What can we do about Islamic Terrorism?

With it appearing more and more likely in the past few weeks that we may see one or both of the House and Senate revert to Democratic control this November, and keeping in mind that there needs to be a new direction and mindset develop in the country to contrast with and provide an alternative to the darker vision that has driven US Foreign Policy and governance under the Bush Administration and the Republican Party, I wrote this earlier this month partly in an attempt to offer some of my thoughts on Islamic Terrorism in response to an oft repeated claim from the right that the left simply 'hates' Bush and his policies, particularly his foreign policies, but never produces any concrete suggestions as to what they would differently.

This originally appeared on our good friend Sailor's blog, VidiotSpeak, with his sponsorship, on October 08 this year, and Talkleft has kindly offered me the opportunity to present it here. My thanks, Jeralyn. I look forward to all comments.

The Department of Defence defines Al Qaeda as "a radical Sunni Muslim umbrella organization established to recruit young Muslims into the Afghani Mujahideen and is aimed to establish Islamist states throughout the world, overthrow 'un-Islamic regimes', expel US soldiers and Western influence from the Gulf, and capture Jerusalem as a Muslim city."

They're probably right. I think that's a good assessment. But, it's pretty much on a par with defining the objectives of groups like Fred Phelps and his band of christian(?) nutbars, or Aryan Nation, or Ann Coulters or Pat Robertsons followers, and bears no relation to these groups status or non-status as representative of the thinking and intentions of all people in their respective societies - Al Qaeda in Islamic countries, and the groups I mentioned in western Christian societies.

There are crazy fringe fanatics in every society. Al Qaeda is probably a little bigger that the three I just mentioned, but is probably not anywhere the size of the group that supports bush's hegemonic fanaticism. There are no hordes of billions of insane Islamic killers out there about to wash over us in a tidal wave of massacre.

Maintaining some  perspective is important here, I think. There is a fringe group of fanatics, called Al Qaeda. That is what we are dealing with.

So, what are some things we as a society can do about them? How can we stop them and live peacefully with Islamic countries?

On June 23 this year Salman Rushdie was interviewed by Bill Moyers. The video is here. Transcript here. Rushdie drew a very apt and instructive analogy to the long history of 'terrorism' troubles Britain had to deal with from the IRA that can be of help in understanding what we are dealing with when considering how to deal with Al Qaeda:
SALMAN RUSHDIE: There are people, as I say, you have to defeat, you know. But I'm talking about the enormous culture of which they're the pimple on the nose of it. And I think in the end the way in which radical Islam will be defeated is when ordinary Islam, you know, when the regular world of the Muslim faith comes to reject the idea that they will be represented by, defined by that kind of extremist behavior.

BILL MOYERS: But many people say that that kind of extremist behavior is part and parcel of the ideology of the heart of Islam. What do you--

SALMAN RUSHDIE: I don't think necessarily. I mean, the IRA was not intrinsically-- was not somehow arising from something intrinsic to Catholicism. And actually the IRA is a relevant example. Because when the Catholics of Northern Ireland became disillusioned by being represented by the IRA that is what brought the IRA to the peace table. At that moment their power disappeared. And that's why I'm saying that it is in a way incumbent on the Muslim world to reject Islamic radicalism, because that is what will remove the power of Islamic radicalism.

BILL MOYERS: Is America doomed to live under a fatwah as you did? Under the threat of terrorism for a long time, as you did?

SALMAN RUSHDIE: Yes, I think. But I mean, I think everywhere is dangerous now. You know the world is not a safe place; and there are no safe corners of it. And actually, there probably never have been. I think, in a way, America was insulated from that for awhile by the enormous power of America. But even that no longer insulates. So I think we do have to accept that the world is like that now. And I think  ' one of the reasons I can say this is that, having lived in England during the years of the of the IRA campaign  ' it became something that people, in a way, came to accept. That every so often a bomb would go off in a shopping mall, shopping center, and in the end, people refused to allow that to change their daily lives and just proceeded. And I think that refusal to be deflected from the path of normality also played a great deal of the role in the defeat of the IRA, that they didn't achieve their goal. And I think it is, I mean, it's something I've written quite a bit about, that the answer to terrorism is not to be terrorized, and it becomes important to continue--
The craziness that's been quoted from the Koran by many about 'Islamofascists' with the goal of either converting the world to Islam or killing all infidels is just that, craziness on a par with nutty stuff in the bible, and is no more representative of the thinking or of the intentions or of the desires of the average person in Islamic countries than Phelps' or Pat Robertsons' or Aryan Nations' or Ann Coulters' idiotic interpretations of the bible are.

