating, not the multifaceted cause.
Francis Vale, Copyright 2001, All Rights Reserved
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