Stephen M. Walt - professor of international affairs at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government, writing for the Boston Globe in his article Misreading the tea leaves: US missteps on foreign policy on October 5, 2006 observes that:
JUST WHEN YOU think that US foreign policy couldn't possibly get worse, the Bush administration manages to take it down another notch.... These setbacks occurred because the Bush administration's foreign policy rests on a deep misreading of contemporary world politics. Conducting foreign policy on the basis of flawed premises is like designing an airplane while ignoring gravity: it won't get off the ground, and if it does, it is bound to crash.

Independent surveys of global opinion and separate studies by the Defense Science Board and the State Department showed that anti-Americanism is primarily a reaction to specific US policies. Yet Bush and his advisers never considered whether a different set of policies might reduce global opposition and enhance US security.
To reiterate Rushdies point: "...it is in a way incumbent on the Muslim world to reject Islamic radicalism, because that is what will remove the power of Islamic radicalism", but if our foreign policies, taken beyond all reason by bush, continue to drive the average person in Islamic societies to supporting Al Qaeda because they see them as opposing the bush administration and US foreign policies pursued by all administrations left or right, democrat or republican, of the past half century, then it is going to take them that much longer to "reject Islamic radicalism".

The Council on Foreign Relations recently commented that:
The declassified judgments from the National Intelligence Estimate on terrorism caused a stir in the political world this week, but for most 'we would guess almost all' scholars of jihadist terrorism, they are largely uncontroversial. The war in Iraq, the lack of reform in the Muslim world and anger at its endemic corruption and injustice, the pervasiveness of anti-Western sentiment 'all these have long been identified as major drivers of radical Islamist terror.
In fact, you don't need an NIE to demonstrate the most controversial judgment 'that the war in Iraq has worsened the terrorist threat. The official coordinated evaluation by Britain's domestic security and foreign intelligence services noted that the conflict in Iraq has exacerbated the threat from international terrorism and will continue to have an impact in the long term. This conclusion is echoed by interior ministries, law enforcement agencies and intelligence services in every part of the world.
All of which leads inescapably to a rather uncomfortable and paradoxical conclusion:

It's been said many times that they attack because "they hate us for our freedoms".

Not only is that a ridiculous statement on its face. It is absolutely untrue and misleading, and in fact is in diametric opposition to reality:

They attack us because they want the same freedoms we enjoy.

Or used to enjoy. Until lately. Until the dismantling of those freedoms began under the current administration.

As Rushdie observed: 'the answer to terrorism is not to be terrorized, and it becomes important to continue'. Dismantling freedoms here is not the way. Working together peacefully with the enormous Islamic societies is the way to live peacefully with those societies.

Far from appeasing Al Qaeda, doing so will eliminate Al Qaeda.


Postscript: Princeton Universities Wilson School has in fact been working on devising a new cogent and workable foreign policy for America that may show promise. The Princeton Project on National Security on September 29 this year released their final report in the form of 96 page PDF document titled "Forging a World of Liberty Under Law, U.S. National Security In The 21st Century, which according to thir mission statement was developed by 400 contributors over a 2 year period, to "set forth agreed premises or foundational principles to guide the development of specific national security strategies by successive administrations in coming decades".

The Princeton Project's report is here. Trust Albert Einstein's old alma mater to take up this challenge. How apt!

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    Re: What can we do about Islamic Terrorism? (none / 0) (#1)
    by Edger on Thu Oct 19, 2006 at 10:40:44 PM EST
    For a good source of liberal thought, commentary, and rational discussion on topics and ideas in this diary and other related topics: "Progressive and Independent - News, Talk, and Music", KPFK Pacifica Radio for Southern California (Los Angeles and Santa Barbara) provides realtime audio streaming in standard formats that you can listen to live over the internet.

    Re: What can we do about Islamic Terrorism? (none / 0) (#2)
    by Patriot Daily on Fri Oct 20, 2006 at 01:59:27 PM EST
    Great diary and love IRA analogy. think also some other obvious answers are stop hypocritical US policies and wars that fuel extremism, assist reconstruction of war areas in middle east and afghanistan by hiring locals to do the reconstruction, work to ekimiate poverty but not by dictating strings to furhter GOP goals and best of all, vote the GOP out of office in the midterms and hold Decider accountable for his actions as president.

    Re: What can we do about Islamic Terrorism? (none / 0) (#3)
    by Slado on Fri Oct 20, 2006 at 04:00:07 PM EST
    Radical Islam hated the US long before the Bush administration came along and it will hate the US long after it is gone.

    Those who "choose" to believe that the Bush administration is responsible for increased hatred some in the world have for us only shows how unserious they are about this problem.

    The Soviets "hated" us more when we did not appease them, so did the rest of the world but who was right?   The North Koreans "hate" us more when we comfront them instead of appeasing them but who is right?

    I do not agree with everything the Bush administration has done and it's made plenty of mistakes but blaming it for almost everything doesn't get us anywhere.  It just delays the inevitable show down between our way of life and theirs.  

    If democrats take over the congress and the presidency will the terrorism stop?  Is that the garuntee these high minded critics are promising or will they instead find another reason 5 years or 10 years from now to explain why they hate us?

    Re: What can we do about Islamic Terrorism? (none / 0) (#4)
    by Sailor on Fri Oct 20, 2006 at 05:49:38 PM EST
    sluggo, as usual, can't provide links for his assertions.

    Next time, show work.


    Re: What can we do about Islamic Terrorism? (none / 0) (#5)
    by Edger on Fri Oct 20, 2006 at 07:01:49 PM EST
    Radical Islam hated the US long before the Bush administration

    That's true. It's also probably true of many crazy radical fringe groups of fanatics around the world, and in the US as well. The point is that they are exactly that: fringe groups, that do not represent the larger society of which they are a part.

    Those who "choose" to believe that the Bush administration is responsible for increased hatred some in the world have for us only shows how unserious they are about this problem

    The criticisms, from many sources, are of foreign policies pursued by the Bush administartion, as well as most other administrations, and are from people very experienced and well versed in international affairs and those policies, and from the Defense Science Board and the State Department, and from "interior ministries, law enforcement agencies and intelligence services in every part of the world" as reported by The Council on Foreign Affairs.

    The "Soviets" did not and the "North Koreans" do not hate us. Their governments were and are in serious "power politics" conflicts with the US government. Your blanket condemnation of entire peoples for the actions of the few holding power in thoise countries is a worn out tactic Slado, and a strawman, nothing more.

    George P. Shultz, Secretary of State to Ronald Reagan for eight years, is one of the honorary co-chairs of the Princeton Project on National Security. He cannot by any stretch, be thought of as a democrat or as a leftwinger. The projects proposals for a framework guiding national security agree with and reflect many of the points I and the people and organizations I quoted above made.

    Nothing in this post is blaming the Bush administration "for almost everything". This is another worn out strawman, Slado.

    Nowhere in this post is there anything remotely claiming that "If democrats take over the congress and the presidency" terrorism will stop.

    In short the entire post, and the references and quotes in it, refute eveything you said above.

    Did you read the post?


    Re: What can we do about Islamic Terrorism? (none / 0) (#6)
    by Patriot Daily on Fri Oct 20, 2006 at 08:04:58 PM EST
    Those who "choose" to believe that the Bush administration is responsible for increased hatred some in the world have for us only shows how unserious they are about this problem.

    Are you serious? There are many world public opinion polls conducted during Bush's term that provide some indication of world anger toward Bush that is different in scope and intensity from before. In this October 2004 poll from 10 leading countries, including some of our closest allies, the world grew "more hostile to the United States while he has been in office." There was "contempt" for the Bush team related to his unilateral Iraq war and the "10-country poll suggests that rarely has an American administration faced such isolation and lack of public support amongst its closest allies."

    Another report from 2003 noted that "a mother lode of goodwill fostered in the decades after the defeat of Nazi Germany has been reduced to dust in recent years.  ...From Spanish plazas to Parisian metros, American tourists are being quizzed, grilled and even spat on by people who do not approve of the Bush administration's drive for a war against Saddam Hussein."

    Even the Bush team has acknowledged that world anger and hatred of Bush is a fact. The State Dept. has warned American tourists to NOT wear anything that identifies them as American. Sports teams have been told to tone down as well. I remember one world sports event when all the team buses had flags on the bus, except for the US. Tourists have to hide the fact that they are American because Bush has painted a bull's-eye on their backs!


    Re: What can we do about Islamic Terrorism? (none / 0) (#7)
    by Edger on Sat Oct 21, 2006 at 10:18:57 AM EST
    If democrats take over the congress and the presidency will the terrorism stop?  Is that the garuntee these high minded critics are promising or will they instead find another reason 5 years or 10 years from now to explain why they hate us?

    In a word? No. At least not immediately.

    'Terrorism' has been with us for thousands of years. Mostly it has been used by militarily weak and disadvantaged groups with grievances, legitimate or not, as a method of fighting stronger adversaries. War, after all, is politics by other means.

    If democrats take over the congress and the presidency
    I think, or at least hope, that two things will happen.

    One - an administration that has pushed dangerously flawed foreign policies beyond all reason to the point where it has ruined Americas reputation in the world, and is doing it's utmost, purposely or not, to increase the hatred that is fueling the very 'terrorism' you wish to be rid of, and is determined, in the face of overwhelming evidence that it is producing more of that same, to obtusely 'stay the course', will be hamstrung for the next two years and gone after that, hopefully leaving America, if not safer and more respected, then at least not actively making it less safe and less respected. I say hopefully because I don't really have much more faith in the democratic party than I do in the republican party. They are both beholden to corporate interests. But I have a hard time imagining them or anyone being quite as obtuse and in denial as republicans have been. A new standard has been set for those things in the past six years.

    Two - there will be the opportunity to consider and hopefully implement alternative foreign policy ideas that can move us towards a more peaceful world. Princeton has produced one set of ideas worth considering. Perhaps other groups have as well, I don't know. Maybe other readers or commenters do. Princeton is probably not the only organization looking at these issues. Unfortunately there is no McDonalds Foreign Policy Burger that will deliver an instant cure. It will take time, perhaps generations, to fix the problems created over the past half century and exacerbated beyond belief in the past six short years, if indeed thay can be fixed, given the extent of the damage that has been done...


    Re: What can we do about Islamic Terrorism? (none / 0) (#8)
    by Edger on Sat Oct 21, 2006 at 09:47:31 PM EST
    Yesterday, Oct. 20 Steve Clemons, whose blog The Washington Note according to Steve "is read by many in the State Department and White House" and probably followed closely by many inside the beltway, posted an interesting and informative piece giving us some hints of a likely major sea change developing in WHite House Middle East/Iraq policy:

    After November 7th, when it is appearing more and more likely that the Dems will take the House of Representatives, George W. Bush loses one of his (until now) free hands to do what he pleases. The House will be sure to slow, redirect, and condition funding for the Iraq War and other missions in the Middle East. The House is also likely to begin using its power to call hearings, conduct investigations, and subpoena appearances of government officials under oath.

    Titled "Major Change Coming in Administration Middle East Policy", Steve's post also says that:

    The vehicle many see that gives the White House some cover in changing direction is an Iraq Study Group co-chaired by James Baker III and Lee Hamilton.  

    A consensus among the DC senior journalist crowd is that Baker's report will suggest a comprehensive strategy that requires deal-making both within and around Iraq. Baker-Hamilton won't criticize how we got where we are but they will probably argue that America's position will continue to deteriorate until we establish a new equilibrium of interests in the region -- and that requires deal-making that moves the Israel-Palestine standoff forward; that involves curbing Pakistan's efforts to undermine the Karzai government in Afghanistan; that may involve a "Libya-like" get out of the dog house opportunity for Syria; and even some collaboration with Iran regarding Iraqi and Afghanistan stabilization.

    The Oct. 12 News Hour with Jim Lehrer provides backround on the Iraq Study Group and it's recommendations. (transcript and streaming video here)

    Clemons goes on to say that...

    Senator John Warner [...]  is determined to compel the White House to change course in Iraq if the Oval Office doesn't do it on its own.

    ...and wraps up with these two welcome teasers:

    Cheney's team must be neutralized and set to the side of the policy process -- clearly demoted and moved out of the way for any Baker type plan to succeed in shaping an alternative direction.

    Many see Rumsfeld's days now being really, really, really numbered -- and that he'll be gone soon.

    It appears we just might be seeing some very interesting and welcome October/November surprises.

    The Bush Effect (none / 0) (#9)
    by HK on Tue Oct 24, 2006 at 03:32:56 PM EST
    Those who "choose" to believe that the Bush administration is responsible for increased hatred some in the world have for us only shows how unserious they are about this problem.

    Every time Bush opens his mouth, I have to consciously remind myself that I actually like Americans - real Americans, that is, those who stand by the Constitution on which their great nation was founded, not those who seek to use their superior power to reshape the rest of the world as they choose.

    Tony Blair has suffered from declining popularity following his friendship and collaboration with Bush.  General opinion in the UK is one of increased ill-feeling towards Bush's America.

    Great post, Edger...again! ;0)

    Re: The Bush Effect (none / 0) (#10)
    by Edger on Tue Oct 24, 2006 at 05:18:02 PM EST
    Thank you, HK. You know, I would like to see a diary from you, and I have a suggested topic: "What The Majority Of The World Wishes for America". What are our chances of seeing you take up that from a Brits POV?

    Diary post (none / 0) (#12)
    by HK on Wed Oct 25, 2006 at 01:29:27 PM EST
    Hey Edger, I might just do that.  In the meantime, I have recently been asked to guest post on another blog and this is my most recent post.  You might be interested in checking it out.  The guy who owns it is a Christian (he comments here sometimes) and he wanted a different voice from time to time on his blog.  While we share viewpoints on some things, I certainly have a very different POV on life to a white, Christian guy!

    It's a good topic you suggest, has definitely got me thinking, but I don't know how the diary thing works...Only just getting used to the 'new' TalkLeft set-up :0)  


    Ha... (none / 0) (#13)
    by mindfulmission on Wed Oct 25, 2006 at 01:45:37 PM EST
    Those damn white Christians!

    Oh wait...she is talking about me...

    HK...if you write the diary, you should cross post it on the mindful mission!!


    Bridging differences (none / 0) (#14)
    by HK on Wed Oct 25, 2006 at 04:30:44 PM EST
    LOL  You know I love you, mindfulmission!  People who believe in God I can cope with...it's just people who believe in Bush I can't understand ;0)

    Bigger Issues (none / 0) (#15)
    by mindfulmission on Wed Oct 25, 2006 at 08:13:15 PM EST
    While I struggle with those who believe in Bush, I struggle more with those think Bush is God...or even God's messenger! :)

    Re: those think Bush is God... (none / 0) (#16)
    by Edger on Wed Oct 25, 2006 at 08:57:01 PM EST
    It's funny in a way, mindful, but I think really sad in another way.

    9/11 was pretty traumatic for a lot of people, probably extremely so for those who know, and make no effort to know, much about the world outside the United States. For many a good large part of the reaction was not only fear but was to develop huge and intolerable insecurities or exaggerate the insecurities they already lived with.

    These insecurities were played by Bush and the manipulators behind him with even more ruthlessness and disrespect than they showed for just the ordinary fears people had, and the psychologically weakest of them almost literally do see Bush as god, and also feel a sort of vicarious sense of power repeating slogans like "kick terrorist ass", and wanting endless wars to keep delivering that feeling of power, in place of thinking.

    They will not, and probably cannot, stop supporting Bush and the GOP politically because to do so would leave them not just without that vicarious sense of power, but literally powerless. Intolerably so.

    What will happen to them if and when they don't have their messianic and super aggressive leaders in power. And make no mistake. It will come to that for them one day. Their psyches are so brittle and fragile they would probably shatter. We see the protectiveness and defensiveness in them every day here. What will they do then? Some breakdown? Some go postal and hurt others? Some harm themselves? What?

    I am no psychologist but this is the way it looks to me. Very sad.


    The earth is now home to..... (none / 0) (#11)
    by Edger on Tue Oct 24, 2006 at 10:18:08 PM EST
    From: Deconstructing Christianity, By Bob Philbin, Oct 16, 2006
    "The earth is now home to about 1.4 billion Muslims, many of whom believe that one day you and I will either convert to Islam, live in subjugation to a Muslim caliphate, or be put to death for our unbelief."

    This is an accurate statement of an Islamic article of faith; but so too is this statement:

    "The earth is now home to about 1.3 billion Roman Catholics, many of whom believe that one day you and I will either convert to Catholicism, live in subjugation to Holy Mother Church, or be banished to the depths of hell for all eternity."

    It's accurate to say that most Catholics "believe" this statement, but actually most Catholics, particularly American Catholics, might likely diminish the importance of this statement as "anti-social", or "needlessly divisive", or as a vestige of ancient Catholic dogma no longer relevant.
    Similarly, most American Muslims would also recognize the historic accuracy of Harris' statement above as a matter of dogma; but I suggest they would likewise deny its importance to the contemporary practice of their Islamic faith. It is an extreme minority (Islamists) like Sayyid Qutb, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and Osma bin Laden, who cherry-pick the Kuran to justify the bloody flag of fundamentalism.
    The CIA estimates that 1% of the U.S. population is Muslim -- about 2.5 million Americans organized in about one thousand mosques across the country. Isn't it remarkable that there has been no orchestrated incidents of Muslim violence in the United States, no mass protests, no act of organized terror perpetrated by Islamic Americans?

    Shouldn't we attribute the fact that there has been no terrorist act committed in the U.S. since 9/11, at least in apart, to the peaceful nature of Islamic American communities and their respect for U.S. law?

    Armageddon (none / 0) (#17)
    by Peaches on Thu Oct 26, 2006 at 04:09:50 PM EST
    It sticking with my end of Empire theme, I think there is something in our basest primitive mind that accepts the apocalyptic scenario rather easily.

    I think we all have in the back of our mind when we our going through very stresful situations a sort of panic button. It goes something like this. "SH@#, life really REALLY stinks right now. I don't know if I can take much more. Well, I'm going to bed and if I wake up feeling the same way, I can always just end it all." We go to bed, perhaps feel a little better and see how the next day goes.

    A point I am currently working on, is that we don't need experts, statistics, or theories to tell us that The end of the American Empire is upon us. We all know it. We can feel it. The rich are preparing for it by building walls around their communities and advocating walls along our borders. And the middle class is just waiting for the end. I don't think Bush's supporters think he is God or God's messenger. THey just accept that God works in mysterious ways. They can feel the chaos around them and they have no where else to turn. Their property taxes are going up, their ARM has just went up along with the monthly mortgage payment, They are on a second career at Walmart trying to be pleasant and positive and thankful they are working, they hear what is going on in Iraq, they are afraid of people who might hate them yet don't know them, They are out of shape and eat and fill their bodies with unhealthy food, they are one medical emergency or illness from financial ruin.. In other words, if Bush leads them over the Edge, they just sort of accept it as a possibility or even an option for ending a miserable existence. On Sunday, they can still celebrate God in the Huge Mega Church in the Suburb reminding them that GOD and America are still prosperous.

    They don't have any other alternative than the American dream. We were born to Believe America was number One. We were all powerful. We would always be the land of prosperity and no one would F#&$ with us. This dream has been crumbling for a long time. All we have left is the Air Force and the Marines and not even they can get the job done any longer. The final button is, of course, the Nuclear button. If Americans aren't given another option, many will gladly follow Bush over this cliff. Many have already advocated it.

    There is another option. We could embrace the fall of the empire. We don't need the empire. More on that later.  

    Embracing the fall of the empire (none / 0) (#18)
    by Edger on Thu Oct 26, 2006 at 04:25:29 PM EST
    We don't need the empire. More on that later.

    This is a really interesting tack you're taking here, Peaches, and reflects something that's been in the back of my mind for a long time, that we really don't need the empire. In a real and personal sense, if we each can't find a way to live feeling secure within ourselves then we are completely reliant for our identity and being and life on the state. Yecch, what a thought. In reality I think it's the other way around. The state disintegrates without the the people. The state is the insecure one.

    All security is psychological in nature, and it all comes from within. There is nothing outside us that can ever provide security.

    I'm really looking forward to your developing ideas on this stuff. :-)